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By KATHLEEN MCKIERNAN
SOUTH KINGSTOWN â€“ The University of Rhode Island is offering a chance for some former students to return to school and finish what they started.
URI launched the pilot program, â€śFinish What You Startedâ€ť this month to give students who completed three quarters of their degree but did not finish an opportunity to complete those last few credits and earn a bachelorâ€™s degree.
Vice Provost for Academic Affairs Donald DeHayes said the program was initiated after URI officials observed that in the last 10 years, at least 2,000 students reached the upper level of their academic programs, 90 credits, and then dropped out of school.
â€śWe thought it is our responsibility to help students complete their degree. They have already spent a significant amount of time and money,â€ť DeHayes said. â€śItâ€™s unfortunate. We know a student with a degree can double earning power over the next 10 years.â€ť
As part of the pilot program, URI reached out to 500 former students through letters. As URI officials began to speak with students who dropped out, DeHayes said they heard the personal stories of why they did not finish college.
â€śSome needed career advising or were lost. They always hoped theyâ€™d come back but never found the time or some even expressed embarrassment,â€ť DeHayes said. â€śItâ€™s easier for them that weâ€™re reaching out to them.â€ť
Services provided to help students find their way back to college include flexible schedules either at the Kingston or Providence campus or online, financial aid for those who qualify, career advising and academic support.
Since announcing the program early last week, DeHayes said many people beyond the 500 have contacted URI with interest in participating.
â€śWeâ€™re very encouraged. If we can help 50 to 100 people, it not only creates more opportunity for them, but itâ€™s a source of pride and accomplishment for them. Thatâ€™s important. Weâ€™re happy to be a part of it,â€ť DeHayes said.
The program fits into the national education agenda. President Obama has established a strong national agenda to get adults into college and completing college, DeHayes said.
â€śAs we look at the country, the US used to be number one in the world with the number of adults with college degrees,â€ť DeHayes said.