14,000 students have dropped out of Eastern Michigan University over the past ten years without completing their degrees, primarily because they couldn't afford to keep attending classes.
It's a big problem for universities across the nation, especially universities like Eastern Michigan, which count many first-generation and working people among their student body.
A new pilot project at Eastern Michigan will offer 15 students who have already completed 78 to 100 credit hours, and who owe some money directly to EMU, a chance to have some or all of that debt forgiven, in exchange for community service.
"If they only have two semesters, say, and they need 12 credit hours, but they have this account that's frozen, how can we help them get done?" says Decky Alexander, EMU's director of academic engagement programs.
The students will be permitted to do community service at programs associated with EMU, including Upward Bound, the Collaborative Ypsilanti Child Development Center, Eastern Washtenaw Basketball League, St. Joe’s Community Navigator Program, EMU Bright Futures and the Family Empowerment Program.
Alexander says EMU will use the pilot as a chance to learn how best to help students who've dropped out without finishing, and hopefully expand the program in subsequent semesters.