In Montana, Small Changes Spur Nation's Biggest Jump In College Graduates

Ann McClure's picture
Thursday, June 28, 2012

Inside the student union at Montana State University, freshmen and sophomores dig into pizza and espresso brownies and listen to motivational speeches while the marching band belts out the fight song (“We’ve got the vim, we’re here to win!”).

It’s just what it looks and sounds like: a pep rally. But not the conventional kind.

The students in this room are on academic probation, have poor grades or are struggling to adjust to college. All are at risk of dropping out. They’re being exhorted to keep trying, lured here by dinner, entertainment, prizes, even $50 apiece in cash, for coaching in time management, study skills and test-taking.

Thanks to this event, along with a relentless barrage of free tutoring, “success advising” and other support, an estimated three-quarters of these potential dropouts will buck the odds and stay in school, up from barely half who once did.

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