By: 
Sandra Beckwith
Honoree: 
UNC Charlotte

Many university retention programs focus on first- and second-year undergrads. But UNC Charlotte has generated $400,000 in additional annual revenue by going off campus to bring back “stopouts” who left in their senior year without getting a degree.

The 49er Finish Program targets those with more than 90 credit hours, at least a 2.0 GPA, and no judicial or financial holds on their account.

By incorporating survey research defining some of the UNCC stopouts’ typical barriers to graduation into personalized marketing materials, the university has successfully recruited 850 of the 3,000 students it has contacted during the past 10 years.

Success Data Points

  • 3,000: The approximate number of former students contacted in the past 10 years about re-enrolling
  • 667: Of the 850 who re-enrolled, those who eventually earned degrees (a 78 percent retention rate)
  • $400,000: Annual tuition and fees generated by returning students
  • 100%: Students responding to the 49er Finish Graduation Survey who said the program helped them complete their degree

Most of those who re-enrolled earned their degrees in part because the school made it as easy as possible, says Jillian Stubbs, 49er Finish coordinator and academic advisor.

“Having one direct point of contact is key,” says Stubbs, referring to the program’s concierge-style advising model that allows each student to work with just one person during the re-admissions process.

The “concierge” helps facilitate the financial aid application process, create degree completion plans and connect students with resources. Campuswide buy-in to the program allows the concierge approach to work seamlessly, Stubbs says.

Students targeted in the ongoing initiative receive direct mail printed with a personalized URL. The page asks questions about challenges that might keep someone from returning.

Responses serve two purposes. First, the customized thank-you page students visit after the survey provides additional information on how to overcome the obstacles they identified.

Second, their answers help staff tailor subsequent correspondence to address each person’s specific needs.

The program has been so successful, Stubbs and colleagues have created a re-admission model for other schools in the University of North Carolina system.

“We’re all working toward the same goal,” she says.