By: 
Thomas W. Durso
Honoree: 
University of Central Oklahoma

They called every number they had. They sent email and snail mail. They reached out on Facebook and LinkedIn.

In short, University of Central Oklahoma’s Operation Degree Completion staff used every means of communication at their disposal to track down tens of thousands of former students.

They were searching for two groups: those who had left Central just shy of their bachelor’s degrees, whom they would assist in finally graduating; and those with credits that could be used to complete associate’s degree requirements at community colleges they had attended.

“That’s a challenge nationally,” says Jay Corwin, associate vice president of student affairs. “Once students leave the institution, where do they go and how do we find them again?”

That challenge is what compelled the university to undertake its multifaceted search. Bringing students back to complete and finding reverse transfer-eligible students have led to the completion of more than 3,000 associate’s and bachelor’s degrees over the last six years.

And the effort is being replicated at institutions across Oklahoma and the country.

The defining characteristic of Operation Degree Completion—students returning to finish what they had started—has produced countless examples of inspiration. University staff interviewed as many of the new graduates as they could to discover how the program has changed their lives. The result is an anthology of the 10 most stirring outcomes being published this spring.

“Most of those really touching ones are the almost-grads who get tracked down to let them know how close they really were,” Corwin says. “When you’ve helped someone that had given up on a goal achieve what they had started a long time ago, it’s just really incredible.”

And that deserves a “like” for sure.

Success data point

  • 6,348: Additional credit hours logged over the last three years by students returning to the University of Central Oklahoma to complete a bachelor’s degree—equating to more than $1 million of added tuition revenue for the institution

Want more information on this success program? Email rbendici@universitybusiness.com to request a complete copy of the institution’s entry form.