Fayetteville State is reporting a major increase in participation for this summer's 30/60/90 initiative, which aims at helping students stay on-track with their studies.
2,300 students are utilizing the program which references the number of credits a student would need to earn annually to graduate in four years, up from 1,300 during the inaugural year last summer.
"One of the things we had to tackle head on was retention and graduation rates here at Fayetteville State University. Historically, we haven't been strongest in those areas," said Chancellor Darrell Allison, who helped create the program during his first year in office.
From the Fall 2010 through Fall 2014 cohort, the six-year graduation rate for first-time, full-time Fayetteville State students was 34%, below the five-year peer institution average of 37%.
This program offers students up to seven credits, housing, and food for the summer--free of charge.
"I think it's very important, especially because a lot of students here do have to take out loans and things, so those are less loans they have to take out," said Zakiyah Lambert, a rising senior who has participated both years.
According to the Education Data Initiative, student load debt in the US is more than $1.7 trillion, a figure which has nearly doubled from 2011 to 2021.
"You can get rid of a lot of debt. College debt is not easy to get rid of. It stays with you. It sticks with you. You're going to deal with that one way or another. So with that realization, we want to make sure that as they are here in those three to four years if you will, we're giving them every opportunity to (reach) 120 credits," Allison explained.
Fellow rising senior Damonica Perry hopes to become an entrepreneur, and believes the money she's saving can go towards start-up capital post-graduation.
"It's definitely a financial help for me and my family. It's very impactful, actually putting me ahead in my senior year. Even though I'm already on track, (I'm) getting a little bit ahead so I can stay focused and worry about after college," said Perry, who holds a number of leadership roles in campus groups.
Kiyirah Jones, a sophomore who plans to attend medical school, is hoping to graduate in less than four years.
"It would be a lot (of money). A lot that I don't have only because I'm so focused on school. So this is just a great opportunity," said Jones.
Lambert added there are also extracurricular activities students can take advantage of during the summer period.
"Just recently last Saturday, they went to the Whitewater Center in Charlotte. We've had paint nights, and bowling nights, and movie nights," said Lambert.
The program is open to full-time FSU students, and is primarily geared towards undergraduates, though Allison notes they have expanded it.
"We also have designated one graduate course, and that is education. We know that our nation and our state, we're hemorrhaging, in regards to teachers, administrators if you will, at the K-12 level," Allison said.
A report from the State Department of Public Instruction found an attrition rate for teachers of 8.2% during the 2020-2021 school year, up from 7.5% the year before.
Allison noted the school utilized federal relief funds in creating the program, and are actively fundraising to continue it, noting they are set to offer it again next summer.