Oakland collaborates with Detroit Drives Degrees for debt relief and degree completion program


Courtesy of the Detroit Regional Chapter

Oakland’s new Golden Grizzlies Graduate program aims to help increase degree completion and assist students at risk of leaving school for financial reasons.

Katie LaDuke, Managing Editor

The state of Michigan estimates that there are over 1 million adults in the state’s population who have some college credit but no degree.

On May 1, Oakland University announced its new Golden Grizzlies Graduate program to increase degree completion among the 693,000 adults living in Southeast Michigan with college credit but an uncompleted degree.

This new program is a collaboration effort with the Detroit Drives Degrees (DDD) initiative to improve the talent pipeline in the areas surrounding Detroit. Wayne State University and Henry Ford College have also agreed to partner with the DDD initiative.   

The Golden Grizzlies Graduate program aims to help individuals return to OU after time off and current students who are at risk of leaving school for financial reasons.

“It is our responsibility to find ways to engage those students and help them achieve their goal by obtaining a bachelor’s degree,” said Dawn Aubry, associate vice president for enrollment management.

There are three micro-grants at the forefront of this program, with three populations in mind. All three grants cover up to $500 a semester for three semesters. This equals a maximum of $1,500 over the three semesters.

With these grants, distribution of money will depend on the amount of funds available and will be announced as more details of the program are finalized. 

OU Reconnecter Grant

This grant is for students who left Oakland in good academic standing but have a past due university bill of $1,500 or less on their account. These students also need to have had at least a one-year gap in attendance.

OU Comebacker Grant

For this grant, students must have left Oakland in good academic standing and have had at least a one-year gap in attendance. However, these students must have no prior balance on their account.

OU Completion Grant

To receive this grant, current junior or senior level students must be in good academic standing but are at risk of leaving the university due to financial reasons. Students must show a demonstrated financial need.

“Some universities are very successful in using micro grants to help students,” Aubry said.

The term “loan forgiveness,” which can be understood as an institution taking on an individual’s debt, has been used by other outlets to describe Oakland’s program. The Golden Grizzlies Graduate program is focused on the relief of debt a student has with the university (i.e. an outstanding tuition bill), not full loan forgiveness.

Since a major focus of this new program deals with encouraging students who started at OU to return to campus to finish their degree, undergraduate admissions will be heavily utilized. This is specifically for those individuals who have to apply for readmission — anyone who stopped going to OU for six or more years.

“We’re working toward less barriers for these students, so we can make their transition back to Oakland an easy one,” said Shane Lewis, interim director of admissions.

Other departments, such as Student Financial Services and Academic Advising, will also be involved with helping a student return on the right path.

“This is definitely a team effort to support these students in their return,” Lewis said.

On July 24, there will be a Golden Grizzlies Graduate Open House with advisers and representatives from different departments around campus to answer questions for anyone who is interested in the new program. This open house is to prepare for the full launch in the fall 2019 semester.

“We hope to encourage more students to come back and earn that credential, which is why they had started with us in the first place,” Lewis said.

More information on the Golden Grizzlies Graduate program can be found on the Oakland University webpage under Undergraduate Admissions.