Temple University’s Fly in 4 Initiative Pays Students Part Time to Stay in Class Full Time

Research shows that students who work 10 hours/week can succeed in college despite their jobs creating occasional bumps along the way.

Those students working more than 15-20 hours/week, over one or more jobs however, might not have such a fortunate outcome. Long work hours can run late into the evening, so students show up for class tired. They often work late into the night and submit assignments too close to due dates.

Working more can mean not graduating on time — or at all.

One higher ed institution is doing something about that problem. Temple University, a state-related institution of 40,000 students in Philadelphia, has launched economically creative ways to keep students engaged in class and persisting through graduation.

We invited Dr. Jodi Levine Laufgraben, Vice Provost for Academic Affairs, Assessment, and Institutional Research at Temple University, to join the Enrollment Growth University podcast to talk about Temple’s Fly in 4 initiative.

Temple’s Fly in 4 Initiative

“Fly in 4 is Temple’s signature time-to-degree initiative,” Jodi told us.

The program’s need assessment worked on simple math. Students who get a four-year degree in four years will pay less for that degree and carry less debt into post-graduation life.

“So when we started thinking about what we wanted to have students do and also the type of institutional changes we wanted to make to promote on-time graduation,” Jodi said, “Fly in 4 began to take shape.”

Leaders at Temple recognized that students who see advisors regularly and those who register for classes during an early registration window are more likely to graduate on time. Likewise, students who advance annually in class standing graduate on time. Finally, when economically disadvantaged students can receive financial support that allows them to work less, that support can make a difference in their graduation rate and time.

Building on this research, Temple created Fly in 4.  

“The first class at Temple to come in under Fly in 4 were our fall 2014 freshmen,” Jodi said, “and we are really proud to say that that cohort just made it to the finish line and 2018 was that first graduation moment that we could celebrate our Fly in 4 success.”

How Temple University’s Fly in 4 Program Works

Many institutions support time-to-degree type initiatives like Fly in 4. What made Temple’s program unique, however, was the grant component.

“We award 500 $4,000-a-year scholarships to Fly in 4 students,” Jodi explained. “We arrived at the $4,000 by doing the simple math of about 20 hours a week at a part-time job in the minimum wage pay range, and that would equate to $4,000 a year.”

Students accept Temple’s Fly in 4 agreement and promise to meet several annual checkpoints, such as seeing an advisor, registering early, and advancing in class standing. The university, in turn, agrees to provide advising, the classes they need, and a degree audit report to help them see how they’re doing in moving through their degree requirements.

Students must remain financially eligible for Fly in 4 throughout the program. Beyond that, they meet the same academic progress requirements that other students have to meet. Temple calls their policy the 30-60-90 Rule. After 30 credits, a freshman moves to sophomore standing. After 60 credits a sophomore moves to junior standing and at 90 credits a student has senior standing. It’s important for students to meet those academic standing markers each year. The research shows that students who advance in class standing stay on track to graduate on time.

The results are astonishing.

The Fly in 4 students graduated at a 57% rate, two points above the university-wide four-year rate of 55%.

Next Steps for Institutions Looking to Mimic Temple’s Fly in 4 Program

What does it take to start a program like Fly in 4?

“For starters, you need to change the culture,” Jan told us. “Often we don’t realize some of the barriers to graduation that we put in front of students.”

Using the data that shows you what courses students want to register for can really help you, too, as can investing in acquiring, training, and retaining qualified advisors.

“We also began to promote class identity in ways that we didn’t do before,” Jodi said.  “We did a contest on Twitter for a few summers inviting students to tell us what they would do with an extra $35,000 if they didn’t have to invest in a fifth year for their bachelor’s degree, and we got some really, really creative entries.”

Fly in 4’s success goes to show that when students have the resources to help them pay for college, it makes a difference.

“Thinking about the financial as well as the academic barriers, the personal and social barriers really is how you have to go about focusing on improving your time-to-degree rate,” Jodi said.

This post is based on a podcast interview with Dr. Jodi Levine Laufgraben from Temple University. To hear this episode, and many more like it, you can subscribe to Enrollment Growth University.

If you don’t use iTunes, you can listen to every episode here.