This year, UNLV launched the Rebel Success Scholars grant. The one-time $150,000 allocation funded through the President’s Excellence Fund is saving students from the so-called purge list. The list comprises students who accumulated an unpaid balance of $1,800 or more and would have been dropped from their fall semester courses for nonpayment.
“We understand the financial stress some students have to attend college, and the pandemic has only magnified that,” said UNLV President Keith E. Whitfield. “We believe this program is an important and worthwhile investment that will have long-term benefits. It’s another example of how we can support students and give them every opportunity to complete their degrees.”
Over the years, the number of students at risk of being dropped for nonpayment typically ranges from 1,500 to 2,000 students. On average, 75% of students on the list find ways to bring their balances below the $1,800 threshold through payment plans with cashiering or by paying off their balance in full within the first two weeks of the fall semester. Still, the remainder are dropped from their classes and have to work with the cashiering office and advisors to be reinstated. They may still miss out if seats in their desired classes are no longer available. It is an unsettling process that makes it hard for students to succeed.
“We wanted to promote student retention and help students avoid the disruption of being dropped, finding funds to pay, and rebuilding a course schedule,” said Jeff Orgera, associate vice provost for student success in the office of undergraduate education. “These students are resilient and have shown an interest in continuing their course of study.”
Orgera said UNLV offices of advising, admissions, and cashiering collaborated to design the program based on research that shows even small financial incentives can make a big difference in retention and progression — especially when combined with a structured program that promotes positive academic behaviors like meeting with professors, advisors, and mentors.
The team identified the 172 students who enrolled in fall 2020 as first-time freshmen, and due to the pandemic, had an entirely remote-instruction experience their first year at UNLV. The students received grants ranging from $500 to $1,000 to bring their unpaid balances below the $1,800 threshold.
Students who receive grants will complete at least six program activities throughout the calendar year. Activities include peer mentoring, meeting with advisors and instructors, and attending celebrations and milestone events along with their fellow Rebel Success Scholars.
Orgera said he hopes the program will boost student success and engagement, especially among students who struggled with connecting to the campus community in their first year and may have fallen behind on payments during the pandemic.
“Some of these students may have been reluctant to take on loans to pay for college, and these grants will help them work with our team to arrange payment plans and explore other financial arrangements to cover ongoing college costs,” Orgera said. “The pressure of funding a college education is understandable. We’re hoping this grant and the Rebel Success Scholars program helps them stay on course and connect with resources at UNLV.”