During the winter 2019 semester, Eastern Michigan University’s Engage @EMU office launched a new pilot program in an effort to increase student enrollment.
The Eagle Engage Corps program aims to combine student debt forgiveness and community service to reengage former students who were unable to continue their education due to financial difficulties.
“We heard a lot of stories of students who weren’t able to finish because of financial reasons and that’s kind of a difficult place to be because you don’t have a college degree, but you do have some student loan debt,” said Luke Yates, community development coordinator for Engage @EMU. “The idea was to reach out to those students and see what we can do to get them back into Eastern, especially when they were close to graduation.”
Eagle Engage Corps is geared for students who completed at least 78 credits before leaving EMU and were close to graduation. The program requires students to do 30 hours of community service work for three semesters.
“We wanted to show some way of the students being able to give back to the community, so we’re partnering up with local non-profits,” Yates said. “We’re also hoping it helps with student retention and keeping students involved if they have more of a connection with Ypsilanti and the local community through doing that work.”
If the student completes their coursework in good academic standing as well as the combined 90 hours of community service, up to $6,000 of their debt to EMU will be forgiven. Students who complete one or two semesters will still receive partial debt forgiveness.
As of now, Yates said the plan for the program is to stay small in size to ensure all students involved have a good network of support.
“We have advising, financial aid and student business services all kind of involved in working with us,” Yates said. “We have some students who first enrolled in the mid-90s, so they might have been out of school for quite a while. I think it helps to have a smaller group right now, just so they have access to that support network.”
Jamere Dixon, 26, was one of 12 students on the initial cohort for the winter 2019 semester. Dixon is a political science major and last attended EMU in 2015.
“My experience reenrolling at EMU was surreal,” she said. “I definitely did not think that I would be where I am today. EMU Eagle Engage Corps has really changed my life and made me feel supported through this amazing journey.”
Eagle Engage Corps is looking to on-board more students for the fall 2019 semester, although space is limited. The deadline to apply is June 30.
Applications can be found at https://www.emich.edu/engage/communitylink/eagle-engage-corps/.