Rising tuition costs, financial aid constraints and a limited number of on-campus jobs are among the converging challenges today’s students face as they pursue a degree.
DePaul’s commitment to innovative, student-focused solutions paved the way for the Education and Development Grant for Employability (EDGE) program—a yearlong program designed to respond to these challenges.
Pioneered by Enrollment Management and Marketing (EMM) in 2011 and jointly administered by Financial Aid and the Career Center, EDGE was created as a financial aid and retention strategy that provides first-year students opportunities to develop skills that prepare them for employment in their second year and beyond.
Simultaneously, EDGE addresses the following institutional challenges and objectives:
- Financial aid appeals from our prospective freshmen have been on the rise.
- Limited access to employment due to little to no job experience reduces a freshman’s likelihood of campus employment, which causes financial strain that affects their ability to afford DePaul.
- There is great evidence of the benefits of early career development. The sooner our students begin career planning, the better their career and educational outcomes.
- Retention rates increase when students have more on-campus engagement opportunities.
So how does the program work?
Students are identified to participate in EDGE following an official appeal of their freshman financial aid award. Selected freshmen receive a $3,000 grant ($1,000 per quarter) during their first year in exchange for participating in an assigned department or office project team that’s led by a professional staff member.
EDGE is designed to provide first-year students the opportunity to gain hands-on job experience, partake in career development workshops, participate in skill-building activities related to their assigned team, gain in-depth knowledge of on-campus resources and make valuable connections with staff and other EDGE students, which helps to build on-campus community and affinity.
EDGE is quickly gaining a national reputation as a best practice. The program received the 2016 Career Service Excellence Award from the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE), beating out 115 other nominated programs around the nation.Program Objectives
Students who successfully complete the program will:
- Gain experience and develop self-knowledge about jobs and careers.
- Develop money management skills.
- Participate in meaningful projects that contribute to the university overall.
- Become ready for future employment.
EDGE freshmen exceed their non-EDGE peers in retention and academic performance.
Program Evaluation Results
- EDGE students from the 2011 cohort (the most recent measured) have a four-year graduation rate of 76 percent, a higher rate than the 2011 freshman class overall (58 percent).
- The program started with 95 freshmen and more than doubled to 210 freshmen by its fifth year.
Students are surveyed at the beginning and end of the year to evaluate their experience in the program. Below are the results for the 2015-2016 year.
- 90 percent of students were able to name and describe at least one work-related strength and interest.
- 87 percent of students were able to describe at least one strategy or action plan to manage their college costs.
- 90 percent of students were able to name at least one thing they have done as part of their team to contribute to the university.
- 100 percent of students had a resume by the end of the program (compared with 66 percent at the start of the program).
- 96 percent of students identified the next steps for their career path.
- 61 percent of students felt they had a high possibility of being hired.
- 58 percent of students were employed by the end of the program (compared with 17 percent at the start of the program).