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A little can do a lot

A little can do a lot
University of Minnesota Rochester is embarking on their first find raising campaign helping students graduate in four years. Students Danielle Montet (from left) Jessica Gascoigne and Chelsea Griffin could benefit from the funds.

Between work and school, University of Minnesota Rochester sophomore Chelsea Griffin doesn't find herself with a lot of free time.

To make ends meet last semester, the Woodbury native worked three jobs — as a research assistant, cashier in the school book store and in the university's student resource center.

"I live paycheck to paycheck pretty much," said Griffin, who is studying to become a physician's assistant.

Despite her hectic schedule, Griffin is determined to finish her undergraduate degree in four years. And if UMR officials have any say in the matter, Griffin will have her degree in hand two years from now, ready for the next stage in her career.

To help her, university officials have launched Finish in Four , an annual fundraising effort aimed at getting students to graduate on time by providing them with a modest financial incentive — about $200 to $250 per student.


Finish in Four also is the first fundraising effort by the university since it was established five years ago. And therein lies one of UMR's challenges. Unlike traditional colleges, UMR has no alumni yet, who usually serve as the engine behind such fundraising efforts.

That's what makes Finish in Four different from other campaigns. Officials envision it not only as a fundraiser but as an outreach effort as well, an opportunity to engage the region to introduce more people to a school that has already gained national attention for its integrated curriculum, UMR Chancellor Stephen Lehmkuhle said.

"They are not going to connect to us through athletic events," he said. "Rather, I want them to connect to us through what we're trying to do in terms of developing students and the future workforce in this area. That's the purpose of bringing people on campus."

Like the incentives, the campaign itself is modest in nature. Officials only want to raise $30,000 or so. But they hope the initiative will deliver a big bang for the bucks. Lehmkuhle notes that there is a large financial cost to students who fail to finish their undergraduate degree on time. They often incur another year of borrowing, and at higher interest rates. They also defer their income-earning years, a delay that can cost them several hundreds of thousands of dollars during the course of their lives.

It is all the more imperative that students finish school and enter the workforce as quickly as possible, Lehmkuhle said. The health care profession is in the midst of a large turnover, with 50 percent of health care workers projected to be replaced in the next decade.

"(Finish in Four is) a strategic investment," Lehmkuhle said. "It's a small amount of funds that will go a long way."

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