Sallie Mae Commits $1M to Delaware State University to Close College Completion Gap

Education Landscape

Sallie Mae, through The Sallie Mae Fund, announced a $1 million research endowment to Delaware State University (DSU) to help close the college completion gap. The grant will support a comprehensive three-year “Persistence and Completion Pilot Program” that will identify and study barriers to degree completion, help students return to school and complete, and help develop policy recommendations and best practices to enhance student re-engagement at DSU, HBCUs, and institutions across the country.

Graduation rates at HBCUs remain lower than the national average: nationwide, six in 10 students who start college go on to earn a degree within six years; at HBCUs around 40% do. The number of students who have some college experience, but no degree, is a distressing 40 million. In addition, 19 percent of Black learners — nearly 6.4 million students — had some college experience but no degree. Approximately 3 million are “near completers” who have stopped out mere credits away from degree completion.

The program will create a student-centered and data-focused co-branded white paper that lays out higher education policy solutions to increase degree completion. The paper will uplift diverse student voices who have lived experience leaving college without a degree. Research findings and learnings will be presented at a future DSU HBCU Philanthropy Symposium to offer outcomes and recommend solutions for degree completion that can be broadly considered and implemented at HBCUs and institutions nationwide.

Part of the funding will also scale DSU’s current Near Completer program—created in partnership with Thurgood Marshall College—which identifies students with only some college experience and supports their re-enrollment and degree completion. DSU and Sallie Mae have identified over 900 near-completer students, hundreds of whom the program will look to re-engage. The program will also offer $125,000 in scholarships to help cover financial barriers, such as food and technology insecurities, in addition to tuition, fees and books.  

This partnership reflects Sallie Mae and Delaware State University’s shared commitment to close the college completion gap at HBCUs and provide critical support through research, policy recommendations, and financial aid. 

The partnership was celebrated in December at the 13th Annual Delaware State University Scholarship Ball. At the ball, Sallie Mae CEO Jon Witter noted, “Our mission is to power confidence as students begin their unique journey. We are all about helping students with that journey to, through, and immediately after their higher education experience. This builds community and a culture of dedication to the university, and that lasts for years.”