Return to Program Profiles DePaul University

DePaul University, building on a successful pilot program, established the Internship Plu$ project to serve first-generation students with financial need during their sophomore and junior years. The CIC/Walmart College Success Award provided $1,300 financial awards for students who undertook unpaid internships related to their field of academic study or intended career, thus making it financially feasible for students to experience the close relationship between education and career goals, find professional role models, and have opportunities to network in their intended career field. Participating students received four hours of credit and were able to use the internship to fulfill the university’s experiential learning requirement.
In September 2010, the university hired a program coordinator to assist the program director in managing daily logistics, communications, database development, assessment, and reporting. The most successful aspect of the program was the combination of the internship with a four-credit experiential learning course, which integrated classroom learning with the work students were doing at their internship sites. This enabled instructors and employers to get to know the students, learn about their career goals, and determine how they could help students fulfill those goals.

Program Outcomes

DePaul University established the Internship Plu$ Program in July 2010. Sixty students completed the program between July 2010 and August 2012, exceeding the program’s goal of 56 students—a 7 percent increase over the goal.
Although another goal was increased retention, first-year retention rates were almost identical for first-generation students and the general student population. In the second year, however, a gap usually opens up, the latest of which shows a 76 percent retention rate for first-generation students compared to 86 percent for the university as a whole (these are rates for freshmen cohorts). Thus it is only after the first year that DePaul typically sees gaps in retention for first-generation students. With the Internship Plu$ Program, however, 100 percent of the 27 students who participated in the program between June 2010 and June 2011 were retained at the university. By the end of the program, August 2012, 95 percent of the students who participated were still at DePaul—an excellent rate for first-generation students.
Students who participated also had a GPA of 3.2, a good GPA for first-generation students. This GPA is an indicator of improved academic performance when students are engaged in internships. Furthermore, students on internships also reported improved career awareness, which contributes to persistence in school.

Program Updates

Internship Plu$ has continued beyond the CIC/Walmart College Success Award. The university has arranged with its financial aid office to fund the program in the amount of $30,000 for 2013 and, most likely, for 2014. Some modifications to the program will be necessary. At the end of two years, the university will analyze the retention, graduation rates, and career outcomes of participating students to determine if more funding from DePaul will be requested.