CU-Boulder effort helps former students complete their degrees

February 25, 2013

When life’s complications get in the way of graduation, the University of Colorado Boulder offers CU Complete, an academic service designed to assist former CU-Boulder students in completing their bachelor’s degrees.

Launched in 2009 by the CU-Boulder Division of Continuing Education, CU Complete provides academic, financial aid and career advising to support students in degree completion. To date, more than 400 former CU-Boulder students have worked with Continuing Education advisers and 78 students have graduated with assistance from CU Complete.

“When we started this project, we were surprised to learn that a number of students had not completed their degrees despite being in good academic standing and well along in their degree requirements,” said Anne K. Heinz, dean of Continuing Education at CU-Boulder. “We wanted to reach out to these students, reassure them that it was not too late to finish their degree and that there are resources available to help them.”

Various factors can influence a student’s decision to leave school. Students cite family emergencies, health issues and employment opportunities as some of the reasons. But time and finances are the primary barriers that stand in the way of degree completion according to data gathered via CU Complete student surveys. In addition, work, family and geography — many former students no longer live in Boulder — make re-enrollment a challenge.

“We work closely with academic departments to offer flexible online and evening courses, which can help former students earn credit within their circumstances,” Heinz said. “No matter their reasons for leaving, we find that former students have a strong desire to complete their degrees and enjoy a great sense of accomplishment when they graduate.”

In 2008, CU-Boulder student Annie Barr walked with her class at spring commencement. She later discovered she needed to complete a few courses to graduate. Barr was working full-time in addition to completing a part-time internship. She attempted to finish her coursework, but her schedule and finances were a challenge and she quickly became preoccupied with her emerging career.

“My internship turned into a full-time position, and I began my career. With a busy schedule of late nights and travel, my priorities shifted away from completing my degree,” she said. “I was a committed and involved student in college — I participated in a leadership program, student government and jobs on campus. Not completing my degree was not a matter of ability; it was a matter of priority.”

Even with her career in progress, Barr continued to harbor hope for finishing her degree. Last year, she worked with a Continuing Education adviser and received a scholarship to enroll in her remaining course. In 2012, Barr graduated with bachelor’s degrees in communication and Germanic Studies.

“I didn’t realize how much the reality of not having my degree was really bothering me deep down,” she said. “The burden was finally lifted when I earned my degree.

“I can rest assured that if I come across an opportunity in life that requires a degree, I can produce it. More importantly, I have a degree that validates all the incredible experiences I had at CU-Boulder and all my hard work.”

Like Barr, many returning CU-Boulder students may be eligible for financial assistance and scholarships.

The CU Complete Scholarship, initially made possible with grant funding from the Colorado Department of Higher Education, Western Interstate Commission on Higher Education, and the Lumina Foundation, has been awarded to more than 100 students and funding is still available.

For more information about CU Complete and the CU Complete Scholarship visit or email

Anne Heinz, dean of Continuing Education, 303-492-7292
Kathryn Tisdale, Continuing Education adviser, 303-735-5456
Hannah Fletcher, Continuing Education communication specialist, 303-492-3949