A federal grant of more than $1.5 million has been awarded to West Virginia Northern Community College targeting its efforts to retain and graduate more students.
Approval of the competitive grant by the U.S. Department of Education’s Strengthening Institutions Program was announced by U.S. Sen. Jay Rockefeller, D-W.Va. The grant, under Title III, Part A, of the Higher Education Act of 1965, provides $332,158 for the first year and totals $1,543,090 over five years.
Dr. Martin J. Olshinsky, WVNCC president, said, “One of Northern’s most important strategic goals is significantly increasing the number of students who stay in college and then graduate. We are gratified that our application for funds to help us accomplish that goal has been approved.”
Rockefeller said, “It’s critical that students get the support they need and deserve to thrive in the classroom and beyond. This grant is no exception. It should keep more students in college, help those who are struggling in class and better prepare teachers to support their students.
“These students are the future of West Virginia and the country.” the senator added. “We must do everything that we can to make sure that they excel in school and their upcoming careers.”
Saying that now Northern “will have the necessary tools” to further improve student success, Olshinsky explained the Strengthening Institutions Program helps eligible institutions expand capacity to serve low-income students. He said the funds particularly will target students needing to pass, or test-out of, traditional placement tests.
Northern officials explained that placement tests are used to place students in the transitional education course they require to better prepare them for success in college. Typically, transitional education courses are taken in the areas of mathematics and English (reading and writing.) At Northern, more than 70 percent of all students must take at least one transitional education course. The Title III grant will help Northern “increase student success outcomes and enhance retention for students enrolled in transitional education courses through computer-assisted learning, orientation, test preparation and boot-camp programming, advisement, and through providing professional development for transitional education faculty.”
Key strategies for activities to be provided by Northern through the grant include the following:
- Developing a test preparation program for transitional math, writing, and reading students designed to provide intensive instruction to students prior to them taking the college’s placement test;
- Developing and delivering a transitional math boot camp program for students who have enrolled in and have not successfully completed transitional math courses. The boot camp’s goal is to assist students in shoring up their skills through intensive direct and computer-assisted instruction, testing mastery/competence through departmental testing;
- Advisement services geared to transitional education students;
- Providing additional full-time math faculty members to assist with the development of the test preparation and boot camp programs and to teach transitional math classes; and,
- Enhancement of professional development for all faculty members, focusing on the needs of underprepared students.
Olshinsky said the grant will enable Northern to hire additional employees in the areas of math instruction, counseling and tutoring. Also, the grant includes a challenge to the WVNCC Foundation to assist in the establishment of an endowment to continue funding activities increasing student retention and graduation rates. During the five years of the grant, the Foundation is charged with raising $400,000 to receive a match of $250,000, Olshinsky explained.
This means the percentage of total project costs which would be financed with federal money is 83.8 and the percentage of non-governmental sources would be 16.2.