4Cs Awarded $2.2 Million Grant To Help Advise Low Income Students

CCB MEDIA PHOTO Cape Cod Community College President John Cox announces the college's receipt of a $2.2 million federal grant.

Cape Cod Community College President John Cox announces the college’s receipt of a $2.2 million federal grant.

WEST BARNSTABLE – The average student at Cape Cod Community College is juggling multiple job and family pressures in addition to schoolwork.

“We’re not getting kids who have been helicopter parented,” said Maureen O’Shea, director of institutional research and planning. O’Connell has been tapped to direct a major new initiative at the college made possible by a new $2.2 million federal Department of Education Title III grant.

The grant award, announced yesterday before a crowd of teachers and students at the Tilden Arts Center, is designed to provide better advising and mentoring services to those students to ensure they are able to complete their degree programs.

“This will be a chance to really put rocket fuel under a lot of the initiatives that we have and work more systematically across the campus to develop our teaching and learning community among our faculty and staff to ensure that our students are getting the very best and the clearest pathway to their future,” O’Shea said.

The college is eligible for the five-year federal grant because it has a large percentage of low income students.

The money will be used to “nurture and support” the students, O’Shea said.

“When our students come in, they really do need some clear hand-holding, clear direction and pathways of support,” O’Shea said.

O’Shea said that because many 4Cs students are working more than 30 hours per week, they typically take a small case load and end up taking years to finish their degree or they don’t end up completing the program at all.

“Life gets in the way,” she said.

The college is hoping the grant funds will help them build programs that increase both graduation rates and transfer rates at the institution.

The grant will restructure the college’s advising system to assist students in getting Pell grants, which are loans that do not have to be repaid, and other aids to help them afford to take a full load of classes and finish their degree programs as quickly as possible so they can garner the benefits of the education.

College leaders say the grant will allow the college to expand its ability to serve low-income students, and update and streamline its admissions, assessment, and academic advising processes.

“This is targeted at the infrastructure of the college and reinventing 4Cs to be very systematic and very intentional for every single one of our students. All of our students have different goals and objectives. They come in with different strengths and weaknesses,” O”Shea said. The grant will allow administrators to work more closely with students through case management and advising to help them achieve success in whatever program they choose.

O’Shea stressed that the program is designed to teach the students the skills they need to advocate for themselves, set clear goals and learn how to be good students. It sets them on a path to self-sufficiency, she said.

US Congressman William Keating was on hand to announce the grant. He said the money be a worthwhile investment in the region’s future by helping students who are striving for success.

He said the college is already focused on these students.

“They’re already working hard to establish the ability for people to succeed, but this will really benefit those that are most challenged. Those people who during the first year struggle the most,” he said.

He said the grant was competitive and was awarded to the Cape because of a number of factors.

“Here on the Cape there are great challenges. It’s rural and 4Cs represents such a huge geographic area, unlike some of the other community colleges. That’s important for them as well,” he said.

Keating said helping the community college students to succeed will help the entire region.

“This is an important grant. It’s a linchpin to success. And the chamber of commerce down here knows that too. It’s a linchpin for economic growth,” he said.

Cape Cod Community College President John Cox spoke about the advancements the grant will make possible for the institution.

“The College will institute Project SAIL – Success through Advising and Interactive Learning. Specifically, we will address increasing our student retention, graduation, and transfer rates by focusing on improving progress from developmental math education to college level courses. Opportunities for low income students to be even more successful will grow through their participation in our intensively directed First Year Success Program. Project SAIL will add an even stronger component of active and collaborative learning to the campus with a focus on workforce needs,” Cox said.

O’Shea said the college’s first year advising program is going to be “scaled up.” Each student will have access to an advisor to help them make the right choices to meet their career goals, by helping them to get in the right classes and helping them to get the academic support and tutoring they need.

The “College 101” material that helps students to manage time and how to study, for instance, will be infused into the schools gateway, or remedial, courses, like Psychology 101 and English Composition. The grant money will be used to pay for faculty and staff professional development to help the teachers integrate the material into their courses.

The grant is designed to be sustainable after the five years ends, O’Shea said. So while there will be staff hired, including someone to head up an assessment and student learning center, the grant is really about “infrastructure changes,” she said. By “infrastructure,” O’Shea said, she means academic and administrative processes and functions. “Some of this is restructuring how we’re doing things,” she said.

Besides increasing the college’s advising capacity, grant monies will also be used for technology, including computer programs that help students track their progress in their chosen area of study.

“These grants are designed to transform institutions, not sort of a short-term program directed at a specific population of students. This is an infrastructure, institutional grant to redo how we’re doing things,” O’Shea said.

By LAURA M. RECKFORD, CapeCod.com News Editor

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