GCC Awarded $1.6 Million Federal Grant to Support Student Success

September 6, 2016

Over the next five years, Greenfield Community College will receive $1,640,349 from the U.S. Department of Education’s “Strengthening Institutions Program” (Title III). The College will use the funds on programs that help students stay in school and complete a degree or certificate. GCC’s Dean of Students Anna Berry will serve as the manager of the grant.

GCC President Bob Pura celebrated the new funding saying, “This Title III grant will be transformational for both students and the College. I want to thank all of those here at GCC who helped to develop the ideas and programs on behalf of students, and then convincingly write about them in a grant proposal on behalf of the College. These federal resources will impact local students immediately and for the better. Bravo!”

The grant provides resources for a new program, Coaching & Advising for Retention and Education of Students (CARES). CARES will focus on:

1) providing student success coaching to Liberal Arts students who are the first in their family to attend college and who have not chosen a college major or career path;

2) developing enhanced student assessments to reduce the number of students who do not continue past college preparatory courses;

3) improving the College’s staff and faculty’s capacity for career-related advising and student coaching/mentoring of at-risk students through professional development; and,

4) acquiring equipment for use in strengthening management and academic programs.

The goals of the CARES Project are to:

  1. strengthen effective student proactive coaching and advising capacity through college transition points;
  2. strengthen effective student assessment and placement;
  3. strengthen GCC’s capacity to provide comprehensive early- and post-enrollment support services for Liberal Arts General; and,
  4. improve student retention.

Central to the programs funded by this grant is a structured first-year experience that supports students who have been shown to be most at risk for not continuing with their education. The College has many successful components of a first-year experience already in place, but has not had sufficient resources to tie the activities together into a more structured experience. A team of student success coaches will work with the students from their first point of contact with the College through graduation.

Dean Berry said, “The Title III grant provides the opportunity for the College to fulfill our vision for more comprehensive guidance to students who are unclear about their pathway from college to career. We recognize that many students require support in their journey to self-actualization and, ultimately, degree completion. This grant will put into place structures that help students gain self-knowledge and the tools to inspire change. We will be able to assess barriers to successful college completion, offer comprehensive career exploration, and develop peer and professional supports that will assist students to persist to degree completion, transfer, and career attainment. Developing a cohort through a comprehensive first-year-experience offers students the opportunity to utilize both new and existing resources across campus.”

“Every student deserves access to a college education and the bright future it brings. This grant will help to ensure GCC students have the resources and support they need to complete their degree and find a good-paying job when they complete their education,” Congressman Jim McGovern (MA-02) said. “I am grateful to Greenfield Community College for all they do to help our students reach their full potential and look forward to seeing all the ways this will help them succeed.”

Commenting on the coordinated efforts that led to the College receiving this funding, GCC Grants Developer Keith Bailey said, “The new CARES program this Title III grant will support is the result of several years of collaborative strategic planning across all areas of the College. There are so many dedicated staff and faculty members across campus who played a role in helping to ensure that the CARES program will really make a significant impact in helping our students succeed. We’re all extremely proud of the process that resulted in this grant award.”

“The Development Office is very pleased to have played a role in bringing these federal dollars to the College,” said GCC Executive Director of Resource Development Regina Curtis. “This grant can really move the needle in terms of positive impact on student success and strengthening of the institution’s ability to support the delivery of student support services.”

Catherine Seaver, GCC’s Chief Academic and Student Affairs Officer, commented, “A lot of careful thought and planning went into developing this grant application which will provide benefits for more than 190 Liberal Arts General students who have not selected a specific major or concentration to study.  We will also use some of the funding to upgrade college telecommunication systems and purchase equipment for several other career-based programs at GCC. These grant funds will allow us to establish systemic processes and resources to provide the additional support and guidance these students need to assure their success at GCC and beyond.”

New programs will include Proactive Coaching and Career Pathway Supports, implementation of case management software, non-cognitive assessments, and Peer Coaching. The new programs will be coordinated and integrated with GCC’s existing student support services, including Orientation, Career Pathway Advising, Peer Tutoring Services, Early Progress Reporting, Personal Counseling, Transfer Services, Financial Aid Assistance, and Financial Literacy.

CARES staff will work with respective faculty academic advisors to coordinate career services available to students in their program of study, and will be trained by the Transfer Coordinator to use the internally-developed “3‐Step Career Exploration” process.

Over the five years of the funding, CARES staff and GCC’s Academic Advising Center staff will attend professional conferences and institutes offered by the National Academic Advising Association (NACADA) and the American Association of Colleges and Universities (AACU) focused on delivering enhanced career-track oriented academic advising for students who have not chosen a college major or career.

To provide continuing resources for these programs past the end of the funding period, GCC will use and match a portion of the Title III funds to establish an endowment. GCC is committed to investing both grant and matching funds for 20 years, with no more than half of the interest to be spent during that time.

The grant will provide funding for the College to purchase and install software and hardware support for the new campus digital sign system for student information. In the grant’s second year, the College will purchase and install a new enterprise-class phone system, with many features the current system does not have, including: alleviation of max limit of 30 incoming calls at once; emergency notification via handset speakerphones; and, panic alert buttons integrated with public safety station and emergency alert system via phone system.

By Mary McClintock, ’82

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