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The United States Department of Education recently awarded Columbus State University with a Strengthening Institutions Program grant to improve retention, progression and graduation rates. The federal grant will award CSU with $600,000 a year for five years.
“For years, I have been studying why some students do not graduate,” said Lisa Shaw, Director of Academic Center for Excellence and co-author to the grant proposal. “I identified which students are most at risk for not completing college. This grant allows us to focus on those students and provide support all the way through to graduation.”
The grant focuses on increasing college success among transfer students, students who could benefit from learning support and students in danger of probation, exclusion or running out of financial aid. It will also bring the added benefit of providing work opportunities for student mentors who will be hired to help guide their peers through the challenges of college. The program builds upon existing CSU resources, such as counseling, tutoring, the Center for Career Development and the Academic Center for Excellence.
“We will meet with students in danger of probation to determine why they are struggling,” said Shaw. “Then we will come up with a personalized plan they can use to improve their academic success and the best use of campus resources, such as counseling, tutoring or guidance on financial aid.”
Currently, Shaw’s colleague, Christopher Holloway, provides such services to nearly 100 probation and exclusion students each year for the College of Letters and Sciences. Funds from the grant will allow the Academic Center for Excellence to serve the entire campus and to hire two additional advisors.
Funds from the grant also support a new Learning Support Success Center, which will be open seven days a week and will be directed by the proposal’s co-author, Melody Shumaker. Over five years, the program is expected to serve an estimated 1,000 students.
“It is all about helping students achieve their aspirations,” said Shumaker. “Our focus is on the individuals.”