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UCM awarded grant to help increase retention

UCM was recently awarded the $2.7 million Strengthening Institutions Grant through the U.S. Department of Education to help increase retention rates on campus by adding new programs, funding the employees at the Success Advising Center and improving the first-year experience.

“The timing of opening up the new Success Advising Center and awarding this grant, the timing couldn’t be any better,” said Mike Godard, interim provost and chief learning officer.

Godard said he and Interim Vice Provost for Enrollment Management Karen Goos wrote the grant 18 months ago.

Godard said a portion of five-year, nonrenewable grant will help the new Success Advising Center hire and train more academic success coaches.

The coaches are junior and senior student workers who help advise incoming students one-on-one.

The SAC has 21 success coaches but Godard said he wants to double that number.

“We know that they have such a positive impact on our incoming students,” Godard said. “They know what it means to be successful. They have lived it. They have done it here at UCM.”

Goos said UCM will gradually absorb any recurring costs, such as student salaries and the hiring of a new director of first-year programs.

“The idea is by the end of the fifth year, the school would pay 100 percent of the salaries,” Goos said. “Recurring costs are any costs that are not completed with one big purchase.”

Goos said the other recurring costs will be to build strong peer support programs to help students’ first-year experience and beyond.

“This includes building a first-year peer mentoring program, scaling our success coaching programs and providing additional tutoring opportunities,” Goos said. “These are great opportunities for both the university to strengthen its support services but also provides current students professional work experiences and the opportunity to help other UCM students.”

Goos said the grant will help faculty and staff develop first-year experiences, including a redesign on the first-year seminar, additional professional development for faculty who teach challenging courses and training on how to continue to improve and sustain the new advising model.

She said the grant will fund equipment, including providing active learning classroom furniture and classroom technology and provide additional copies of textbooks. The grant will also fund the Summer Bridge Program.

The Summer Bridge Program allows freshmen students to live on campus over the summer and take classes and get used to the college experience.

Godard said this grant, along with the new Success Advising Center, should help the university reach its goal of an 80 percent retention rate. He said the rate is currently about 70 percent, which is the number of first-time freshmen who return the following year.

“That’s our goal is that more of our students persist and retain,” Godard said. “Our ultimate goal is to make sure they graduate with a degree in four years.”

Godard said he is optimistic the opening of the Success Advising Center and the awarding of this Department of Education grant will help increase the retention rates.

“In collaboration of those two things going on, within five years, we can meet our target goal of having an 80 percent retention rate for our students.”

Goos said more than $1.3 million of the grant is for personnel and benefits, which includes the director of the first-year programs, the student success coaches, first-year peer mentors and tutoring; $339,600 will provide travel for training and professional development; $180,000 will provide advising support technology and active learning classroom furniture; $175,000 will provide textbooks and classroom technology to support the active learning classrooms; $41,250 will be for additional training and professional development for the advising model; and $664,699 will be for the Summer Bridge Program.

Goos said the interactive classroom part of the grant is still being decided along with new textbooks.

“We will work with our Office of Technology and faculty to determine exactly what classroom technology and furniture would be best for a more interactive classroom experience,” Goos said. “This was written to find ways to purchase additional copies of textbooks to have copies in the library for (a) student to use to ensure students have access to the textbooks needed to be successful.”

Goos said UCM is requesting endowment funding to ensure the continuation of the proposed activities, such as the Summer Bridge Program, after the grant expires.

“We really believe this will help the university develop quality first-year experience programming and academic support services to increase first-year retention and graduation rates at the university,” Goos said.

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