Written by Ed Osborn
The U.S. Department of Education announced on July 2, 2009, that Eastern Connecticut State University will receive a $1.5 million Title III grant over five years through the department's "Strengthening Institutions" program. Eastern will use the funds to improve student achievement through their academic studies in the University's Student Success Center so that more students complete their studies in four years.
"As a member of the House Education and Labor Committee, I know how vital it is for institutions of higher education to have the resources they need to continue to improve academic support services for their students," stated Congressman Joe Courtney, who serves Connecticut's Second Congressional District in which Eastern is located. "I want to congratulate Dr. Nunez and the faculty at Eastern for being awarded this grant and for their efforts to improve the academic success of students at Eastern."
"Data we have seen suggests that the longer students take to complete college, the lower their chance of success," said Eastern President Elsa Nunez. "Our own figures tell us that every year a student delays graduation will cost them more than $50,000, including the cost of attending Eastern and delaying gainful employment an extra year. This grant will go a long way towards helping our students finish their studies on time."
The University's new Student Success Center consolidates and centralizes such academic support services as tutoring, academic advising, skill assessment, and math and writing instruction.
Career exploration and experiential learning were also key components of Eastern's Title III proposal. Providing more students with pre-professional experiences such as undergraduate research, internships, and cooperative education opportunities is fundamental to the University's student success model, which was developed as part of Eastern's new Strategic Plan.
The federal Title III grant will pay for approximately 22 percent of the costs of operating the Student Success Center; another 14 percent comes from non-government sources.
"This is the first time a public four-year college or university in Connecticut has received a federal Title III grant," said Carmen Cid, dean of the school of arts and sciences. "We are proud of that fact and pleased that we will have this financial support on an extended basis. With these Title III funds, we can have a dramatic impact on our students' ability to define their career goals and graduate in four years."
Cid described earlier intervention for academically at risk students and the Student Success Center's "one-stop-shop" approach as keys to improving graduation rates. "We also are developing a data collection and analysis model that will help us become much more sophisticated in our ability to identify students who need special assistance and our strategies for improving specific areas of our academic and student support operations. While about half our students are the first in their families to attend college, we know that all our students can benefit from the success center. The Title III grant can have a campus-wide impact on our student body."