Three Rivers College gets $2 million federal grant

Friday, September 23, 2011

POPLAR BLUFF, Mo. -- Three Rivers College will receive nearly $2 million in the next five years to improve student success as one of 34 schools across the nation newly approved for a federal grant program.

The Strengthening Institutions Program (SIP) from the U.S. Department of Education is designed to transform developing colleges, Three Rivers President Devin Stephenson said following the announcement Tuesday.

The college will receive almost $400,000 on Oct. 1, in the first payment from the program, which may create two to three new jobs.

"This is one of the largest, if not the largest, Department of Education grants the college has ever received," he said. "We believe it will make a significant impact."

Three Rivers serves a high percentage of students who are not academically prepared for college, according to the grant, with up to 75 percent taking at least one remedial course.

SIP is described by the Department of Education as helping institutions "become self-sufficient and expand their capacity to serve low-income students by providing funds to improve and strengthen the academic quality, institutional management and fiscal stability. …"

"The most critical need is to develop innovative curriculum and support services to better serve the large number of underprepared and 'at-risk' students, thereby improving student learning outcomes in developmental and gatekeeper courses," according to grant documents.

This refers to remedial and first-level college classes students must pass to advance in their education.

Funding will be directed at two main avenues with the ultimate goal of improving graduation and transfer success rates.

The first is improved student support, including the creation of an academic support center that brings programs such as tutoring and advising to one location. The second looks at improved curriculum, providing for more professional development among staff and the introduction of innovative technology to classrooms.

"This dovetails right into our strategic plan," Stephenson said, explaining that completion of an Academic Resources Common at the Rutland Building was already scheduled to be open by the end of this academic year. "An academic resources area had been priority, but now it is more than ever."

Renovations will bring all learning labs, private tutoring programs and the student support initiate, which works with students who are economically or academically disadvantaged, to the library area.

New efforts, such as the redesign of coursework, will be significant, according to Stephenson.

Two of the positions the grant calls for, which may mean new staff, are an instructional designer and a curriculum and assessment specialist. The grant allots about $1 million to pay for six personnel positions throughout its five years.

Technology to be purchased includes a system that allows professors to receive immediate feedback from students during lessons and student assessment software. About $90,000 is budgeted for equipment, and $76,500 for assessment software.

Success of the grant will be determined by outcomes which will be measured at the end of the five years.

For the improved success of at-risk students, according to grant documents, these are:

* A 70 percent participation rate for use of support services

* An increase of 15 percent in the one-year retention rate of at-risk students over a 2009 rate of 52 percent

* A graduation/completion rate of students at 32 percent from the 2010 baseline of 21 percent

* The transfer rate of students in pre-baccalaureate programs should increase to 18 percent from the 2007 rate of 9 percent.

Completion rates for developmental and gatekeeper courses are also expected to improve by 25 percent in the first three years of the grant.

The grant requires six faculty members per year for the life of the grant be highly trained in areas designed to enhance student learning in these two course areas. These members will then train other staff, with 75 percent of all faculty to be trained by the end of the grant.

Application for this funding was first made in August 2010, when the college received an eligibility score a little more than two points shy of the cut off. The Department of Education determined this year they would to fund the next group of 2010 applicants rather than hold another competitive competition.

Pertinent address:

2080 Three Rivers Blvd., Poplar Bluff, MO

Map of pertinent addresses

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