The United States Department of Education on July 16 awarded $2.2 million in grants over the next five years to the Community College of Aurora’s TRiO program as part of a nationwide competition resulting in 906 funded projects.
CCA’s two grants are part of $289.7 million in allocations across the U.S. during fiscal 2015 to aid low-income and first-generation students and individuals with disabilities.
The two CCA awards will be split evenly between a renewal of the college’s successful Student Support Services (SSS) programs over the last half-decade housed at the Student Success Center and new funding earmarked for English as a Second Language students.
Proposals were submitted in January.
“We are extremely grateful to the Department of Education for these awards,” CCA President Dr. Betsy Oudenhoven said. “We have evidence that our current TRIO grant has made a significant difference for our students and are confident that we will have similar positive outcomes with this new funding.”
The ESL grant funding, in particular, is considered a major coup for CCA, given that the college was one of only nine ESL programs funded nationally. Just eight percent of the total financial outlay by the Department of Education was earmarked for new programs.
“The new ESL funding will enable CCA to nearly double the number of students served by the TRiO program, increasing the resources and supports for ESL students who comprise a significant portion of the college’s overall student population,” said Janel Highfill, director of grants and planning.
Both programs will receive $219,998 annually from Sept. 1, 2015 through Aug. 31, 2020 to support academic development, assist students with college and career placement, and to guide students toward the successful completion of their postsecondary education.
The CCA ESL project will provide assistance each year to 140 students for whom English is a second language and/or who are of limited English proficiency. The existing TRiO program, which first received funding in 2010, serves 160 students annually.
Nnena West, program manager for TRiO SSS, is excited about the prospect of helping additional individuals.
“We see students all the time who come to CCA not knowing what their purpose is here, not knowing what a degree means, or how it fits into their lives. Once they become a part of the program, you can see the ‘ah-ha’ moments, and how the college can help better their lives and those of their families. They discover a passion and all these windows open up, allowing them to see school in a different light.”
The need for both projects is acute, as evidenced by a high percentage of eligible students encountering academic, financial and social integration barriers that prevent them from competing their associate degree, certificate, or transfer to a four-year institution within four years.
Dedicated advisors and support services are in place to mitigate these impediments and include academic coaching and advising; degree planning; social integration support; needs assessment and academic progress monitoring; academic tutoring; financial aid; scholarship research; application assistance; four-year institution transfer exploration, planning, preparation and transition services; and more.