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COCC receives $2.25 million student success grant

Federal funds aim to help math, writing skills

BEND, Ore. - Central Oregon Community College has been awarded a five-year $2.25 million U.S. Department of Education Title III grant to increase the number of students successfully transitioning from developmental to college-level math and writing, as well as increase the first-to-second term and first-to-second year retention rates of students.

In support of increasing student success rates in developmental math and writing classes, the grant will be used to conduct a comprehensive review of developmental level math and writing courses; develop, pilot and implement best practice strategies in writing and math, including smaller class sizes and shorter course sequences for students pursuing non-STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) careers; and implement culturally responsive strategies to better address the needs of Native American and Latino learners. 

Additionally, faculty will engage in specialized training on best practices in addressing the needs of students at pre-college levels. 

“Oregon is 46th in the nation for funding of its community colleges,” said Betsy Julian, vice president for instruction and co-coordinator for the grant. “Because of this limited funding, our faculty have been hampered in moving forward on long-held goals for improving student success rates in developmental coursework. 

“This grant provides the resources needed to make the critical changes needed for our students,” Julian said. “Moreover, nearly 85 percent of new COCC students test into developmental levels in writing or math. With so many students starting at these levels, this grant provides the college with the resources needed to make meaningful changes.”  

In addition to improving student success rates in developmental courses, COCC will use a portion of the grant to  develop a comprehensive and cohesive first-year experience (FYE) program for its students. 

“The groundwork for an FYE program was done through a campus wide task force two years ago,” said Alicia Moore, dean of student and enrollment services and grant co-coordinator. “This group recommended pursuing an FYE program which includes academic advising, new student orientation and student success classes that are focused on the skills needed to be successful early in a student’s academic career. Doing so builds a solid foundation for long-term success.”

Grant dollars will also be used to implement a technology-based tool that will allow students to building a long-range class schedule; expand writing, math and student success courses at all four of its campus; and pilot a student success course taught in Spanish.

“Title III grants are considered a ‘strengthening institutions grant,’” said Shirley Metcalf, president of COCC. “As such, the grants are intended to provide resource infrastructure to move the institution in a positive direction that they might not otherwise achieve.

“Such support from a federal level is key to institutions being able to make significant strides in improving student success rates. I am proud of the work COCC already does and thrilled that this grant provides the opportunity to make even more positive changes for our students and community.”

Title III grants help institutions expand capacity to serve and improve student success rates for low-income students by focusing on academic quality, institutional infrastructure and fiscal stability.

A reflection of the greater Central Oregon community, 65 percent of COCC students receive federal Pell Grants, with a majority of students working part- or full-time. 

“Research indicates that students who struggle financially are more likely to drop out of college and often do not have the personal supports to continue their education,” said Moore. “Having grant dollars which focus on foundational courses and skills will make a significant difference in a student’s success, especially for those with high financial need. "         


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