New $5M grant program for student retention, success

U.S. Education Department (Photo: AACC/Matthew Dembicki)

The U.S. Education Department (ED) on Thursday announced a new $5 million grant program to help higher education institutions that serve large numbers of students of color with their efforts to improve student success. ED is especially interested in applications from community colleges that have seen drastic drops in enrollment during the Covid pandemic.

The College Completion Fund for Postsecondary Student Success will provide grants to historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs), tribal colleges and universities (TCUs), and minority-serving institutions (MSIs), such as Hispanic-serving institutions (HSIs) – many of which are community colleges – to invest in evidence-based reforms that encourage postsecondary retention, transfer and completion. The department noted it is especially interested in supporting students who are close to finishing college and re-engaging students who stopped out during the Covid pandemic.

The department said it will give “invitational priority” for community colleges that experienced the most-severe enrollment drops during the pandemic to support their efforts to bring students back.

ED’s announcement came before the start of a department-sponsored higher education summit with invited college and university leaders in Washington, D.C., that focused on student success and equity.

“For far too long, our higher education system has left our nation’s most accessible, inclusive colleges without adequate resources to support student success, while many institutions chase rankings that reward privilege and selectivity over equity and upward mobility,” U.S. Education Secretary Miguel Cardona said in a release. “Reimagining higher education means rejecting a status quo in which so many students earn some college credits but no degree, leaving them with student debt they cannot afford and less access to good-paying jobs.”

The grants will be for up to $1 million each, according to ED. Colleges have 60 days to submit their applications. ED says applicants should describe their college’s work to promote retention and completion, propose activities and initiatives that meet at least the department’s definition of promising evidence, and present a high-quality evaluation plan.

ED also announced that it plans to extend its Project Success initiative, which is set to expire next month, for an additional three years. The program serves more than 200 HBCUs, TCUs and MSIs, including HSIs, through resources and support services to help improve their students’ outcomes.

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