Two awards totaling $2.5 million serve low-income, first-generation students, establish new initiative for those seeking STEM or health-related degrees
LAWRENCE — In any given year, the University of Kansas welcomes approximately 2,000 students who are the first in their families to attend college. Of those students, about half qualify as low-income under federal guidelines. Research clearly shows that these students’ academic success often is tied to the support systems they can access on campus.
“These are students who face challenges far exceeding those they encounter in the classroom,” said Dr. Maritza Machado-Williams. “They all have financial hardships. Some have disabilities to consider, as well. These students represent a wide array of cultural backgrounds, and their family experiences don’t include close relatives with college success, so they’re often quite unprepared. By the third week of classes, we are at capacity.”
Machado-Williams directs TRIO Supportive Educational Services (SES), a student-centered resource on campus for more than 40 years and one of the eight federal TRIO programs offered through KU’s Center for Educational Opportunity Programs (CEOP) in the Achievement & Assessment Institute.
Over the years, TRIO SES has helped thousands of KU students connect with campus and navigate the complexities of the classroom and beyond, and that legacy will continue. The U.S. Department of Education recently awarded KU TRIO SES a perfect 121 points in its Student Support Services Program refunding application, and also awarded a new grant that makes the KU program a national pilot in an initiative targeted at assisting students seeking STEM (Science/Technology/Engineering/Mathematics) or health-related degrees. The grant renewal is for $1.428 million over five years; the new STEM initiative carries a $1.1 million award, also for five years.
“This means that we will significantly expand the number of students we can serve,” Machado-Williams said. “Our program offers educational opportunities for participants that might not otherwise be available. We believe this work positively invests not only in the lives of these students, but in our society at large.”
The TRIO SES office, located in 7 Strong Hall, currently serves 250 students annually. Over the five-year life of the STEM award, an additional 125 students per year will receive academic advising and tutoring services, scholarship assistance, financial literacy advising, graduation planning, and guidance for applying to graduate schools. Administratively, the award will support two additional full-time staff members plus support staff and 25 peer tutors.
Dr Ngondi Kamatuka, director of the Center for Educational Opportunity Programs in KU’s Achievement & Assessment Institute, said the TRIO programs align with the University’s Bold Aspirations initiative in the ways that they encourage and sustain diversity and student success.
“Even when students from these backgrounds are accepted into college, if they do not have the full range of support services, the likelihood of their success is disproportionately diminished,” Kamatuka said. “A confluence of socioeconomic disadvantages work against these students, but these programs provide the support systems that can make all the difference between staying in school and thriving, and dropping out.”
About the Achievement & Assessment Institute (AAI)
AAI is the umbrella organization for four specialized research centers at the University of Kansas, including CEOP, which supports a wide spectrum of learners and provides educational information, counseling, academic instruction, tutoring, assistance in applying for financial aid and supportive encouragement to both students and their families. Programs help students overcome academic, economic, social and cultural barriers to higher education.
AAI’s other research centers are Agile Technology Solutions, the Center for Public Partnerships & Research and the Center for Educational Testing & Evaluation. In all, AAI employs about 500 staff members, all committed to building partnerships, products and programs in educational practice, assessment and evaluation. These initiatives benefit children, adults, communities and publicly funded agencies at the local, state and national levels.
Achievement & Assessment Institute
The University of Kansas
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