Northwestern awarded $1.5 million grant to improve at-risk students academic success

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Northwestern awarded $1.5 million grant to improve at-risk students academic success

October 13, 2011

Northwestern Oklahoma State University’s efforts to improve retention and graduation rates will receive a major boost from the U.S. Department of Education, as the agency has awarded the institution $1.53 million in grant funds to implement initiatives to improve the academic success of at-risk students.

The grant, authorized by Title III of the Higher Education Act, will provide Northwestern with more than $300,000 annually for five years. The University will use the funds to improve advising, redesigning gateway courses with high enrollment and low success rates and increasing opportunities for faculty development, under the umbrella of a new Academic Advising Center.

“This grant will help address two of our greatest institutional challenges – retention and persistence through graduation,” said Dr. Janet Cunningham, university president. “Retention and graduation rates are two very important standards by which higher education institutions will be judged, and ultimately funded.

“We will now have the necessary resources to focus on these challenges and provide students with additional services to keep more of them on a path toward the completion of a bachelor’s degree.”

The Academic Advising Center will be staffed by professional advisers who will use GradesFirst applications to provide case-management style advising to identified at-risk students on not only academic issues, but also career and life issues at a time when they need it most.

The Center also will provide incentives and training opportunities for faculty members to participate in the redesign of gateway courses (required general education and remedial courses) to incorporate new and innovative strategies to help at-risk students succeed while not reducing academic expectations.

Northwestern will commit $10,000 to the Center each year in matching funds as part of the grant agreement.

Dr. Mike Knedler, dean of the School of Arts and Sciences and one of the authors of the grant application, will serve as the interim project director until a permanent selection is made.

“Dr. Knedler, the staff of our Office of Sponsored Programs, and others who participated in the application process are to be congratulated for their work and their dedication to improving the academic success of our students,” Cunningham said. “The process for securing Title III grants is highly-competitive, and our staff produced a superior application.”

Cunningham also acknowledged the support of the University’s congressional delegation for their support of Northwestern’s efforts to secure federal funding for critical needs.