RCCC gets $1.8 million grant to help make sure students graduate

Published 12:00 am Thursday, September 29, 2011

By Sarah Campbell
Rowan-Cabarrus Community College plans to use the $1.8 million grant it landed from the U.S. Department of Education to improve student retention and graduation rates.
ěNot only do we want to attract the students here, we want to keep them,î Carl Short, chairman of the collegeís board of trustees, said. ěAnd we want to keep them long enough to get their degree or certificate and become productive citizens.î
President Carol Spalding said the grant funding will augment current programs and create more student resources.
ěThis will enable us to do things weíve wanted to do but havenít been able to do,î she said.
College officials said the planned launch of the collegeís Academic and Career Advising Centers will go hand-in-hand with the grant, which is part of the education departmentís Strengthening Institutions Program grants.
The center will aid students in career planning.
ěIf you know what you want to do with your education you tend to stay longer, you tend to finish,î Spalding said.
The college will also ramp up its tutoring efforts and begin offering supplemental instruction, a support program that promotes collaborative learning as a means of understanding difficult subjects
ěIt would be nice if students could enter a class and go through it with no problem, but the reality is that we lose an awful lot of them,î Rod Townley, vice president of academic programs, said. ěIf we can identify a problem early on and have strategies in place such as tutoring and supplemental instruction, that student is more likely to be successful.î
The grant will also allow the college to begin tracking student progress online.
ěWe currently donít have a good early alert system,î Gaye McConnell, vice president of student services, said. ěElectronically, weíll be able to monitor students more quickly and impact them more directly.î
McConnell said the technology will allow the college to follow specific students more closely and offer assistance before itís too late.
ěWhen students are embraced they are much more likely to take advantage of opportunities,î she said.
The grant will also fund the expansion of the new student orientation program.
ěWe want to get rid of a lot of the confusion,î Spalding said. ěWe serve a lot of first-time college students. They donít understand the processes of higher education sometimes, so we want to get them in and get finished.î
The college is one of two in North Carolina to receive the grant and one of 34 across the country.
ěWe are very proud of it,î Spalding said. ěWe are thrilled to be able to do something for the students we serve
ěThis sends a message, I hope, to students and parents and employers that we can attract the kind of resources that we need and we can use them wisely to help the community as a whole.î
Rep. Larry Kissell, D-Cabarrus, said heís glad to see federal money fill a local need.
ěThis is important funding that will help so many of our students here at home,î he said. ěThis grant will help keep students on a path to success, working to ensure opportunity for the people and businesses of our community.î
Kissell said the grant will also have positive long-term effects.
ěFor Americans as individuals and for America as a nation there is nothing more important than jobs right now, that is the No. 1 issue,î he said. ěEssential to solving that problem is education.
ěI congratulate Rowan-Cabarrus for having the foresight and initiative to get this grant.î
Itís the second big grant announced by the college this week. On Monday, officials said RCCC has received a $2 million federal Economic Development Administration grant that will allow the school to expand its allied health building by 27,000 square feet. And that will allow the college to expand education programs for health careers that will be in demand, they said.
Contact reporter Sarah Campbell at 704-797-7683.
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