Georgian Court University is the recipient of a new federal grant, worth more than $1.9 million over a five-year period, that will help the university expand academic support services and keep students on track for timely graduation. The award from the U.S. Department of Education’s Title III grant program is part of the federal agency’s Strengthening Institutions efforts.
The Title III grant comes about a year after GCU landed a five-year, $1.4 million federal grant for TRIO-Student Support Services, which helps students who are first in their families to attend college and may have additional academic needs.
Now, Title III funding will support Georgian Court’s Chart the Course to Graduation, an effort to strengthen retention of first-year students and improve overall college completion rates, especially among those who arrive on campus underprepared for college.
“We established Chart the Course to help students needing non-credit skills development courses get back on track to graduating, and we know from experience that this approach makes a difference in their success,” said Georgian Court University President Joseph R. Marbach, Ph.D. “Additional grant funding will allow us to have even greater impact.”
A Timely Solution
“Congratulations to President Marbach and the staff at GCU for competing for and winning this sizable grant to help fund their innovative ‘Chart the Course’ program,” said U.S. Congressman Chris Smith.
The grant awards $425,894 to GCU in the first year. Additional funding should come in future federal budget periods through 2021.
“GCU’s commitment to its students is commendable and with this federal funding and partnership, more students will benefit from the program and graduate on time,” said Rep. Smith. “As federal student loan borrowing has skyrocketed, programs such as ‘Chart the Course’ support students graduating on time, and play a role in addressing this critical problem.”
GCU’s Chart the Course to Graduation offers:
- Free 3-credit courses during winter and summer sessions to qualified students
- Professional tutoring services in GCU’s math lab and new writing center
- Enhanced faculty advising to strengthen student success
- Additional peer mentoring
“Making sure our students take enough courses for credit and persist from their first year of college to their second year is critical,” added Dr. Marbach. Higher education research shows that students who do not complete 15 credits after their first semester, or 30 credits by the end of their first year of college, run the risk of not graduating in a timely manner.
According to the U.S. Department of Education, the median time it took for 2008 bachelor’s degree recipients to earn their degree was 52 months. Forty-four percent of them completed a bachelor’s degree within 48 months of enrolling in college, and another 23 percent graduated within 49–60 months.
A Model for Success
In December 2014, GCU launched Chart the Course to help students graduate on time. During the pilot program, 43 students took Introduction to Psychology, Contemporary Economics, or U.S. History during the winter break—at no charge. They also had the support of faculty advisors, success coaches, and peer tutors—in person and via Google Hangouts—while enrolled in the program.
The results were highly successful: Chart the Course participants had a retention rate of 86 percent. The retention rate for other students who qualified for Chart the Course, but chose not to participate, was 48 percent.
Last year, University Business magazine named Chart the Course a “Model of Excellence.” The national recognition program honors colleges and universities that have implemented innovative, effective, and interdepartmental initiatives that bolster student success.
“Our continued efforts to improve retention are showing progress,” said GCU Provost William J. Behre, Ph.D., one of the grant’s co-authors. He noted that GCU’s first- to second-year retention rate is nearly 85 percent, up from about 70 percent three years ago.
“We are proud of our success, but this grant will help us become a national exemplar, so that greater number of students who attend college will also complete college,” he said. “Starting, but not finishing, takes the greatest financial toll.
“College affordability is a huge issue nationally,” said Dr. Behre. “Helping students graduate on time contains costs, and helps them avoid the expense of being in college any longer than necessary. At GCU, we are committed to doing everything we can to help students make the most of their time and their money.”