Administrators Detail Plans for Title III Grant
Success Navigators Have Key Role in Improving Retention and Completion Rates
WINTERVILLE—Pitt Community College administrators provided greater detail this month on how they plan to utilize a $2.23 million-Title III Grant the college was awarded by the U.S. Department of Education last fall.
During a campus meeting Wednesday, PCC Vice President of Academic Affairs Tom Gould and Title III Grant Director Tabitha Miller outlined the college’s plans for improving student retention and completion rates through comprehensive coordination of student and academic services.
“We’ve been trying to get this grant for years,” Gould said. “Receiving it was a monumental event for the college as we move forward with our student success initiatives. We want to retain students, have them complete their courses and graduate.”
In addition to helping underperforming students improve in the classroom and underprepared students get ready for college-level instruction, Gould says PCC wants to help students improve their financial literacy and increase the percentage of students successfully receiving financial aid.
Miller says the college’s Success Navigators will play a pivotal role in achieving those goals. Essentially academic advisors, they help first-year PCC students transition into higher education through mentoring and development of academic, career and financial plans.
In the months ahead, Miller says she will work with the college’s Academic Affairs Division to ensure Success Navigators have the professional development and training they need to be effective. She said the PCC Office of Teaching and Learning will also expand professional development opportunities on campus for all employees, particularly training geared toward improving classroom instruction techniques.
A new Summer Bridge program to enhance the initial experience students have with PCC is also in the works, Miller said, adding that the college will make efforts to improve communication and collaboration with Pitt County high schools and East Carolina University.
To ensure the college is meeting its Title III goals, Miller says administrators have established the following measurable objectives:
- Decrease the percentage of developmental education classes needed by entering students by 30 percent.
- Increase the one-year, fall-to-fall entering retention rate by 10 percent and graduation and transfer rates by 20 percent.
- Ensure 80 percent of faculty participate in professional development activities related to alternative instructional pathways, including addressing teaching/learning styles and improving the use of effective instructional technology.
- Increase student financial literacy by 50 percent and increase the number of Pell Grants awarded to students by 15 percent.
- Create a “culture of evidence across the college” by having 80 percent of faculty and staff surveyed report increased access to/use of data in assessment and decision-making at the college.
According to PCC President G. Dennis Massey, Pitt’s successful bid for Title III funding is a result of its “sincere and demonstrated commitment to student success.” The nonrenewable grant will be distributed to the college in annual installments until 2020 and help PCC implement recommendations from the prestigious Aspen Institute.
As part of the “North Carolina Roadmap to Excellence Project,” four experts from the Washington, D.C.-based educational policies study organization visited the PCC campus in 2015. For two days, they met with employees and students to identify the college’s strengths and areas for improvement before sending administrators a report of their findings.
"We have made much progress in responding to the recommendations of Aspen Institute consultants, and Title III will enrich these initiatives and help make efforts to help retain and graduate all students broader and more long-lasting,” Massey said. “We will definitely do our part to help the state realize its goal of 67 percent of adults earning a postsecondary certificate or degree by the year 2025."
According to U.S. Department of Education website, Title III funds are distributed through the Strengthening Institutions Program (SIP) and may be used for a wide variety of purposes, including planning, faculty development, and the development and improvement of academic programs. Institutions may also use the grant money on student service programs designed to improve academic success, including those that provide innovative or customized instruction that helps retain students and see them through to program completion.
To be eligible for SIP funding, institutions must be serving a substantial number of students receiving need-based federal student aid and have low per-student expenditures. During the fall semester, 67 percent of PCC’s enrollment received at least some form of financial aid assistance.