SSS Program’s Federal Grant Funding Renewed

WINTERVILLE—Federal grant funding for Pitt Community College’s Student Support Services (SSS) program was renewed this month, meaning the initiative’s work with traditionally underserved students will continue through at least 2025.

Travis Kinsey, PCC Director of TRiO Programs, received notification from the U.S. Department of Education that SSS had been awarded $1.4 million to continue meeting the needs of low-income and first-generation students and students with disabilities. The funding, he said, will provide SSS students with a broad range of free support services over the next five years, including tutoring, financial aid assistance, career and college mentoring, and academic advising.

SSS, one of eight federal “TRiO” programs authorized by the Higher Education Act to help students succeed in higher education, began in 1968 but first came to Pitt in 2005. In 15 years at PCC, Kinsey says the program has helped more than 2,400 students graduate from the college.

“Student Support Services has made a significant impact, not only at PCC but across the country,” Kinsey said. “Our services enhance academic success and magnify the likelihood of participants graduating and/or transferring from Pitt Community College with the lowest student debt possible.”

Kinsey said SSS is responsible for spearheading PCC’s current “IamFirstGen” Campaign, which promotes awareness of first-generation college students at Pitt and seeks to build a stronger campus community for them through increased social support, advocacy, leadership and academics. The effort, which also involves the college’s TRiO Educational Opportunity Center and Title III Grant, earned PCC designation as a “First-Gen Forward Institution” from the Center of First Generation Student Success.

“SSS recognizes that students whose parents do not have a college degree have more difficulties navigating the complexity of decisions that college requires for success,” Kinsey said. “It bolsters students from low-income families who have not had the academic opportunities many of their college peers have had and helps students with disabilities remove obstacles preventing them from thriving academically.”

Amy Staton, PCC’s SSS Tutor Coordinator/English Academic Specialist, says SSS has always provided participants “a familiar place on campus” to call home. It will continue doing so, she said, despite classes and support services moving online due to the coronavirus pandemic.

“Although we are now serving students virtually, we aim to create an even greater sense of community — a place where they can still call home,” Staton said.

To be considered for SSS participation at PCC, students must be U.S. citizens or permanent U.S. residents, enrolled in courses, have a demonstrated academic need, and meet specified income eligibility criteria. They must also be first-generation college students and/or students with a documented disability.