Colleges collaborate to increase degree attainment

OSWEGO – SUNY Oswego has received a $2.88 million federal grant to improve college completion rates in Upstate New York.

Oswego’s grant is one of 24 awards announced Sept. 30 under the U.S. Department of Education’s First in the World Program, which seeks to spur innovation in higher education aimed at helping more students access college and complete a degree. Nearly 500 applications nationally were submitted in competition for the grants.

Working with Onondaga Community College, Mohawk Valley Community College and On Point for College, Oswego will target more than a thousand underrepresented and underprepared students who stand to benefit from higher education.

The program will encourage community college students to raise their sights to a bachelor’s degree and help them transfer to Oswego and succeed once there, with the goal of increasing both two-year and four-year degree completion rates.

“We’re thrilled to receive federal support for a collaborative effort that targets some of the most vulnerable members of the Upstate New York community, and we are grateful to Congressmen Dan Maffei and Richard Hanna and Senators Kirsten Gillibrand and Charles Schumer for helping us win this highly competitive grant,” said Deborah F. Stanley, SUNY Oswego president.

Dr. Lorrie Clemo, vice president of academic affairs and provost at SUNY Oswego, heads up the four-part “Transfer Gateways and Completion” program for improving transfer students’ success and persistence to a bachelor’s degree.

The collaborative effort involves aligning coursework between the community colleges and Oswego in targeted degree programs, advisement and support for students in the program, a transfer bridge camp before they start classes at Oswego, and dual enrollment — enrolling students simultaneously in a community college and Oswego.

“We will begin immediately with our plans to target low-income, first-generation, two-year college students to help them transfer seamlessly on the path to a four-year degree,” Clemo said.

A significant number of students already transfer from OCC and MVCC to Oswego, and the project’s plans to expand articulation agreements, dual enrollment programs and course alignment will benefit all transfer students, SUNY Oswego officials noted.

Also leading the project are Virginia D. Donohue and Samuel D. Rowser of On Point for College; Stephanie C. Reynolds, vice president of student affairs at Mohawk Valley Community College; and Cathleen C. McColgin, provost and senior vice president at Onondaga Community College.

“This First in the World grant to our Oswego campus will further position SUNY as a national leader in seamless transfer while expanding our capacity for increased access, completion, and success among students,” said SUNY Chancellor Nancy L. Zimpher.

“This innovative project will benefit students in Upstate New York while providing a national model for improving educational outcomes. Congratulations to President Stanley, Provost Clemo and Oswego’s faculty and staff along with their partners at Onondaga Community College, Mohawk Valley Community College and On Point for College on this much deserved award, and thank you to Congressmen Maffei and Hanna and Senators Schumer and Gillibrand for their support and advocacy on SUNY’s behalf.”


To drive innovations in higher education that increase college completion, value and affordability, the Education Department today (Sept. 30) awarded $75 million to 24 colleges and universities under the new “First in the World” grant program.

Through FITW, the Obama Administration will support postsecondary institutions’ efforts to develop and evaluate new approaches that can expand college access and improve student learning while reducing costs.  In May, the Department announced this year’s grant competition as part of President Obama’s ambitious agenda to increase
postsecondary access and completion.

“The First in the World grant competition is a key part of President Obama’s agenda to foster innovative ideas that help keep college affordable, increase quality and improve educational outcomes for our students,” said U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan. “The Department is proud to support the wide range of innovation at colleges and universities across the nation that can dramatically enhance student outcomes.”

Nearly 500 applications were submitted for this FITW grant competition.

The 24 colleges and universities selected for this initial year of awards represent 17 states, 19 public, private, and
nonprofit 4-year institutions and five public and private two-year institutions.

Six of the 24 winning applications, including an HBCU, are from minority serving institutions (MSIs), which will receive about $20 million in funding.  Many of the grantees have additional organizational partners, such as other postsecondary institutions, non-profits, and businesses.

All projects will address at least one of these priorities: increasing college access and completion, increasing community college transfer rates, increasing STEM enrollment and completion, and reducing time to completion.

They include an array of innovations, such as: developing new project-based majors that allow for self-pacing and
acceleration; developing an online experience for adult students that incorporates virtual learning communities and wraparound coaching; expanding access to digital content for students with disabilities, and implementing a game-based tool that gives high school students an understanding of the college search and financing process for use in mentoring programs. As part of the evidence-based program, grantees are required to have a strong evaluation plan to measure the effectiveness of their innovations in helping students succeed.

Examples of funded projects are:

– Hampton University in Virginia, an HBCU, will use its $3.5 million grant to redesign many of its courses to entail more project-based learning and technology tools, benefitting more than 1000 students over its 4-year duration.
– Purdue University in Indiana, a public 4-year institution in Indiana, will work with its partners in the University Innovation Alliance to use its $2.3 million grant to support  STEM undergraduates, particularly women and underrepresented groups, by redesigning large-lecture courses to more fully engage students through active learning interventions.  Nearly 10,000 students will benefit over the course of the 4-year grant.
– LaGuardia Community College in New York will use its 2.9 million grant to strengthen its curriculum by developing an integrated set of tools to increase student engagement and success, including the use of ePortfolios, learning analytics, and outcomes assessments. The changes will support thousands of high-risk students as they move from
LaGuaradia’s non-credit program to academic enrollment as well as enrolled students moving toward graduation.

As the projects are further developed, the department will convene for information sharing and the exchange of best practices to broaden the impact of their innovations on a wider student population.

For the Education FY2015 budget, Secretary Duncan has requested $100 million to expand support for the First in the World fund. The request also asks for $75 million for College Success Grants for Minority-Serving Institutions, which would make competitive awards to minority-serving institutions designated under Title III and Title V of the Higher Education Act.