Edmonds Community College will receive $1.2 million in funding over the next five years, through a federal TRiO grant, to provide additional support services to disadvantaged students.
“The best part about TRiO is seeing students succeed and knowing that the program has been helpful to them,” said program director Heather McKnight. “Our students say they wouldn’t be as successful without it. Because of TRiO they finished a degree, found a job, and were able to make a difference for their families.”
In 2005, the college received its first TRiO grant of $880,000 over four years from the United States Department of Education to establish a Student Support Services program for low-income and first-generation college students and students with disabilities. The federal program aims to motivate and support students from disadvantaged backgrounds and increase retention and graduation rates. In 2009, the college received another $231,550 to continue the program for a fifth year as well as $20,650 for student scholarships.
Since the program began at the college it has served 465 students. Of those, 130 students have earned a two-year degree, 70 students have transferred to a four-year university, and 17 students have earned a certificate. There are currently 170 students in the program taking classes at Edmonds Community College.
Sixty percent of students attending Edmonds Community College (7,648 students) are the first in their families to attend college. Due to a lack of social support and information, these students often do not seek out services such as academic advising, financial assistance, or transfer advising which would help them succeed in college.
“Typically, these students don’t stay in college and don’t complete degrees. Nationally, the progression rate is very low,” said McKnight. “It makes all the difference when students have a place they can gather, get support, ask questions, and get answers. Our program creates a feeling of community and our students help each other.”
“TRiO has been my second family. I have received support and guidance throughout my schooling,” said Rose Gatobu, a TRiO student who will complete her Associate in Pre-Nursing degree in Fall 2010.
In the TRiO program at Edmonds Community College, the progression rate of students through college to a degree is 78 percent compared with 67 percent college wide and 60 percent at community colleges across the state.
The grant funds three full-time employees to work with the students: a director, a counselor, and an academic coordinator. In addition, Edmonds Community College’s program has a full-time AmeriCorps volunteer supported by Washington Campus Compact. The volunteer arranges a peer mentor program and quarterly community service activities for TRiO students. Many of the students also participate in the Students in Service AmeriCorps program, which awards scholarships for service-learning activities.
Students in TRiO receive academic and financial aid advising, academic, career, and personal counseling, and tutoring. They meet with an adviser twice per quarter and participate in one activity or workshop each quarter. The TRiO support service program provides 5,789 hours of total contact with students (about 4.5 days per student) including 1,500 hours of tutoring (about one day per student) each year.
“Before I found out about TRiO, finishing school seemed like a far off dream. With the program’s help I no longer have to worry about the little administrative things that can be so overwhelming. Most importantly, the staff at TRiO has taught me to believe in myself and that I am good enough to earn a college degree,” said Yana Merriam, a TRiO student working toward her Associate of Arts transfer degree.