Saginaw Valley State University is poised to accelerate improvement in student retention and graduation rates after receiving a $3 million, five-year Title III grant from the U.S. Department of Education. Only seven universities in the nation were selected to receive funding.
“We were chosen through a highly competitive process,” said Donald Bachand, SVSU president. “I really appreciate the efforts of this dedicated team that developed our application. It is gratifying to see their hard work rewarded.
“Our students are the real winners here, because the increased services we will be able to provide them will have very real results. We will deliver improved resources for more students to meet their math requirements. We will increase the number of scholarships we are able to provide. We will implement a summer transition program to help arriving freshmen. All of this will support the academic success of our determined students and help them complete degrees more quickly.
“Having more students graduate in a timely fashion is good for them; it’s good for us; it’s good for the state, and it’s good for the employers that hire our graduates.”
SVSU’s retention rate has risen for seven consecutive years to 74.4 percent this fall, an increase from 68 percent in 2011. Higher retention rates generally result in higher graduation rates in future years.
Internal data shows that SVSU students who utilize available resources such as the tutoring services in the Center for Academic Achievement report higher grades and are more likely to remain enrolled. Grant funds will be used to strengthen existing programs and add new initiatives in targeted areas.
The five-year award will provide funding in five key areas:
• Updating courses and offering supplemental instruction and embedded tutoring for students who need support to be successful in college-level math. This will promote effective teaching and learning designed to increase student retention.
• Developing online educational materials to reduce textbook costs in general education courses. Funding will also support an instructional designer and internal grants to implement innovative curriculum in basic skills and general education.
• Hiring a transition coordinator to serve incoming freshmen and hosting a four-day summer bridge program for cohorts of students to aid their transition to college. Such programs have been shown to improve student success.
• Using technology to create a student analytics and business intelligence framework to improve student services and communication, including individualized targeted student notification to increase student retention and success rates for all students.
• Expanding scholarship opportunities for students. The grant provides $600,000 that will be matched through private donations to the SVSU Foundation to establish a $1.2 million endowment to award scholarships to students as a retention tool to help offset their financial burden.
The funds come from the U.S. Department of Education’s Strengthening Institutions Program, which provides grants to eligible institutions to help them become self-sufficient and expand their capacity to serve low-income students by providing funds to improve and strengthen the institution's academic quality, institutional management, and fiscal stability.