AC Receives $2 Million in Federal Funding for Student Success


Amarillo College has been awarded a pair of grants by the U.S. Department of Education that will provide $2 million over the next five years to sustain ongoing and highly successful student-success initiatives at AC’s West Campus and the AC—Moore County Campus.

Both new awards are courtesy of the Department of Education’s Student Support Services (SSS) Program, which provides academic and other support services aimed at increasing retention and graduation rates primarily among low-income, first-generation or disabled college students.

Eligible students are provided intensive career and academic advising, tutoring, coaching and other resources with the goal of increasing the likelihood that they will remain in college, complete a degree or certificate, or successfully transfer to a four-year school.

AC’s SSS—STEM Health Sciences Grant received $220,000 in funding for each of the next five years—a total of $1.1 million—to support a minimum of 140 allied health and nursing majors per year immersed in programs based at AC’s West Campus.

AC’s SSS-Moore County Campus Grant has been awarded $178,580 each of the next five years—a total of $892,900—to support a minimum of 100 students per year regardless of major.

Both these AC success initiatives received similar Department of Education funding from 2010-2015, and the College’s conspicuously successful utilization of those resources carried due weight (prior-experience points) in what essentially was a competitive quest for this new round of funding.

“No question about it, we reached or exceeded all the performance goals we set over the previous grant period,” said Jennifer Ashcraft, AC grants administration coordinator. “We believe it significantly influenced our successful bid for these new funds.”

Recipients of SSS Program awards, like AC, are assessed and awarded prior-experience points according to rates of student persistence, academic standing, degree completion, and transfers.

For example, in its most recent assessment report, for 2013-2014, the Moore County Campus (MCC) Grant set out to achieve among the students it served a 70-percent success rate for “good academic standing” and a 50-percent “persistence” rate. What MCC’s most recent report showed instead was a whopping 93-percent rate for good academic standing, and an 85-percent persistence rate.

Graduation and transfer rates fared even better at MCC, where the goals were 16 and 12 percent, respectively (near the state average), but gratifyingly came in at 70 and 74 percent.

“Our students know we really care,” Alexa Maples, SSS coordinator at MCC, said. “We don’t just do what the grant asks us to do, our advisors do even more than they are asked in order to make the most efficient and economical use of the students’ time and resources.

“We’ve introduced our students to international service learning through local Lions Club activities. We moved mandatory student assessments up from midterm to the first six weeks, when they can better make a difference, and that's just one of three early-alert checks we do. Also, every SSS student gets a Student Education Plan, a timeline of exactly when they will graduate.”

That last strategy has been so successful, Maples said, that Renee Vincent, executive director at the Moore County Campus, is working to ensure that all MCC students receive a Student Education Plan, not just students being served by the grant.

Similar success has been realized over the past five years by students served by the Health Sciences Grant, where modest goals were initially set for persistence (58 percent) and good academic standing (70 percent). What the 2013-2014 assessment showed, however, is that both categories achieved rates well in excess of 90 percent.

“We get to work with students one-on-one throughout their academic careers. It is those long-term relationships—so important to their success—that really make the difference,” Jeannie George, health sciences project coordinator, said.

“We’re very excited about receiving this new award from the Department of Education because we know, without a doubt, what a huge difference it makes for the students that we serve.”

The arrival of this new funding coincides with expiration of the five-year award AC received from the Department of Education in 2010, so student-success initiatives will proceed without interruption.

Amarillo College is an equal opportunity community college.


July 23, 2015