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Greenfield Community College Receives Continuation of Title III Grant Funding

GREENFIELD — In October 2016, Greenfield Community College (GCC) was awarded a $1.6 million Title III grant from the U.S. Department of Education, to be disbursed over five years. This grant is part of the Strengthening Institutions Program, which helps institutions expand their capacity to serve low-income and at-risk students. This academic year will mark the fourth year of continued funding of GCC’s Title III grant.

The aim of GCC’s Title III grant is to integrate academic-success coaching and career exploration into a structured first-year experience that supports students who have been shown to be most at risk for not continuing with their education. GCC’s focus has been on students who are the first in their family to attend college, are undecided about their major and career paths, and who place into at least one developmental-level course.

“We have a great track record of supporting all of our students, but the hard-won success of our most at-risk students are particularly gratifying to witness,” said Anna Berry, dean of students. “We have many academic and student-support resources available to students; however, this grant has allowed us to focus our efforts and tie several of these programs together. This cohesion makes the student experience easier to navigate and, thus, more accessible.”

The College & Career Compass program developed during the first two years of the grant offers new, current, and returning GCC students specialized advising focused on individual student needs, academic skill building, and incorporating career exploration into the academic planning process; a peer-mentoring program through which current students can share their experiences, individually and in small groups, to help other students survive and thrive at GCC; monthly academic-coaching workshops covering topics like study skills, using apps and other technology, career exploration, and avoiding procrastination; two one-credit elective courses at no cost: one focused on academic strategies for college success and the other on career exploration and planning (including four-year transfer opportunities); and a free, one-week refresher course for students who have been away from math and want to dust off their skills before the semester starts.

“Developing the Compass program has been rewarding and transformational — personally, for the college, and for our students,” said Tonya Blundon, interim director of Advising, Career, and Transfer, who coordinates the Title III grant activities. “We know that many students start their college journey without a clear sense of where it will lead, which can be a challenge to persistence. We also know that students who are the first in their family to go to college, or who place into developmental-level classes, are the most at risk for not continuing their education. Having the resources and opportunity to help these students find success — to show them they can get there from here — has an impact that we can see each semester.”

The focus for the remaining two years of the grant is to hone and scale the Compass program to reach more students and inform advising practices across the college.

“Over the last three years, our small Compass team has learned a lot about our students’ needs and developed tools to support and streamline our advising efforts,” Blundon said. “As we enter the next academic year, I look forward to sharing our efforts and tools across the college with everyone who works closely with our students.”

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