Central Lakes College in Brainerd and Staples has a new program to help students.
A staff of two advisers, a director and a data processing specialist have begun enrolling the first of up to 150 students in individual success plans.
Each eligible student in the program receives an individual support service plan within the first four weeks of enrollment. To be eligible for service from the Student Support Services program, a student must be taking at least six credits at the college.
A student must be in one or more of the following groups:
* First-generation college student (neither parent completed a four-year degree).
* Low- to moderate-income level (according to the U.S. government).
* Have a documented disability.
"We have over 50 students who have decided to join the program," said Lois Hansen, director. "That number is growing daily."
Goals include student retention, student graduation and students transferring to a four-year institution.
The program is similar to more than 2,000 others across the country, Hansen said. They originated when the 1964 War on Poverty was announced by the Johnson administration. Through transitions and expanded outreach that included three educational opportunity programs, the term "TRIO" was coined to describe them.
A federal grant from the U.S. Department of Education will provide $190,000 annually the next four years to fund the Student Support Services department.
This is the first TRIO grant for CLC and one of the largest the institution has ever received, said Wendy Schluender, dean of student services.
The grant is enabling CLC to establish the program that offers the following services to eligible students:
Career planning and exploration; academic advising; tutoring and group study; financial aid information; peer mentoring; academic success workshops; activities designed to acquaint students with various cultural and social events; assistance with issues related to graduating and/or transferring to a four-year institution.
"TRIO is designed to provide participants with the skills necessary to be a successful student," said Hansen, "and is tailored to meet the needs of each student by providing a variety of services."
Advisers are Sue Austin, academic support specialist, and Julia Sopalski, retention specialist. They work with eligible students, first assessing to determine academic, personal and accessibility needs. Then they develop the individual support services plan tailored to each participant.
Debbie Neitzke is the data processing specialist. "And there is a lot of data to be processed," said Hansen.
Among the program objectives are percentages of students remaining in good academic standing and continuing enrollment for at least three semesters at CLC (excluding transfers and graduates). Career exploration sessions and workshops are integrated to enable students to identify viable career goals.
A minimum of 40 percent of participants will graduate from their program of study within a maximum of eight semesters, according to the list of objectives.
At least one-fifth of the participants are expected to transfer to a baccalaureate program.
This week, National TRIO Week, students are involved in promotional efforts to increase public awareness of this program. Hansen said the track record indicates growing support as TRIO programs serve low-income students, their families and communities.
"One individual who benefited from the program is Congressman Henry Bonilla of Texas," said Hansen. "Who knows? We may have future successes like this among our CLC participants."
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