LATROBE, PA – The U.S. Department of Education has awarded Saint Vincent College a federal Student Support Services (SSS) grant to help more students succeed in and graduate from college.
SSS helps college students who are low-income or first-generation (those whose parents do not have a four-year college degree). Awarded in five-year increments by the U.S. Department of Education, this marks the third straight period that Saint Vincent College has received the highly competitive grant. Since Saint Vincent College began taking part in the SSS program in 2010, it has helped to graduate 124 students.
“We are thankful to once again be chosen as a recipient of the Student Support Services grant from the U.S. Department of Education,” said Father Paul Taylor, O.S.B., Saint Vincent College president. “At Saint Vincent College, we are committed to helping every student succeed while preparing them for lives of meaning and leadership. This grant will allow our dedicated faculty and staff to continue to provide invaluable resources to help our students achieve success. We appreciate the confidence the U.S. Department of Education continues to show in Saint Vincent and our ability to provide a transformational experience for our students.”
Saint Vincent College will utilize the $1.3 million SSS grant to initiate the program “Forward First: Supporting Low-Income and First-Generation Student Success.” The College will offer a comprehensive array of services to enhance academic success and make it more likely that students will graduate with the lowest possible debt.
“We are very honored to receive this competitive grant,” said Dr. Nancy Rottler, program director. “High-impact strategies such as individual academic advising, specialized tutoring, guidance on career readiness, financial aid and graduate/professional school, financial literacy classes, a summer bridge program for first-year students and a three-tier mentoring program, are key ingredients for student success. Our program’s motto is student plus service equals success.”
Under the guidance of Dr. Rottler, the SSS program at Saint Vincent has proven successful in helping students who have been traditionally underrepresented flourish. The U.S. Department of Education’s 2018-19 SSS-TRIO Annual Performance Report found that 94 percent of Saint Vincent’s 154 SSS-TRIO participants persisted (remained enrolled or earned a bachelor’s degree) from 2017-18 to 2018-19, while 92 percent were in good academic standing at the end of the 2018-19 academic year.
The programming offered by SVC has also helped the College regularly earn recognition for its graduation and retention rates. According to the U.S. Department of Education’s College Scoreboard, SVC’s graduation rate of 70 percent dwarfed the national average (42 percent), while 81 percent of freshmen return for their sophomore year, compared to the national average of 68 percent. This success was also recognized in a May 2019 study by the New York Times, which noted that Saint Vincent College significantly outperformed its expected graduation rate, which was determined by such factors as students’ income, race, gender, age and test scores.
SSS began in 1968 and is one of the eight federal “TRIO” programs authorized by the Higher Education Act to help college students succeed in higher education. It recognizes that students whose parents do not have a college degree have more difficulties navigating the complexity of decisions that college requires for success; it bolsters students from low income families who have not had the academic opportunities that their college peers have had; and helps students with disabilities remove obstacles preventing them from thriving academically.
“The SSS program has helped me in tremendous ways,” said Chinazaekpere Madu, a senior accounting major from Silver Spring, Maryland. “It gave me the opportunity to meet and make friends whom I now consider my best friends. Beyond that, the program has guided me in making sure I have academic resources to soar in my academic career. These resources include tutoring, career mentoring and advising and many more. Without the help and guidance of SSS, I would have found it very difficult to continue in my academic endeavors.”
Shemar Bennett, a senior SSS participant and now program mentor, shared, “The SSS program is a vital link for student success at Saint Vincent. It made my transition to college smoother, especially coming from out of state.” A native of Lauderhill, Florida, Bennett is majoring in management.
“The COVID-19 pandemic has worsened the systemic inequality and financial hardship which keep promising students from succeeding in college,” said Maureen Hoyler, president of the Council for Opportunity in Education in Washington, D.C. “Student Support Services is needed now more than ever.”
For more information on the SSS program and additional academic support services offered at Saint Vincent College, visit https://www.stvincent.edu/academics/academic-support.
PHOTO: The Dale P. Latimer Library and Prep Hall on the Saint Vincent College campus