The U.S. Department of Education has awarded a $1.1 million Student Support Services grant to the University of Bridgeport to provide a range of services to help low-income, first-generation college students, and students with disabilities, boost their academic performance and successfully complete college.
Established in 1965, the Student Support Services (SSS) program is one of eight federal TRIO education campaigns that identify and assist students from disadvantaged backgrounds as they progress from middle school through college.
Studies have shown that low-income, first-generation college students are nearly four times more likely to leave college than peers without those risk factors. After six years, 43 percent of low-income, first-generation students leave college without earning a degree, according to The Pell Institute.
“A good job starts with a good education, and college should be affordable and accessible to any student ready to take on the rigors and commitment of higher education,” said Rep. Jim Himes, D-CT, who supported UB’s grant application to the U.S. Department of Education. “This grant will help meet our shared interest of providing more students the tools they need to reach their fullest potential while helping our country become more competitive in the changing global economy.”
U.S. Senators Chris Dodd, D-CT, and Joseph Lieberman, I-CT, backed the University grant application, as well.
“We’re very pleased we were awarded this grant, which will allow us to provide better and more available assistance to help our students succeed academically,” said UB Provost Michael Spitzer.
Under the grant, UB will receive $220,000 per year for five years, starting Sept. 1 2010, to help 140 undergraduate students annually who meet certain eligibility requirements.
Incoming and continuing students will be invited to join the program based on information they provide on the federal financial aid application known as the FAFSA. Graduates from academically disadvantaged high schools in the Greater Bridgeport area who are new to or continuing their studies at UB also may qualify. UB faculty and staff may nominate students, and students may apply to the program, too.
Once enrolled, students will receive tutoring, guidance in selecting courses, information on how to obtain federal financial aid and other public and private scholarships, as well as assistance in completing grant and scholarship applications. Students also will receive financial education to help them fully understand school loans and minimize school-related debt. The SSS program features additional workshops, lectures, career counseling, and activities to encourage students to pursue appropriate graduate and professional education.
UB will provide infrastructure costs to run the program and will renovate space to house the SSS Program. To be located at Wahlstrom Library, it will include staff offices; a multipurpose room for meetings, group-study sessions, and other activities; and three handicapped-accessible computer workstations for student use.
The SSS Program is one of two TRIO programs administered by UB. The other program, Educational Talent Search, started on campus in 1991 and each year helps 800 students from Bridgeport middle and high schools. Since its, 88 percent of students who complete the Talent Search program and graduate from high school have enrolled in college, more than twice the national average.
“This is an extremely competitive grant,” said Gabrielle Jazwiecki, director of institution grants at UB. “For schools like UB and communities like Bridgeport, it provides critical funding to address the needs of a significant portion of their populations.”