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By Gerianne Wright
Federal funding for SUNY Plattsburgh’s Student Support Services, one of the largest such programs in the country, was renewed with an all-time high grant of nearly $525,000 each year for the next five years.
“It was one of the largest grants given to programs like ours in the country,” said Dr. Michele Carpentier, director of special programs and assistant vice president for student affairs. “We wrote a really good grant, which helps, but we have a tremendous need. More than half of our students who come here are eligible for our services in one way or another.”
Student Support Services is a federally funded program of the Department of Education, the mission of which is to assist students in completing their four-year degree program. To qualify for services, students must demonstrate either financial need, be a first-generation college student — neither parent holds a four-year degree — or be a student with a disabling condition.
Services include personal, financial aid, and career and graduate school counseling, academic advising, peer counseling and mentoring and cultural activities and information workshops.
Student Support Services also provides course work — specialized classes that allow students the opportunity to achieve success in courses that have a smaller-than-normal enrollment with an attached tutorial component. Classes include writing, math and calculus.
Competition for funding was more competitive than in recent years, Carpentier said. But she again credited a strong grant application for helping the program score 112 out of a possible 121.
“To be funded this year, you had to score higher than 100.”
The biggest difference this year was the program’s compliance with federally identified priorities the government wants to see reproduced by successful grant winners. One of the studies required the program to hold a panel for incoming students.
“The panels would have older students — those who have had success with us — speak to them about what it’s like to be a first-generation college student, to be a disabled student, to come from a low-income home. We then track those students who attended the panel discussion to see if they engage in services more than those who did not attend. We had close to 100 freshmen attend.”
The other component involves shifting focus from a freshman- and sophomore-centric program to one that includes upperclassmen.
“We’re looking to add a junior seminar that addresses graduate school, career preparation, getting ready for the next phase to transition out of college,” she said. They will look to add “many more internships and teaching opportunities that are all geared to our message, which is retention and graduation.”
SUNY Plattsburgh’s Student Support Services program serves nearly 400 students annually. For more information, contact Carpentier at (518) 564-2810 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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