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TRIO’s Student Support Services to expand throughout college district

Screen Shot 2015-08-25 at 9.53.11 AMThousands of at-risk college students in rural Colorado will receive financial and academic support over the next five years, thanks to an expanded federal TRIO grant that will empower Colorado Mountain College to provide even more support services throughout its six-county district.

College administrators learned recently that their previous $2.2 million Student Support Services (SSS) grant, which serves students at the college’s three residential campuses plus commuter campuses in Edwards and Rifle, has been expanded to $4.3 million over the next five years. Up to 520 students will be able to benefit from an array of SSS offerings including supplemental grant aid, free tutoring, fluent academic plans, personal counseling and transfer and career assistance. Qualifying students attending nearly all of the college’s 11 locations in north-central Colorado can apply for SSS support.

As the college’s assistant vice president for student affairs, Dr. Lourra Barthuly shepherded the grant proposal through the approvals process. “This new concept, in which the grants administrators work more closely with the college to provide a full range of services, creates more of a one-stop shop, with better support for students than ever,” she said.

“This greatly opens up the number of students who can be served,” she added. Barthuly received the good news about the grant just as she was preparing to start a new position in Eagle County, as principal at Battle Mountain High School.

This new grant comes on the heels of a memorandum of understanding between CMC and Colorado State University, creating a seamless transfer for CMC SSS students who want to finish a bachelor’s degree at CSU. And as of Sept. 1, even more of these transfer students can receive support services, thanks to the new grant.

Approximately 92 percent of the total costs of CMC’s SSS program is being financed by the $4.185 million in federal dollars received. The college will be covering approximately $300,000, or 8 percent of the total costs of the program, from its own financial resources. Federal funding is provided by the U.S. Department of Education, TRIO programs.

Program to support more students that qualify

To qualify for support under the SSS program, students must be the first in their family to graduate from college (referred to as first-generation students), low income and/or disabled.

One recent beneficiary of the SSS program is Romayne Carlin, a nontraditional student who earned a certificate in medical assisting from Colorado Mountain College and is now working at Rite-Aid pharmacy in Glenwood Springs.

“I started [at Colorado Mountain College] at the age of 52, hadn’t seen high school in 37 years,” she said. “It was extremely different than high school had been. It’s a really good path to take to be part of the SSS program, and the mini programs they offer during the semesters.”

She said she one such mini program helped her to overcome math phobia. “They gave pointers, different things to help you think through a test other than just being afraid,” she said.

She especially appreciated the support she received from Nate Adams, the SSS director who worked with her. “One year I didn’t have enough money for books, he helped me get that money,” she said. “He helped me with a situation I was having with an instructor and enlightened me about how to make things work. And the tutoring which I needed for math was brilliant; the tutor became a friend.”

SSS provides pathway to success

Although TRIO was initially the name given to three federal higher education programs that provide services to disadvantaged individuals, it now encompasses eight programs. At Colorado Mountain College, TRIO’s Student Support Services program has surpassed federal grant goals for helping students remain in college, stay in good academic standing, and graduate and/or transfer to a four-year college or university.

The idea behind SSS is powerful: With the right information early, and tailored advising, students from disadvantaged backgrounds can overcome financial, academic, cultural or other barriers. According to the Council for Opportunity in Education, over 40 years of data shows SSS students are more than twice as likely to remain in college as students from similar backgrounds who do not participate in the program.

“Based on Colorado Mountain College’s demonstrated success at helping at-risk students stay in college and reach their goals, we have received continuing and increasing SSS grants,” said Lin Stickler, vice president for student affairs. “With this latest round of grants, we hope to continue improving our students’ completion rates.”

When asked what advice she’d give a student considering going into the SSS program, Carlin said, “Do it as fast as possible. If a student has a need and they don’t know where to turn, it’s a great resource to find out. Even if you spend three minutes with Nate, if he can’t help, he generally knows where you can get assistance of some sort.”

For more information about CMC’s Student Support Services programs, please contact Lisa Doak, assistant vice president for student services, at ldoak@coloradomtn.edu or 970-947-8351 or 1-800-621-8559.