Grant helps support community colleges

A grant to the Michigan Community College Association can help support schools like Oakland Community College.

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OAKLAND COUNTY – Oakland Community College in Farmington Hills, along with Michigan’s other 27 community colleges, was recently “boosted,” thanks to a $750,000 grant to the Michigan Community College Association’s Education Program. the Kresge Foundation.

In 2011, the Kresge Foundation helped fund the establishment of the Michigan Center for Student Success in Lansing, and this year’s grant will help support center operations, development education work, and other student success priorities. students, according to a press release.

Erica Orians, who is the executive director of the Michigan Center for Student Success, provided a summary of how the grant can help students.

“The Kresge Foundation has been a generous supporter of the Michigan Center for Student Success for over 10 years, and we recently received a $750,000 grant from them to expand our support for community colleges doing student success work across the country. ‘State,’ Orians said. “We serve (as) a complement to the various student success initiatives taking place (on) local community college campuses by convening colleges statewide so they can learn from their peers across the state, adopt best practices from other institutions and look to each other to do some of this work together.

Orians said the grant will help support the center’s work.

“We will be hiring new staff who will focus on improving our communications across the state, and we will do other developmental education as students come into community colleges,” she said. “We want to do a better job of supporting students who are underprepared for work at the college level. A lot of those resources – they’re not spread across campuses – go to support the work that we do at the center.

Beverly Stanbrough, Dean of OCC College Readiness, gave an example of how support from the Kresge Foundation can benefit students.

“When one of the community colleges looks for transfer networks to share with students, they can get real-time information about the courses you are taking at any community college that will transfer to a four-year institution in Michigan State,” Stanbrough said. “So the resources the Michigan Center for Student Success receives through the Kresge Foundation enables community colleges across the state of Michigan to work together to consistently support students and provide resources so they can achieve their educational goals.”

You can also count Kristin Carey-Li, who is a project manager for Oakland Community College’s Office of Institutional Effectiveness, as the sponsor of the grant.

“The Kresge grant is what really helped establish the center in 2011, and it’s what helps keep it going,” Carey-Li said. “Having this opportunity to bring all of the community colleges together, to try to be cohesive, to find the best way to collaborate, to work across systems and with four-year partners is really, really helpful. …everything we work on, they end up being one of our main sources of support, guidance and strategy, so we are very grateful that Kresge created it and they continue to make it a resource for the whole state. ”

From Stanbrough’s perspective, the grant has helped in ways that go beyond simple educational assistance.

“Through the grant and the Michigan Center for Student Success, we have been able to connect resources for our students so that those resources go beyond the educational challenges they face; they are able to immediately connect to these resources, in case they need housing, in case they need food, in case they need laptops, at the time when we were really in COVID,” Stanbrough said. “This is a resource that I think has really helped our students, as we couldn’t contact our individual students at home, but we were able to create a resource on our website through our counseling webpage, through the ‘Oakland Community College, to connect partners with students to help them. For the My Best program to benefit our students – helped them with things (which) as an educational institution, is not part of what we’re doing. …And then they were able to enroll in classes, be successful, and (it provided) resources for them (to) continue their education through the COVID challenges that we’ve all faced.

MCCA President Brandy Johnson shared some thoughts on the grant.

“We are extremely proud of the impact the Michigan Center for Student Success has had on community college students since its inception in 2011,” Johnson said via the release. “We are grateful for Kresge’s continued support, which ensures the success of our students now and in their future.”

The Kresge Foundation’s education program “works to increase access to and success in college,” according to the statement.

“The Kresge Foundation is committed to the success of Michigan community college students,” Kresge Foundation Education Program Assistant Director Caroline Altman Smith said via statement. “We are so proud of everything the Michigan Center for Student Success has accomplished over the past decade and we are excited about the work ahead to continue supporting community colleges across the state and the students they serve. “

Orians said the Michigan Center for Student Success was created by MCCA and is focused on providing state-level support to community colleges in Michigan.

In addition to emphasizing development education, she touched on some of the other ways the center benefits students.

“We are also doing extensive work across the state to support students transitioning from community colleges to universities, to ensure that we minimize or eliminate the amount of credit lost when students move between institutions. “said Orians. “Another aspect of the work we’ve done is really focused on connecting students with basic needs. One of the things we’ve learned, especially during the pandemic, is that a lot of times community college students who leave college don’t because they can’t take the academic courses, they do because life gets in their way — transportation, child care, food, housing. Some of these questions are really indirectly related to their enrollment in college. And so we worked to connect students to community resources and public benefits.

Orians shared another avenue of student support.

“And then the last area of ​​focus of our work is providing additional advice and guidance to students,” she said. “How can we help students in their career exploration? How can we connect students with courses they want to take that lead to jobs with good salaries to support the family? … This is the flavor of the work we focus on at the center.

In addition to being a pathway to a university and earning credits that can be applied to a bachelor’s degree at “affordable” costs, Orians shared his perspective on another benefit that community colleges offer.

“We are based in the communities we serve,” she said. “We offer programs that match the needs of the local labor market, and our colleges work closely with employers in the local community to ensure our programs meet what they need from their workforce. . … It’s good for employers and it’s good for students because it means there are good jobs after they graduate.

Like so many other aspects of life, COVID-19 has also had a negative effect on community colleges.

“COVID has had a really negative impact on community college enrollment. I think there was a lot of uncertainty among the students, and so we saw a drop in enrollment,” Orians said. “Our colleges are working very hard to make sure they are still accessible to students, so although enrollment has been down over the past two years, I think the colleges are working very hard to make sure students understand that community colleges are still around, and it’s a great opportunity to prepare for the jobs of tomorrow.

Carey-Li discussed a trend she attributes to COVID.

“What’s happening nationally through COVID is, for better or worse, students are looking for more options online,” she said. “We know students benefit from in-person learning, but they’re also trying to fit in with their work schedules (and) family schedules, so we’re trying to figure out how to find the right balance between having a student on campus (and) perhaps having hybrid options that include both on-campus and online? »

Community college administrators hope that some of the top reasons people have chosen to enroll over the years will continue to be a selling point.

“I think affordability and local access are critical reasons people choose a community college,” Orians said. “I also think the programs we offer — they’re good programs — and I think they prepare students very well for careers. And so, I think people see this as a great opportunity to further their education.

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