Shawnee State University (SSU) has responded to a loss in services, after receiving non-favorable results for a federal grant competition, which will come into effect at the end of the month. The grant would have sustained funding for the SSU Student Support Services, TRiO.
Student Support Services, TRiO, is a federally funded program designed to encourage and assist first-generation college students, low-income students, or students with disabilities, pursue a four-year degree.
The program offers a variety of services, some major ones including academic coaching, tutoring, assistance on student financial aid, mentoring and counseling, and a promotion of cultural experiences.
In a recent interview with the Daily Times, SSU President Rick Kurtz explained he believes any university needs three major pillars to solidify the foundation of the institution, these being academic focus, services, and the infrastructure.
The population of Shawnee State University is a majority of non-traditional and first-generation students. These are the types of students that TRiO Centers and student support services exist for.
This recent loss is a direct hit to services and has rattled the foundation a bit, seeing as 185 students used the TRiO Center last year alone.
University officials stated that they believe the continuity of the program is a must because it is “the most successful campus cohort and its void creates a higher number of high-needs students.”
The university also claimed that the SSU TRiO Center allows programming not found elsewhere on campus, such as proactive advising, geared towards career, graduate, or professional school; professional tutoring for high-needs students; intensive one-on-one counseling and advising from enrollment in the SSS program until graduation; assistance to high-needs students who need help applying for graduate or professional schools; a dedicated space of 4,700 square feet, educational trips to expose students to graduate and professional schools; provides $15,000 annually in supplemental aid to reduce student loans for high-need students who are eligible for PELL; provides equipment rental at no charge for SSS members, such as graphing calculators, laptops, digital recorders, and more; and supplies weekly workshops to assist in non-cognitive skills to be college successful, such as financial literacy, time management, student skills, and health wellness.
Heather Cantrell, director of the TRiO Center, has been unavailable for comment, but university officials stated that she has been busy, working diligently to appeal the denial so that she can attempt to bring back the services for the students.
The following message was posted to the organization’s Facebook page, after learning of the grant was not being approved:
“The grant competition for Student Support Services-TRiO has concluded. We are sad to say that Shawnee State University was not awarded funding to continue our program. As you may be aware, we are a 100 percent government funded program. Therefore, SSS [Student Support Services] will cease operations August 31, 2015.
“Shawnee State is pursuing avenues of appeal to reverse this outcome. If this course of action proves successful, students will be informed immediately.
“It is understandable that… you may feel upset and even a little lost. You are not alone in this. Please call, email, or stop in and talk with any of us if you want to talk about this process and what is going on. We will also be more than happy to discuss the steps you can take to navigate and access other resources on campus.”
The post continued on to apologize for the loss through a message of hope and nostalgia of the work completed over the years.
Kurtz also commented on the matter, after hearing of the rejection of the federal grant.
“We are extremely disappointed about the news,” Kurtz, said. “This grant has funded Student Support Services on our campus for the past 22 years and has helped a great number of students. Student success is a priority at Shawnee State University. We are committed to providing services to help our students stay in college and reach graduation. We plan to participate in the appeal process for the grant and are evaluating ways to enhance services provided to our students through our Student Success Center.”
Kurtz added that grant funding for many of these types of services has shifted to community colleges, which could be a reason for the university not receiving funding this year.
When asked if the university will compensate for, or put any other program in place of, the SSU TRiO Center, should the appeal process fail, officials stated that it is too early to tell what programming may be put into place.
Reach Joseph Pratt at 740-353-3101, ext. 1932, or by Twitter @JosephPratt03.