The West Virginia Community and Technical College System has announced a $4.2 million grant from Arnold Ventures to launch a program designed to help students complete their degrees and move into well-paying jobs.
To be established at West Virginia University-Parkersburg and Blue Ridge Community and Technical College, the program will provide students with the financial resources and individualized support needed to access advisors, tutoring, and career prep offerings and complete their degrees, setting them up to enter high-demand fields such as advanced manufacturing, information technology, welding, and health care. The program is modeled after the Accelerated Study in Associate Programs at the City University of New York, which has substantially improved academic outcomes for participants and contributed to an almost doubling of graduation rates.
Awarded through Arnold Ventures' Moving the Needle initiative, which provides funding for social programs backed by rigorous evidence of large, sustained impacts on meaningful life outcomes, the grant includes support for an independent, randomized control trial to evaluate program impact. If proven to be effective, the program will be scaled to all two-year institutions in West Virginia. An initial cohort of schools will be selected later this year, with full implementation of the program to begin in the fall of 2021.
"Recruitment of students is important, but retention of students is even more critically important. Once we enroll them, we have both a joyful and a solemn responsibility to do everything within our power to ensure their success and completion," said WVU-Parkersburg president Chris Gilmer. "We consider our participation in CUNY's ASAP replication to be a major step toward meeting our goal of turning every student possible into a graduate. We appreciate the confidence [Arnold Ventures] has shown by selecting us for this prestigious partnership, and we commit ourselves fully to its success."
"West Virginia's system of community and technical colleges has become a national leader in implementing meaningful changes that have resulted in more of our students completing college," said CTCS chancellor Sarah Armstrong Tucker. "But to reach our goal outlined in West Virginia's Climb initiative — to arm 60 percent of our workforce with a postsecondary credential by 2030 — now is the time to double down on student success. This pilot project at WVU-Parkersburg and Blue Ridge CTC, which we hope to ultimately expand statewide, is one of the most important ways we can get there. I thank Arnold Ventures for this remarkable investment in the Mountain State, and I thank CUNY for their leadership in developing this incredibly successful program."