GRCC to transform student support system with $2.1 million grant from U.S. Department of Education

Oct. 17, 2019 GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. – Grand Rapids Community College plans to create a more personalized, effective advising system to help students become more successful, using a five-year, $2.1 million grant from the U.S. Department of Education.

GRCC was one of three Michigan colleges to earn a Strengthening Institutions Program grant. The college will use the money to transform its student support efforts, making academic advising more productive while leveraging technology to create a more comprehensive approach to addressing a variety of student needs.

 “We embrace every learner who comes through our doors,” GRCC President Bill Pink said. “No matter their journey, it is the college’s aim to prepare them to attain their goals. As our students change and their needs change, so must our college change, always look for ways to be more innovative and responsive. We appreciate the support of the U.S. Education Department.”

Pink said the Education Department’s investment supports efforts to find new ways to serve students of all ages and works toward a college strategic goal of boosting completion and transfer rates.

Older students have increased opportunities to connect or reconnect with the college to advance in careers and improve – in some cases, transform – their lives. More are pursuing their education part-time, working around job and family responsibilities.

Eric Mullen, GRCC’s Dean of Student Success and Retention, said those schedules and demands on time often make it challenging for students to schedule appointments with academic advisers. Many use drop-in hours, where advisors might not have as much time as they would like, or enough information about the student to have the most productive session.

Using new technologies funded by the grant, GRCC expects to create a system where student data is collected and available through a single interface, so counselors could have detailed information available, and students can connect in a variety of ways and at times more convenient to them.

The system also would use the data to analyze student performance, monitor for indications of struggles and suggest targeted interventions and support.

Students also would have access to a mobile app to access on-demand and just-in-time support and receive messages of recognition or encouragement.

“This is a game-changer,” Mullen said. “We’re focused on building a system to help us guide students along their path to graduation. But also, we want to more quickly catch problems as they arise and direct students to resources to help them overcome obstacles. That could be an academic success coach or help with food insecurity or anything else that can become a barrier to success.”

Mullen said the grant will help the college build on efforts to help students plan their education and be more successful.

That includes the Academic Pathways model, a comprehensive plan to redesign enrollment, curricular alignment, and support services. The goal is to keep students on track to graduate by selecting courses most relevant to their career and academic goals.

Grand Rapids Community College has been offering educational opportunities in West Michigan for more than 100 years. Established in 1914, the college offers degree courses, certification and training programs, and workshops and personal enrichment classes. Offerings are held on GRCC’s downtown Grand Rapids campus, and at several locations throughout Kent and Ottawa counties, as well as through distance learning.

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