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East Central University, with the help of $2 million Strengthening Institutions Program (SIP) Grant, is in the midst of establishing a one-stop shop to help students stay in college, graduate and earn a degree.

The five-year grant (at $400,000 per year) has led to the establishment of the ECU Academic Success Center, located on the second floor of the Administration Building on the ECU campus.

The Academic Success Center, geared toward low-income, underserved and unprepared students, is designed to combine the retention and tutoring efforts for students in hopes of them achieving their academic goals.

“It will allow the university to offer a centralized location for academic services for all students regardless of income. That includes new student advising and enrollment, continuing student advisement, supplemental instruction and expanded retention services,” said ECU Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs Dr. Katricia Pierson. “It also allows the university to purchase supplemental instruction and retention software.”

The eight-step program will identify low-income students, identify at-risk students using an early alert-warning system, assess student needs, use intrusive academic advising and individualized counseling, have resource and referral services, teach financial literacy, provide peer and group tutoring and have supplemental instruction available.

Often, students enter college with academic obstacles, many of which are not their fault such as deficiencies of not being exposed to high-level mathematics or science courses at the high school level for example. In 2013, 48.8 percent of the incoming freshmen who came to ECU had to take at least one zero-level course.

Through the Academic Success Center, students will be exposed to advising, individualized counseling and student support services to address these identified academic barriers and will leverage university opportunities and resources necessary to meet the specific needs of low-income, underprepared students as they move toward graduation.

Among the tasks being provided by the Academic Success Center is student coaches and peer-group tutoring.

“The grant also provides a financial literacy adviser – a person who will assist students in understanding the cost of attending the university and help the student understand ways to save for books and supplies for the upcoming semesters,” Pierson said. “The Academic Success Center will also be in contact with incoming students during the summer months. At times, students enroll and change their minds. We want to stay in contact with them over the summer so that they arrive in August, ready to be Tigers.”

Pierson spearheaded the idea and efforts to obtain the grant with Bethany Walling, grants research specialist for the Office of Sponsored Programs and Research, providing the grant-writing work, along with the aid of Leah Lyon, director of that office.



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