Approximately 400 Cal Poly Pomona students from disadvantaged backgrounds will get a leg up this fall when two federal grants begin pumping nearly $3.4 million into campus programs aimed at boosting their graduation and retention rates.
The funds will be provided by the federal TRIO Student Support Services program, which gives opportunities to students who might not otherwise be able to attend college. TRIO, established by the Higher Education Act of 1965, funds more than $5.5 million to seven programs at Cal Poly Pomona, including Upward Bound and McNair Scholars.
Achievement Retention and Commitment to Higher Education Success (ARCHES) in the Division of Student Affairs will receive $290,000 a year for five years. ARCHES director Chad Bowman, whose program provides about 150 disabled students with academic advising, tutoring and time management workshops, says the grant will fund day-to-day operations and expand a laptop loan program.
ARCHES began lending laptops in a trial run last spring, and Bowman wants to double the number of computers available this year. The computers include accessibility software that allow students to use books and materials electronically and create visual outlines.
“We hope to have a dozen laptops with alternative software for students with special needs,” Bowman says. “The students who used them last year really appreciated it.”
The laptop loan program is a concrete example of what the funding can do, but the intangible benefits, Bowman says, are far more important.
“We’re doing something right because our grants keep getting renewed,” Bowman says. “Everything we do is geared toward college success. My biggest goal is for my students to leave Cal Poly Pomona feeling connected.”
That desire to see students build strong ties to campus also runs deep in Academic Learning Services programs. College Reading Skills Program (CRSP) director Laura Ayon, whose mission is to improve reading and study skills among low-income and first generation college students, says her No. 1 goal is to build a personal relationship with all of her students. CRSP, which is in the Division of Academic Affairs, is set to receive about $380,000 a year for five years.
“I want all 250 of our students to know who I am and I want to know who they are,” Ayon says. “I know that we make a difference in terms of the students’ success. This grant makes our job a little easier.”
Ayon is also exploring a laptop loan program, but more immediately, she hopes to update the software her students use to improve their vocabulary and reading speed.
Though the grants have not yet arrived, Ayon says the work required to apply for them has inspired a greater sense of cooperation among individuals from a variety of programs such as the Learning Resource Center, Student Affairs Information & Technology Services and the Office of Financial Aid, whose assistance was vital in the application process.
“I already see a lot more collaboration going on,” Ayon says. “I want to think we’ll be a part of that.”