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Dakota State awarded federal grant for student success

November 20, 2016

Dakota State University in Madison has been awarded a Title III grant from the U.S. Department of Education to enhance support for students in their quest to complete their degree. The first-year funding amount of $449,249 is part of a total proposed amount of approximately $2.3M over a five-year period. 

The announcement was made by the Department of Education. Title III grants address “joint use of instructional facilities, construction and maintenance, and student service programs designed to improve academic success,” according to the Department of Education. Services that qualify for Title III funding include innovations designed to retain students and move them toward program completion.

Funding for the DSU project, “Staying the Course: Individualized Support to Stem Student Attrition,” will provide financial resources for an academic advising initiative, technology investments, laboratory upgrades and designated programming space in the university’s Learning Engagement Center, currently under construction. Students will have access to individualized student coaching through both professional advisors and peer coaches.

The federal grant will build and sustain student success processes and services designed to increase student retention and ultimately the number of university graduates. The grant will be awarded in the current federal fiscal year. DSU is eligible for continued funding through the 2020-2021 academic year, subject to federal authorization.

“The Title III award is great news for Dakota State students,” said Dr. José-Marie Griffiths, the university president. “Students choose DSU for several reasons, and each student comes to the university with the goal of completing a degree that starts a rewarding career. This grant will put in place resources for students who need some additional attention and support to reach their academic goals.”

“The South Dakota Board of Regents in August adopted 65 percent as the statewide goal by 2025 for attainment of a post-secondary credential for South Dakota residents between the ages of 25 and 34,” Griffiths said. “That percentage today is about 45 percent. The Title III grant will make available additional resources so that future Dakota State graduates are part of the solution to that 65-percent goal.”

The DSU proposal focuses on three areas.

The grant will fund four advising coaches who will work individually with students. These professionals will track progress of students and provide intervention services designed to help them complete courses and continue their path to degree completion.

Secondly, the university will expand a Learning Assistance program that will help students enhance reading, writing and science reasoning skills. The primary guidance in these areas will be provided by peer learning assistants, monitored by faculty.

The third component is supplemental instruction in gateway and major courses. Gateway courses are described as the introductory or foundational classes in specific disciplines; the gateway courses start students toward a certain major. Peer leaders will attend these gateway classes and provide group instruction and review of course material in the new Learning Engagement Center.

Dr. Dick Hanson, interim provost and vice president for academic affairs, emphasized the connection between the Title III grant and the university’s strategic intent.

“This project is designed to provide individualized student coaching and supplemental instruction to support increased success in these high-risk gateway and major courses,” Hanson said. “The Title III funds will enable the university to create a robust support network for all students, particularly those from disadvantaged backgrounds. This support structure will increase the likelihood of student success.”

Grant funds also will be used to build out dedicated space for Title III activities in the university’s Learning Engagement Center, currently under construction in the former hospital. The Learning Engagement Center, scheduled to open in fall 2017, will house several student services in addition to the Title III project.

Marcus Garstecki, vice president for student affairs, describes the new facility as a key component to the student success structure.

“The Learning Engagement Center will provide the right environment for these key areas in any student success programming — advising, reading and writing, and supplemental instruction,” Garstecki said. “The building will include career services, tutoring, counseling, diversity and inclusion, and international programs. The Title III office will be another resource in that location to further enhance these support services.”

Dr. Judy Dittman, who recently served as the university’s provost and vice president for academic affairs and dean for the College of Education, has been appointed the Title III project director. She will be responsible for maintenance of records, budget, data collection and analysis, and reports related to the grant.