Kutztown University awarded $2.2 Million grant to increase retention, graduation rates and eliminate equity gaps for students

Kutztown University has been awarded a five-year, $2.2 million grant from the U.S. Department of Education to implement a Title III program, which is funded 100% with federal funds, to increase undergraduate retention and graduation rates and eliminate equity gaps for Kutztown University students.

Through the Title III Strengthening Institutions Program, “Increasing Retention and Persistence Through Deliberate Design of High-Impact Practices and Targeted Student Support Services,” KU will launch two primary activities that will contribute to institutional growth and self-sufficiency. KU will increase equitable access to high-impact practices to promote engagement and retention for all students, including those who are underrepresented minorities (URM) and/or low-income. KU will also provide comprehensive support systems to assure academic success, student well-being, sense of belonging and career preparedness, contributing to increased retention and graduation rates.

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“We know that students are more likely to have success if they feel connected to their university and engage in experiences that connect their education to their planned careers,” said Dr. Lorin Basden Arnold, provost and vice president for Academic Affairs. “This Title III grant will allow us to provide these opportunities to students who might otherwise be unlikely to have them. We are thrilled that the U.S. Department of Education has recognized the value of the work we have planned and is supporting that work through Title III.”

The grant allows KU to expand access to high-impact practices through new micro-internships, increasing study-away experiences and significantly increasing the number of course-based undergraduate research experiences (CURES). These activities will boost academic engagement and success by removing barriers, in part by making high-impact practices integral components of more undergraduate courses. Improvements in high-impact practices will also include strengthening the First-Year Seminar by providing additional tutoring, faculty training and support.

In addition, KU will support retention for academically at-risk students through new Student Success programs with the addition of a Student Success and Academic Recovery case manager, online tutoring and expanded integration of the Starfish student support platform, as well as through the Reboot academic recovery program for first-year students. The project will conduct faculty development on leading study away and CURES, as well as on meeting the educational needs of neurodiverse students.

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Lastly, KU will relocate its Career Development Center to the Rohrbach Library, bringing it into the facility where other student services are housed, to increase access and expand the hours of service.

The grant aims to produce five percent increases (compared to 2022 baseline) in retention rates and five-year graduation rates for all undergraduates and subpopulations (URM, Pell-eligible and first-generation students). Retention rates will focus on first-to-second year and will create equitable access to high-impact practices that promote engagement and retention for all students, particularly those who are underrepresented in higher education. Graduation rates will be impacted by sustaining comprehensive support systems that assure academic success, student well-being, sense of belonging and career preparedness.

Of KU’s student population, approximately 27% are first generation college students, 31% are Pell eligible and 28% are URM.

Collectively, these services and activities will improve undergraduate retention and graduation rates, contributing to KU’s long-term academic program, institutional management and fiscal stability goals.

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