October 5, 2023
Ursuline College has been awarded $2,248,276 over five years from the U.S. Department of Education through its Title III Strengthening Institutions Program (SIP). The grant called Project UPWARD (Ursuline Progressing With Actionable Resources and Data) builds on the College’s success in supporting at-risk, low-income students with additional services and programs as well as better access to data for decision-making.
“For students who have limited means or are the first in their family to attend college, the experience can feel very intimidating,” states Kathryn LaFontana, PhD, vice president for academic affairs and grant project director. “Ursuline College has a great track record of helping these students feel supported with wrap-around services that keep them on track to persist and obtain their degrees.”
She continues, “Project UPWARD helps us to continue and expand our ability to make first-generation and low-income students feel that they belong here. They learn to be advocates for themselves and their education, adding more value to their academic experience.”
Dr. LaFontana sees this challenge every day at Ursuline College. Its undergraduate student population contains high percentages of under-resourced undergraduate students, including 38 percent Pell-eligible and 31 percent first-generation students. “Ursuline College is rated number one in the nation for upward economic mobility of students based on an American Enterprise Institute study published in Forbes magazine,” she notes. “This grant helps us improve on this success and expand our capacity to help more students achieve their dreams.”
Specifically, the grant will fully fund a new retention management system as well as training and professional development opportunities to assist faculty and staff in promoting holistic, personal, and proactive advising. At the same time, the grant adds new staff positions to support student writing and the establishment of living-learning communities or LLCs to promote a sense of belonging for resident and commuter students with similar academic interests. The grant will also fund an Office of New Programs and Partnerships to facilitate new learning opportunities and collaborations as well as expand the college’s portfolio of academic offerings.
Dr. LaFontana explains, “UPWARD will improve academic programs and related support services to maximize student success while implementing systems that will provide data to drive effective decision-making. Simply stated, this will help increase the number of students who attend Ursuline College, finish their degrees, and launch exciting careers.”
“Expanding our enrollment while improving retention and graduation rates not only helps our students,” says Ursuline College President Sister Christine De Vinne, PhD, OSU, “but helps small colleges like Ursuline with their fiscal management in the long run. Our hope is Project UPWARD becomes a model for other institutions around the country.”