SCC Receives Federal Grant to Boost Student Success and Retention


West Burlington, IA – Southeastern Community College has received a grant from the US Department of Education to continue its Student Support Services Program. The five-year grant will provide $355,656 annually to fund programming and initiatives designed to increase college retention and graduation rates of program participants. It is the highest-dollar award to any college or university in Iowa this year.

A component of the Federal TRIO Program, the Student Support Services (SSS) Program provides academic and other support services for low-income, first-generation, or disabled college students who intend to earn a four-year degree.  

Vice President of Student Services Joan Williams explains that this grant award is due in part to a strong record of student success by SCC’s current program. SCC has offered its SSS program for 17 years as part of a cooperative agreement with Carl Sandburg College (CSC) in Galesburg. The partnership, one of just two in the nation, meant that the colleges had to split the grant’s 250 student cap, allowing each to serve 125 students.

Williams continues that over the summer, CSC applied for and received a stand-alone grant to serve 250 of its own students. Since colleges can only receive one grant, SCC officials were unsure of what would happen to its half of the program.

According to Williams, the application process is very competitive. Not every college gets accepted into the SSS program, and not every college’s program is renewed. Approximately one third of all schools that applied for this year’s Federal SSS grant were not successful.

She credits SCC’s track record of successful cooperation with CSC and the positive impact the program has had on participants for SCC earning its own stand-alone grant.

“I can’t say enough about how good a relationship we had with CSC for the past 17 years. Since we were in such a unique arrangement, each college had a lot of extra work to do not just to maintain our programs, but provide the kind of support that resulted in our student success rates,” Williams explains.

SCC received official notice of its stand-alone grant award on September 2.

Due to the 125 student limit, SCC has only been able to serve students who attend its West Burlington campus. The new grant doubles the number of students SCC can now serve and lifts the campus restriction.

“There has always been a need to serve students across our district, but the former cooperative grant limited us to just West Burlington students. Now that we truly have our own grant, we can recruit qualifying students regardless of where they attend,” explains Williams.

SSS Program Interim Director Sibyl McIntire says the SSS program helps students through specialized support, academic advising, and activities that focus on their first-year college experience, second-year college experience, career exploration, learning communities, and transferring to four-year colleges.

“We’ll continue serving students in West Burlington, but we don’t have the infrastructure elsewhere to operate quite yet. We have to hire new program advisors, set up offices, prepare materials, and get the word out to students. There’s a lot to do, but it’s exciting,” McIntire explains.

Officials hope to have enough of the pieces in place to start serving additional students in October.

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