CLARKSVILLE, TN — In 2020, Austin Peay State University received a $2.5 million federal grant to help more students succeed on campus, and over the past 24 months, l University used this money to develop an innovative set of programs unparalleled in the state. .
“No other institution in Tennessee is doing this kind of work to support student success by leveraging labor market economic modeling data,” said Dr. Kacie Hutson, director of coaching and student success initiatives at the ‘APSU.
Shortly after the U.S. Department of Education awarded Austin Peay the five-year Title III Institutional Strengthening Program grant, the University established a new Office of Coaching and Success Initiatives students in the Browning Building to provide additional support to a specific group of APSU students and to share relevant labor market data with faculty and staff involved in curriculum development.
“The goal of the grant is to increase retention and graduation rates with a specific focus on closing achievement gaps for at-risk students,” said Dr. Loretta Griffy, Associate Vice President for Strategic Initiatives. academic and foundation engagement. “We define at-risk as first-generation students and students from disadvantaged families.”
In 2018, shortly before Griffy wrote the Title III Grant proposal, 48% of Austin Peay students were eligible for Pell Grants and 29% were first-generation students. The Office of Title III Coaching and Student Success Initiatives now oversees programs specifically designed for these individuals, such as APSU’s Purpose First Scholars program.
“We have 55 students who are in the program. These are freshmen who are first-generation students or come from low-resource backgrounds,” Hutson said. “We help these students make the connection between their specialization and their career from the start, even when they are recruited. If we can align them with the right major and the right career path early on, the idea is that they’re more likely to find their purpose, be successful, and graduate.
Purpose First Scholars live together in the same halls of residence, take several courses together, and even have specialist tutors to help them along the way.
“They do all kinds of things together, and the teachers who teach them have specialized training,” Griffy said. “And this year we will be developing a second semester of the Freshman Spring Seminar focusing on NACE (National Association of Colleges and Employers) skills and career readiness skills aligned with the curricula chosen by students.”
Possible College Success Coaches
In 2019, Austin Peay partnered with the national nonprofit College Possible to bring four Success Coaches—also known as Close Peer Mentors—on campus to guide Pell-eligible students and first generation in the transition to their academic career. These coaches, all recent APSU graduates, were embedded on campus, lived in dormitories, and coached freshmen on everything from how to register for classes to how to relax after an exam. stressful.
“We had coaches from College Possible,” Griffy said. “We were able to scale them with the funds from the grant. We were able to add two coaches. Now every incoming first-time, first-generation, Pell-eligible student will have a coach to help them navigate the sometimes-complicated environment of higher education.
Economic modeling and student success
The grant also enabled the new Title III office to acquire economic modeling software to better inform these specific students about choosing a major and career path. The software includes a career coaching tool that all students have access to on APSU’s internal website, OneStop. This tool assesses a student’s interests and then connects them directly to Austin Peay degree programs that match their careers of interest. Career Coach also connects to a sample four-year study plan at APSU and provides labor market data for that career field.
“Right now, students can access OneStop, and they can click on their career coach and explore academic programs or career paths, as well as complete a career assessment,” Hutson said. “They can take the assessment to identify careers that match their interests and majors that lead to those career paths.”
Other economic modeling tools focus on alumni outcomes and career analysis to allow the University to see where APSU alumni work after graduation and the projected demand for careers . This information helps faculty and department heads align academic programs with current labor market needs. Economic modeling data also helps university programs translate learning outcomes into employment-relevant statements that students can include in their resumes and professional profiles.
“Using these tools, we can collaborate with university departments to support their missions while helping students select and earn a graduate degree aligned with students’ career aspirations,” said Griffy. “At the end of this federally funded project, we hope to review, evaluate and scale initiatives with the greatest impact on student success in normal University operations.”
For more information on the Title III grant, visit https://www.apsu.edu/academic-strategic-initiatives/title-III.php.