Department of Education funds project to serve adult learners
Inver Hills Community College and Dakota County Technical College were awarded a U.S. Department of Education Title III grant of $3.2 million over five years to serve adult learners at both institutions. Inver Hills was the lead on the grant with DCTC serving as a partner.
The funded project’s title is “Adult Learners: Service, Success, & Growth.” The problems addressed by the project include:
- High numbers of adult learners and first-generation students
- Declining student success rates
- Increasing demand for online and hybrid credit courses
- Advising system and related processes present numerous challenges
- Prior learning assessment policies, procedures, and application inconsistent and not aligned with equivalencies or easily transferred
- Limited professional development opportunities for faculty and staff
Inver Hills and DCTC President Tim Wynes, J.D., noted that DCTC Vice President of Student Affairs Anne Johnson served as the principal investigator, project director and writer for the grant. “Anne worked with a team of terrific counselors, advisors and staff from both colleges,” President Wynes said.
When we were informed of the award by Sen. Al Franken’s office, we were told that as of September 6, we were the only Minnesota college or university to earn a Title III grant in the current funding round.”
Anne Johnson, M.B.A., reported that the colleges first submitted the grant application May 28, 2015. “We missed the first cut by three tenths of a point,” Johnson said. “Because we were so close, our project was funded on the second round. We received the good news from the Department of Education on Tuesday, September 6, 2016.”
Johnson noted that the goals of the funded project are:
- Increase success and completion for underserved adult learners
- Reduce time to degree for adult learners
- Increase professional development for faculty and staff
“We are working toward a number of significant outcomes,” she added. “More and more nontraditional learners with some college credits and plenty of life experience are looking at going back to school. We want to increase success rates for retention, graduation and transfer while creating clear pathways for adult learners in more career and technical education programs. One way to accomplish that outcome is through more intrusive advising where students and advisors collaborate directly to develop sound academic and career plans.”
On a related note
Inver Hills recently received high marks from the Washington Monthly on the magazine’s list of two-year colleges serving adult learners. To learn more, read “Inver Hills Ranked #7 Nationally by Washington Monthly” on Inver Hills News.
Johnson reported that completely online degree options and accelerated blended/hybrid degree options will be expanded. Improved prior learning assessment with competency-based education as well as Credit for Prior Learning (CPL) opportunities are also slated for expansion.
“Council for Adult and Experiential Learning (CAEL) research shows that giving students accelerated degree plans in concert with credit for prior learning greatly increases retention and graduation rates,” Johnson said.
Another important outcome involves increasing advisors and counselors trained in implementing and facilitating online orientation and advising. “We also wish to enhance professional development opportunities for our faculty, staff and administrators,” Johnson said. “Receiving this grant gives us the funding we need to better serve our adult learner community.”
To learn more about the U.S. Department of Education Title III Grant, contact:
Anne S. Johnson, M.B.A.
DCTC Associate Vice President of Student Affairs