ACC awarded two national grants to target equity gaps in higher education

Austin Community College District (ACC) was awarded two national Department of Education (ED) grants to support the college's work toward closing equity gaps and increasing student success. 

"The best way we can support our community is by making sure we have the right support services in place to help our students," says Dr. Richard Rhodes, ACC chancellor. "This is the first time ACC has received these grants. I am so proud of the continued commitment and critical work ACC is doing to serve our region and closing equity gaps, so our community can thrive."

The first grant — Distance Education in Focus: Improving Course Design and Strengthening Student Support (InFocus) — provides $2.68 million to support work that will increase student persistence, retention, and success for Hispanic and other low-income students. 

The second grant — TRIO Student Support Services (TRIO SSS) — provides a total of $1.3 million to help increase persistence, academic standing, timely graduation, and transfer rates. Both grants run for five years.

“These grants support our main mission at ACC, student success. It’s our goal to help every student find success, no matter their income or socioeconomic status. We want them to be successful and know we are leveling the playing field through our support services,” says Dr. Mary Harris, vice president of Institutional Planning, Development, and Evaluation. “The beauty of grants is it allows us to be able to find ways to help students be successful.”

InFocus Grant
InFocus will directly support students in one or more of the college's 14 high-risk courses. These courses are required for a degree path, but historically, they’re completed by fewer than 70 percent of the students enrolled each semester. 

"Our research shows success levels of our students of color and low-income are disproportionately impacted. We will take a targeted and intensive approach for support of online students who might be struggling," says Dr. Erasmus Addae, ACC associate vice president of Distance Education. "Our distance education is one of our most robust programs at ACC. We have already been on a campaign to improve online success for students, and this grant is only going to make us stronger."

The focus of the grant is to improve course design and professional development for faculty and increase students' academic support in those high-risk online courses. Additional support includes:

·  Three additional full-time Embedded Tutors
·  Faculty training through Online Course Redesign Academy
·  Targeted advising and support in high-risk courses
·  Automatic alerts for financial aid for ACC's 18,000 online students

The highly-competitive grant is designed for the Developing Hispanic-Serving Institutions Program. The district is certified as a Hispanic Serving Institution, a federal designation indicating the college maintains 25 percent or greater full-time equivalent Hispanic enrollment.

ACC will recruit 140 low-income students, first-generation, and/or those with disabilities through the TRIO SSS grant. Students must meet eligibility requirements. 

"This grant will help ACC develop new resources and programs to connect students with the skills better to complete a credential, gain employment, and thrive in the workforce," says Steven Christopher, associate vice president of Student Accessibility & Social Support Resources. "Any support we can offer students can lift them up and stay on track to reach their academic and career goals."

The goal of TRIO SSS grant is to increase college retention and graduation rates. 

Participants are eligible for a $1,000 scholarship. They receive proactive and personalized academic and case management support including:

· Tutoring
·  Advising and educational planning
·  Career preparation
·  Student emergency aid assistance
·  Financial literacy training
·  Academic progress monitoring
·  Social and family supports

For more information, contact