$3 million federal grant continues university’s momentum in pioneering academic support structures for low-income students

The U.S. Department of Education has awarded Mount Mary University $3 million to increase graduation rates for low-income students who enter college needing developmental support in English and math.

This Title III grant from the Department of Education’s Strengthening Institutions Program will build on existing successful student programs to increase first-year retention, decrease time to completion and increase the percentage of students who persist to graduate within four years.

Data indicates that students who arrive at college needing support in English and math lose enthusiasm and confidence, in part 2018_mmu_infographic.jpgbecause they cannot progress quickly enough to graduate in four years. Support programs that are now in place to help selected Mount Mary students have proven so successful that this grant will extend and build on these services throughout the institution.

These evidence-based strategies include reconceiving developmental classes, providing coaching, career development and enhanced advising, said Karen Friedlen, Vice President for Academic and Student Affairs.

“We have seen increases in retention and persistence to graduation upwards of 20 percent or more, and with these funds we plan to improve even more, “ she said. “Because we already know what works, we can build upon these structures to help students in a more robust way.”

Last month, Mount Mary was named one of the three most diverse regional institutions in the Midwest, according to a study by U.S. News and World Report.

With this grant, Mount Mary has procured $8.4 million in federal and national funds in recent years designed to reduce barriers for students and expand inclusionary practices within the institution.

“Our efforts are focused on meeting students where they are,” said Cheryl Bailey, dean of the School of Natural & Health Sciences and Education. “These grants are based upon our understanding of how to successfully educate all students.”

The grant includes provisions for technology upgrades and faculty development. A portion of the funding also goes to the university’s endowment.

“The collective outcome of these grants positions our institution to lead not only Mount Mary, but Milwaukee in providing a holistic model for student success,” said Mount Mary President Christine Pharr. “We expect our diverse graduates, who largely stay in Milwaukee after graduation, to benefit and enrich the community as well.”