Grant program supports local Crowder students

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Students at Crowder College Cassville Campus are benefitting from a federal grant program aimed at providing services for individuals from disadvantaged backgrounds.

This fall, the local campus begins its third year of the TRIO Student Support Services (SSS) grant, which intially provided $220,000 in annual funding for the program, which is aimed at increasing college retention and graduation rates for its participants.

The grant, which is in place through September 2015, currently serves 15 students at Crowder's Cassville site. Students who receive the federal Pell grant are eligible for additional assistance through SSS. Approximately, 70 percent of all students enrolled at the Crowder College Cassville Campus, 140 in all, were eligible for Pell grants during the spring 2013 semester.

"Keeping students in school and helping them work their way toward graduation is the main focus of our program," said Cheyenne Ward, director of student support services at Crowder College in Cassville. "We understand that providing SSS grant aid may not completely eliminate the students' unmet need or loans, but it will hopefully reduce it."

In addition to the Pell grant eligibility requirement, students applying for SSS grant aid must also write an essay, complete a financial literacy requirement and participate in program activities.

"The eligible applicants are only competing with the other students in the program, rather than with every student who attends at Cassville," explained Ward.

Over the last two years, the SSS program's budget has been cut by 3.1 percent with local students still receiving over $56,000 in aid. For the 2013-14 school year, both the federal Pell grant and SSS grant programs will increase slightly. The maximum Pell award for the new school year will be $5,645 and the minimum SSS grant aid amount per student will be $605.

The SSS program is currently adminstered by Ben Lesue and Jerri Hudson, who serve as SSS academic coordinators, and local Crowder students attest to the benefits of the extra student aid.

"It relieved the stress of finances, so I could focus on my studies," said student Brandon Kerr.

Kandace Norman, another local Crowder student, agrees.

"It's helped me a lot," said Norman. "I'm going to use it to pay for college algebra this summer."

"It (the grant aid) means the world to me and has made a big difference in my life," added student Tracy Pride. "It helped me with gas and transportation so I can get to school easier and take the classes I need."

In addition to financial aid, the SSS program provides students with other benefits, including informative workshops and campus visits to four-year universities in the area.

Students also get to experience different cultural activities as part of the program. This past year, students visited Crystal Bridges Museum in Bentonville, Ark., and Wilson's Creek National Battlefield in Springfield.

The average grade point average of SSS participants who graduated from Crowder College Cassville Campus during the 2012-13 academic year was 3.67, which is significantly higher than the average GPA of 3.37.

SSS students who graduated this year included Logan Albers, Megan Aldridge, Katherine Campbell, Cale Cendroski, Paula Hirsch, Jillian Hoover, Jessica Maloney, Angela Rawlings, Nicole Rodosta and Hilari Stockton.

"The staff of Student Support Services congratulates all of this year's grant aid recipients and graduates and wishes them well in the future," said Ward.

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