NVU-Johnson Receives Federal Grant for Retention Initiatives

Northern Vermont University-Johnson has received a five-year grant from the U.S. Department of Education to boost student retention, broadening campus initiatives implemented in previous years that improved retention of first-year students.

The $1.8 million Title III Strengthening Institutions grant, which began Oct. 1, will support measures to enhance student success through retention and graduation. The grant will enable NVU-Johnson to bolster academic and career advising, increase opportunities for undergraduate research and internships, and modify large, introductory courses that most first- and second-year students take in various disciplines. The grant creates integrated academic support for students and continues NVU-Johnson’s strong first-year experience with support for years 2-4.

In a joint statement from Vermont’s congressional delegation, Senator Patrick Leahy (D), Senator Bernie Sanders (I) and Representative Peter Welch (D) said: “At a time when a college degree is more important than ever in terms of securing a decent-paying job in the competitive global economy, we must do everything possible not just to help young Vermonters enroll in college, but also to stay enrolled and graduate. For low-income and first-generation college students, this can be a real challenge. These new federal funds will give these students the support they need to reach their potential and find rewarding careers. It’s a great investment in our youth, Northern Vermont University and the future of our state.”

Retention of college students is a national challenge. Attrition is greatest during the first year, but the departure of students, including new transfer students, at all levels is an issue. “We want to address the attrition of all of these students through a variety of retention measures,” says NVU President Elaine Collins.

“NVU works hard on attrition and retention issues. We’ve made great strides, but we know, as with so many colleges, there is even more work to be done. This grant will make it possible to do that important and critical retention work,” Collins says.

“This grant supports work we’ve identified in the recently adopted NVU Strategic Plan,” notes NVU Provost Nolan Atkins. “Dramatic improvements in retention are goals in two of the four strategic pillars, Vibrant, Thriving Campuses and a Transformative Student Experience.”

With a previous Title III grant, in effect from 2004 to 2009, staff and faculty at Johnson State College (now Northern Vermont University-Johnson), put several initiatives in place that increased retention of first-year students.

“We know from the literature that you can’t stop focusing on the retention of first-year students,” says Daniel Regan, NVU-Johnson accreditation liaison and former dean of academic affairs, who conceptualized the Title III grant proposal. “What we’ve realized from experience is that to stop at the first year is to fall considerably short of addressing the various challenges our students face after their first year.”

The new grant will help address attrition among upper-level students, Regan says, while also enabling “increased efforts to help beginning students get off to a good start in their college careers and beyond.”