SUNY Plattsburgh Gets State Funding to Help First-Gen, Pell Grant and Transfer Students
SUNY Plattsburgh received more than $900,000 from the state’s $75 million Transformation Fund, which will be used to increase graduation rates for first-year and transfer students.
The university was one of 19 State University of New York campuses across the state to be awarded funding in part to enhance student support services, support innovation, improve academic programs and increase enrollment.
SUNY Plattsburgh received a total of $900,000 over three years to replicate the successful Accelerate, Complete and Engage program created by City University of New York, a program that removes barriers to full-time study, builds academic momentum and creates a connected community.
According to Karen McGrath, SUNY Plattsburgh vice president for enrollment and student success, the university has a variety of access and opportunity programs housed under the umbrella of Special Programs — which includes Educational Opportunity Program, TRIO Student Support Services, Accessibility Resources Office, and the Cardinal Achievement Program — but what it doesn’t have is something she calls “wrap-around” support for first-generation or PELL Grant recipient students who are not part of one of the other special programs.
“I’m excited to be able to do this for those students who need similar assistance found in Special Programs but aren’t eligible,” McGrath said. “They’ll receive tutoring, coaching and mentoring in addition to getting financial assistance, including textbook and living stipends.”
‘Another Spoke in Accessibility and Opportunity Umbrella’
The ACE program “becomes another spoke in our accessibility and opportunity umbrella, along with EOP, CAP, SSS Trio, Upward Bound and the Career Development Center,” McGrath said. “Accessibility and support leads to success. A big part of this is giving students needed confidence and letting them see what is possible.”
Rooted in mentorship, ACE is “based on human relationships,” McGrath said. “We’re setting expectations and holding them accountable. They need to lean in to us and just as we lean into them. It’s genuine. Students need to feel a sense of genuine care.”
The pilot program begins in spring 2024 with the first 25 student cohort. In the fall of 2024, the program will be able to offer space to the remaining 125-150 students, with a plan to serve a total of 150 students in the three years ACE is funded at SUNY Plattsburgh.
First-generation and Pell Grant Eligible
Students begin by applying to SUNY Plattsburgh. Admissions will determine if the students are first-generation or Pell Grant eligible.
“By providing this program as ‘opt-in’ sets us apart as a value-added piece,” McGrath said. “For spring 2024, we’ll be looking at the current cohort of fall 2023 admitted students and then invite them to participate — with the understanding that we have space for 25.”
McGrath said the process across SUNY “is very prescriptive. We need to do things that can be compared to that of the other SUNY schools participating in the ACE program. We view the students in the spring as the ongoing focus group who will roll into the next three years. They will be helping us as we go forward. We have to study what and how they’re doing. We’ll look at what we learn from these students — what is going well and how do we replicate that for others on campus.”
Seamless Pathway for Transfer Students
The additional $50,000 secured from the Transformation Fund is to be used for transfer students. The Seamless Pathway for Transfer Students aims to improve the process that helps students who begin at a community college but who want to continue on for a four-year degree. SUNY Plattsburgh has partnerships for this with Clinton Community, North Country Community colleges and SUNY Adirondack.
McGrath said that she, Dr. JoAnn Gleeson-Kreig, associate vice president for academic affairs, Troy Joseph, director of undergraduate admissions, and Dr. Brent Carbajal, interim provost and vice president for academic affairs, will meet with the counterparts at those community colleges to talk about dual admissions programs at both.
“There’s the potential for dual acceptance programs so students know, ‘If I complete my associate degree there, I’m automatically enrolled in SUNY Plattsburgh,’” McGrath said. “It’s my sincere hope that SUNY will want to continue, but it’s also about students seeing opportunities to continue to their success.”
McGrath said it also meets the pillars of Plattsburgh Next, the university’s strategic plan, by allowing SUNY Plattsburgh to grow and strengthen relationships and partnerships with community colleges in the North Country and beyond. This leads to stronger enrollment, community engagement, supporting the diverse student population that may enroll and contributing to the economy as graduates return to their regions and communities.
— Photos, Story By Associate Director of Communications Gerianne Downs