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College officials hope program will improve retention, graduation rates for low-income students

Clackamas Community College is getting $2.2 million from the U.S. Department of Education over the next five years to improve student retention and graduation rates.

With funding going to CCC starting this month, the Strengthening Institutions Grant helps colleges expand their ability to serve low-income students "by providing funds to improve and strengthen the institution's academic quality, institutional management and fiscal stability," according to federal officials.

CCC plans to use the funding to help implement its "guided pathways" strategy to get students on a path, help them stay on the path and complete the path.

College officials hope the program will allow CCC to improve retention from 54.5% to 65% and graduation from 20% to 29% for first-time, full-time degree-seeking students.

"This grant will enhance how students navigate the college system from their first term of college all the way through graduation," said CCC President Tim Cook. "We know firsthand that students who receive support navigating college early on are more likely to be successful."

Using grant funding, the college will hire "navigators" to assist students from the time they express interest in CCC through the end of their first term. A peer-assistant program will be revitalized to support services to first-term students.

Weekly workshops will help students learn about and navigate CCC. The college also will scale up its First-Year Experience (FYE) course where students learn how to take notes, plan their education, reach their career goals, discover college resources, create financial plans and build relationships.

As part of the grant, the college intends to hire a project director, a lead navigator, two navigators, a peer assistant coordinator (part-time), a career services coach (part-time) and provide release time for faculty planning to teach FYE courses.

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