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September 11, 2008 :: State Regents Receive Federal Grant to Increase Students in Higher Education

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The Oklahoma State Regents for Higher Education recently received more than $915,000 from the U.S. Department of Education to expand and enhance current initiatives aimed at increasing the number of students who are enrolled and retained and complete degrees in higher education.

The College Access Challenge Grant Program (CACGP) is designed to foster partnerships among federal, state, and local government entities and philanthropic organizations through matching challenge grants aimed at meeting the needs of students and families from underrepresented populations.

“The College Access Challenge Grant Program gives us the opportunity to further assist under-represented students in Oklahoma,” said Chancellor Glen D. Johnson. “These funds will be vital in improving access and affordability, and providing important services that benefit more Oklahoma students around the state, especially those most in need.”

Through the CACGP, the State Regents will award up to 620 scholarships to increase the number of students who are near completion of a college degree and have demonstrated a need for financial aid. Many of these students have had to interrupt or postpone their college education due to financial and family obligations.

The State Regents’ efforts will also aim to increase the college-going rate of high school students through use of OKcollegestart.org, the student information portal. With the CACGP funds, a coordinator will be hired to provide professional development for all middle and high school counselors to use this college planning tool.

In addition, the State Regents will develop a campus tool kit designed to encourage students participating in cooperative alliances to pursue college degrees. Cooperative alliances with technology centers reach students throughout Oklahoma who would not typically consider going to college.

Furthermore, the State Regents will improve the college preparation of students from underrepresented populations by increasing parents’ and high school counselors’ awareness of the Educational Planning and Assessment System (EPAS) and OKcollegestart.org as tools to prepare for college. Direct mailings to parents and professional development for new counselors and experienced counselors in high poverty school districts will be funded.

Finally, CACGP funds will be used to improve success of students attending college. As part of the national initiative Achieving the Dream: Community Colleges Count, Oklahoma City Community College, Rose State College and Tulsa Community College will be implementing pilot plans developed to improve retention of underrepresented students and close the gap between their success in college and the success of other groups. The funds will be used to hire consultants to address remediation, first-year persistence and financial aid.

The CACGP is a two-year formula grant program that is based on poverty levels and provides grants to states to meet the needs of students and families from underrepresented populations. The grant requires a match with non-federal funds and in-kind contributions.