WILLISTON Williston State College has received a sizable U.S. Department of Education grant that will help students stay in college and plan for their careers.
The Strengthening Institutions Program grant runs from Oct. 1 to Sept. 30. Just 14 colleges in the country were awarded the grants out of more than 200 which applied.
Wanda Meyer, Williston State College provost and vice president for instruction and student services, said the college had less than a month to put the grant application together in April. The college applied with the encouragement of college president Ray Nadolny and with the help of an external grant writer.
The grant commonly known as Title III funding among educators helps colleges with a population that shows financial need or where there are large gaps in services that can help students become successful. Meyer said the two-year college is weaker on support staff and services than many other colleges in the country.
"This will mean a lot for Williston State College and for our students," said Tara Irgens, who will serve as part-time project director. Irges said the grant is worth $399,900 for each of the five years of the grant.
Irgens said the college will use the grant to fund several positions, including the project director, a full-time career pathways adviser, an academic counselor, a curriculum designer and a research assistant. Meyer said not all of the positions will necessarily be full time. They will look for the right combination of personnel to fill those positions. Eventually, as the college grows, they might all become full-time positions.
Irgens said the funding can also be used to provide access to a 24-hour tutoring service called Smart Thinking. Students will be able to access it either online or on campus.
Irgens said the funding might also help pay for additional computer facilities and a nice printer. Currently students in the dorm don't have computer access, she said.
Meyer said part of the funds will also go to the college's Academic Success Center, which helps students better understand their educational goals and look at their career path and to be able to fit the two together. Meyer said the funds will also help provide a nice study area for students.
"This grant gives us an opportunity to make a significant difference for our students," said Meyer in a press release. "It will really help with making sure that all aspects of the students' educational process are complete."
Meyer sees this grant as an opportunity to help students with more than mere classwork. Though there are people at the college already who advise students or offer them career counseling, they don't necessarily work in just that area. The grant will provide funds for staff who specialize in helping students plan for academic success and future careers.
"We are here to not just offer classes, but to teach them how to function in the world," said Meyer. "This grant will help us to fill in the gaps and be able to send our students out into the world well prepared and with the tools they will need to be successful. This will allow us to help them become better individuals in society and more successful with their chosen path in life. And that's what is really exciting about this grant."