Recently, I had the opportunity to take a small team to visit Cal State Long Beach and Long Beach City College. We were there to meet with faculty and campus leaders who are administering Department-sponsored programs that support student success. I was impressed with their understanding of the student population, the variety of programs they were using to support degree attainment, and their collective commitment to making a difference in the lives of the students they serve.
My favorite part of site visits is the opportunity to meet with students. During this visit, I had the chance to talk with students from a variety of backgrounds, all of whom face serious barriers to obtaining a college degree. Some were veterans struggling to afford college, children of migrant workers, or adults recovering from addiction, while others were technically homeless or battling learning disabilities. All of these students made it clear that the help they received from Department-sponsored programs was giving them the tools, resources, and guidance they needed to obtain a college degree. Setting my federal position aside, as a human being I was moved by their optimism, resilience, persistence, and dedication to obtaining a college education. Each of them made a direct connection between postsecondary education and the ability to fulfill their hopes and dreams.
The Department-funded Higher Education Programs I visited support these students and their successes. The students on these two campuses are among millions who benefit from our initiatives. There are a range of competitive and formula-based programs and student support services across the United States and its territories that are federally funded. Many of these initiatives aim to improve the capacity of colleges and universities to provide essential support to students and aid them in graduating.
In preparation for our 2015 grant competitions, the Department’s Office of Postsecondary Education recently posted an eligibility notice for the Title III and V programs in the Federal Register. Across these grant programs, we’ll target over $400 million to U.S. colleges and universities, resulting in over 1,000 new and continuing grants. That’s a big opportunity for those who seek government assistance to improve, accelerate, evaluate and expand their efforts. These programs include the Strengthening Institutions Program, Predominantly Black Institutions Program, Asian American and Native American Pacific Islander-Serving Institutions Program and many others designed to improve affordability, quality, retention and completion.
We encourage all institutions to review our grant programs and submit an eligibility application by December 18, 2014.
We know these programs make a difference, and we are encouraged by students across the United States and its territories, whose progress reaffirms our work each day.
Dr. James T. Minor is the Deputy Assistant Secretary for Higher Education Programs at the Department of Education.