Students from rural communities who may have thought the road to a bachelor’s degree was inaccessible to them now will have a clear pathway to Heidelberg University.
With a goal of enrolling even higher numbers of rural students via the pathway, Heidelberg has received a $1.2 million Rural Post-Secondary and Economic Development (RPED) grant to be even more intentional in developing strategies for more rural high school students to transition from high school to community college to HU, and successfully graduate.
The grant will provide greater access to College Credit Plus (CCP) courses for rural students, followed by admission to a community college and ultimately, matriculation to Heidelberg to complete their four-year degree.
The U.S. Department of Education grant, through the Fund for the Improvement of Postsecondary Education, has a number of additional expected outcomes, including one very important one: a pathway to quality jobs.
"Thirty-one percent of Heidelberg students come from rural areas, so this grant is a fantastic opportunity for us to provide even more resources and support for this significant population of students. The funding helps us better serve students from rural communities so that they can accomplish their goals and lead a life of purpose with distinction," said Dr. Courtney DeMayo Pugno, Assistant Vice President for Academic Affairs, Executive Director of the Owen Center for Teaching and Learning and a co-author of the grant.
CCP > community college > Heidelberg
Through the grant funding, Heidelberg is addressing a number of current issues for rural students, such as the disproportionately low number of available College Credit Plus courses that prohibit them from gaining college credits at a reduced cost while in high school. The university has developed strategies to enroll, retain and graduate more rural students by aligning the pathways to high-skill, high-wage and in-demand jobs in the region.
“The partnerships we are developing with community colleges should assist in developing CCP courses and in providing clear pathways for students to get a bachelor’s degree from Heidelberg in a timely and cost-effective way,” said Dr. Tony Bourne, vice president of Enrollment Management and Marketing and a co-author of the grant.
Heidelberg already has a number of support resources in place to help ensure the success of all first-year students. The RPED grant will allow the university to take the next steps to enhance those processes and expand them specifically to target rural students.
Three key initiatives
Heidelberg will use the grant funding for three key initiatives:
• Revise the HYPE Career Ready® program to connect more effectively with the academic curriculum
• Expand advising services in the Owen Center for Teaching and Learning to provide stronger support for rural students
• Develop transfer pathways and transfer student supports, leading to clear degree and career employment outcomes through CCP to community college to HU and beyond
According to Tony, Heidelberg will target the development of CCP and transfer pathways “for academic areas that prepare students for in-demand jobs, by focusing on the majors of psychology, English, biology, business, computer science, nursing and health science.”
Ultimately, Heidelberg is working toward improved outcomes in first-year to second-year retention; the four-year graduation rate; preferred placement for graduates in one year; CCP matriculation to partner community colleges and schools; and transfer of those students to and successful graduation from Heidelberg.
“Over time, improvements to academic advising, recruitment of transfer students and revisions to the HYPE Career Ready® program will improve retention rates for first-year and second-year students and increase the number of transfer students who enroll at Heidelberg and complete their degrees here,” Tony said.
Courtney added, “This RPED grant will be a game changer for many rural students. Kids who previously didn’t have access to college courses will now have access, and students who thought they couldn’t afford higher education will now be able to complete a four-year degree in an efficient, cost-effective, and career-focused way.”
Also co-authoring the grant were Jordan Kaufman, director of Academic Assessment and Institutional Effectiveness and Beth Koop, executive director of HYPE Career Ready® and Placement.