WEST WINDSOR – The U.S. Department of Education (DOE) has named Mercer County Community College (MCCC) as the recipient of a $2.25 million grant to support a series of initiatives aimed at improving services to students, bolstering student performance, and increasing opportunities for success after graduation.
“This is great news for Mercer County Community College and the students who depend on MCCC to provide a quality, affordable education,” said Congresswoman Bonnie Watson Coleman. “This federal funding will enable Mercer to enhance services to students and to make the dream of a college education more attainable for the thousands of students who attend classes there each year.”
The grant was made available through the highly-competitive federal Title III program, which focuses on “innovative, customized, instruction courses designed to help retain students and move the students rapidly into core courses and through program completion,” according to the DOE website. The five-year grant will allocate $450,000 a year to these efforts at MCCC. Mercer is the only community college in New Jersey to receive a Title III award.
According to MCCC President Dr. Jianping Wang, the grant will assist the college in implementing a series of innovative student service initiatives that began more than a year ago, all with a focus of creating more opportunities for success. These include implementing new technology and personalized hands-on programs to improve direct access to faculty and staff, expanding individual academic advising and coaching, and establishing a defined pathway to achieve education and career goals starting from the first day, she said.
“This is part of a much broader effort by all faculty and staff members across the college to enhance our systems, resources, and technology to achieve student success,” Wang said. “This grant will enhance our ability to implement innovations that will provide service to our students when they need it, how they need it, and where they need it.”
Customized services in the process of implementation, to be supported by the grant, include:
- Investment in new technology, including mobile access, e-advising, and text message reminders to students;
- Guaranteed student class schedules through a new wait-list system for classes ;
- The addition of student success coaches and retention specialists;
- Summer tutoring programs to reduce the number of students needing developmental classes;
- Advanced use of data to better track student progress;
- Dedicated one-on-one advisors to keep students on track to graduate on time and achieve career and/or academic goals;
- Academic and career guidance provided upon admission and throughout the student experience at Mercer.
In addition, the college is establishing innovative partnerships with the business community to provide hands-on learning experiences outside the classroom. Mercer County Executive Brian Hughes noted that the award of this grant will strengthen workforce preparation at MCCC as part of his program to improve the educational credentials of the Mercer County workforce.
“Through the new Mercer County Partnership for Educational Attainment, chaired by President Wang, we intend to increase the percentage of our workforce with a college degree or its equivalent by one percent, or about 2,500 people,” Hughes said. “This important grant will prepare Mercer County Community College to have a leading role in achieving that objective.”
Mark Matzen, chair of the MCCC Board of Trustees, said that when the board hired Wang as MCCC’s new president just over a year ago, it was with the expectation that she would create a culture of service and accountability within the college, focus on serving students, and contribute to their ultimate success. The implementation of these initiatives over the past year demonstrates that Mercer is moving in the right direction, he said.
“Starting with the new, student-focused strategic plan, Dr. Wang has been a strong advocate for a ‘students first’ culture at Mercer County Community College,” Matzen said. “Through these new initiatives and with the support of this Title III grant, I am confident that MCCC will continue to grow as a leader in the Mercer County higher education community.”