August 20, 2010
Knox College's highly successful program to increase the graduation rate of low income and first generation college students is receiving renewed funding amounting to an estimated $1.5 million over the next five years from the United States Department of Education.
The TRIO Achievement Program at Knox has one of the highest graduation and retention rates in the nation, averaging more than 90% for the past four years -- with 96% of participating students this past year either graduated or expected to return in the fall.
College officials recently received notification from U.S. Senator Richard Durbin and U.S. Representative Phil Hare that the Department of Education has awarded Knox's TRIO Achievement Program $312,416 for the 2010-2011 academic year. According the Department of Education, it is anticipated that the grant will be renewed for a total of five years.
Knox's federally funded TRIO program began in 1973-74, making it one of the longest running in the nation.
"Knox's program is so successful that we have a waiting list, which is almost unheard of," said Risa Lopez, TRIO Achievement Program director at Knox College.
"Knox provides the opportunities and services that help students succeed -- four-year academic planning; information on financial literacy, careers and graduate schools; connecting with faculty outside the classroom; even help with family issues if they come up -- we never want to leave a student without options," Lopez said.
The grant will support four and a half staff positions at Knox, including director, assistant director, writing coordinator, academic counselor, and program assistant. "Students in our program have an average of seven contacts in a ten-week term," Lopez says. That means they're having contact with support services on nearly a weekly basis."
Services are designed for each student's needs, Lopez says. "Everything is individualized, based on the student's individual goals."
Several other programs at Knox are aimed at increasing graduation and retention rates, including the Ronald E. McNair Post-Baccalaureate Achievement Program, the George Washington Gale Scholars Program, and the Center for Teaching and Learning.
The federally-funded McNair Program helps low income, first generation and minority students prepare for careers in higher education. Since Knox's first McNair Program grant in 1996, 100% of participants have graduated, and 25% have earned Ph.Ds.
The George Washington Gale Scholars Program is a locally-funded initiative of Knox, Carl Sandburg College and Galesburg School District 205 to help low-income, first-generation students in Galesburg get a college education. Gale Scholars receive additional support as well as qualify for TRIO services.
In addition, Knox supports with its own funds a large peer-tutoring program open to all students through its Center for Teaching and Learning. The center has two full-time and one part-time professional staff and 80 certified student tutors.
Founded in 1837, Knox is a national liberal arts college in Galesburg, Illinois, with students from 45 states and 48 countries. Knox's "Old Main" is a National Historic Landmark and the only building remaining from the 1858 Lincoln-Douglas debates.