Anthony Carbone

Anthony Carbone, assistant professor of engineering, teaches a class in Adirondack Hall on the SUNY Adirondack campus in Queensbury recently. The school was awarded $2.25 million in federal grant money this week that will be used primarily to support first-year students. 

QUEENSBURY — SUNY Adirondack has succeeded in a nationwide application process for a U.S. Department of Education grant worth $2.25 million over the next five years.

The funds are part of the federal Strengthening Institutions Program, which awards money to around 50 schools annually as part of Title III. The program is designed to help schools expand their capacity to serve low-income students and improve academic quality, institutional management and fiscal stability.

College President Kristine Duffy said the school’s application and plan focuses on improving the experience and support services for first-year students at a crucial stage.

“All the research shows that first year is so critical in determining whether a student succeeds or not,” Duffy said. “We believe we’re building on our success in this area, and this grant allows us to continue and focus on one of our most vulnerable populations.”

The grant will be dispersed in $450,000 installments over the next five years, and Duffy said part of the application process was a detailed budget outlining how the funds will be used.

Duffy said the school will focus on assisting more students create a detailed academic plan to keep them on the path to graduation, in addition to intervention services to get to students early who may be struggling.

“We’re looking to hire some staff, specifically for the first-year experience, like success coaches to make sure students have what they need to stay on track,” Duffy said.

SUNY Chancellor Kristina Johnson said in an email the gateway math and writing courses can be especially difficult for some students.

She said the SUNY system has also made an effort to improve the experiences of students through the state-level Achieve program, an initiative to expand evidence-based supports to help students complete gateway courses in their first year.

“It’s an effort to scale proven academic support services across our 30 community colleges,” Johnson said. “We are now bolstering support services in those gateway math and writing courses and helping students create a guided pathway to a clearer, more structured career path earlier in college.”

She said she was pleased to see SUNY Adirondack receiving additional support from the federal level, and she said the state system will continue to seek out funding to expand its ongoing efforts.

In addition to broader services and interventions, Duffy said there are plans to bolster the math department, specifically by scaling up tutoring services and ensuring students have access to as much help as possible.

Applications are mandated to focus on students’ first-year experience, but creating generous support systems and resources for students to help them succeed will help with student retention and graduation rates, according to Duffy.

Duffy said some funds will also be used to automate parts of the school’s business processes and add information technology personnel, so existing staff is freed up to focus on work with students.

The grant cannot be continued directly after the five-year period, but the school is eligible to apply again and Duffy said generally a school’s chances are better the second time around.

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Samuel Northrop is the education reporter for The Post-Star. He can be reached at snorthrop@poststar.com.


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