Five-year federal grants support student retention efforts at local institutions
Congressman Brian Higgins announced three federal grants totaling $1,325,290 awarded to Daemen University, Villa Maria College and SUNY Erie Community College for fiscal year 2023, with additional funding anticipated over the next five years.
Funded by the U.S. Department of Education and awarded through the Strengthening Institutions Program, the five-year grants to each institution are aimed at supporting low-income students and improving both retention and graduation rates. The schools are expected to receive more than $6.6 million combined over the next five years.
“Higher education provides a critical foundation for a stronger future, but many low-income and first-generation students face challenges that prevent them from completing their degree,” Higgins said. “Funding from the U.S. Department of Education is a critical investment in Western New York’s students, providing a bridge to help them reach their educational goals.”
The Strengthening Institutions Program provides grants to eligible institutions of higher education to help expand their capacity to serve and support low-income students and those at risk of not graduating. Funding is intended to improve and strengthen innovative instruction and resources that further students’ academic success.
Daemen University will receive $447,191 in federal funding from the program in fiscal year 2023. The grant will be used to improve retention and graduation rates among underserved students, which will support increased tuition revenue and fiscal stability. Daemen serves 1,700 undergraduate and 800 graduate students with 20% underrepresented minorities, 23% first-generation, and 44% low-income students.
"Receiving this highly competitive grant is a major accomplishment for the university," Daemen President Gary A. Olson said. "The funding will allow us to strengthen the resources and support we provide to students in order to ensure their academic success all the way through graduation."
Under the program, Villa Maria College will receive $449,229 this year. The college intends to use federal funding provided by the program to increase retention of first-time, full-time students and improve their persistence to graduation. The majority of their student population includes first-time students, many of which are first-generation scholars. In 2022 the total enrollment was 465 students.
SUNY Erie Community College will receive $428,870 in federal funding in this initial year. The grant will support the college’s “Improving Student’s Ability to Start Here and Go Anywhere” program, which intends to increase participation in new student orientation, completion of gatekeeper English and math courses, and retention of first-time, full-time degree-seeking students.
ECC serves a broad population base with minority students comprising 21% of the student body. The overall student population includes 8% first-generation, 39% adult learners, 4% single parents, 15% economically disadvantaged, 5% disabled, and 12% English language learners.