College Sparks Grant

Grant will help students transition into college-level classes

A nearly $100,000 College Spark grant to Wenatchee Valley College (WVC) will help adult basic education and developmental education students prepare for college-level classes and complete their degrees.

The new Adult Learning Expansion for Retention and Transition (ALERT) project will incorporate an early detection system for struggling students. The $98,505 grant will be given over two years.

The grant from College Spark will be enhanced through donations and services from community sponsors. State Farm Insurance is contributing $10,000 in tuition costs for the program and is providing five community volunteers to mentor transition students next year.

Last year, WVC and SkillSource worked together on a small pilot project to increase the successful transition of low-income, adult basic skills students to college-level courses through the Keys to College Success class. The pilot combined a three-credit, student development skills class with a two credit ABE class. Topics included college-readiness instruction, remedial help, career goal-setting and educational planning.

"Sixty-eight percent of the students in the pilot program went on to take at least one college-level class," said Larry Ruddell, director of WVC Adult Basic Skills. "This compares to fewer than 10 percent of adult basic skills students who did not participate in the pilot.

"This grant will allow us to expand the scope of the program and provide additional support as the students progress through their academic programs."

The two-year ALERT grant will enhance the pilot project by adding a mentoring component and developing a support network with additional community connections. Progress will be tracked as students move through their academic programs, and interventions will be in place to help students before they drop out or fail.

In the second year of the grant, a distance-learning version of the program will be developed for students in remote locations.

College Spark funds program in Washington state that help low-income students become college-ready and complete their degrees. Its grantees include community organizations, technical and community colleges, four-year colleges and universities, other educational institutions, and public agencies.