Is Your Title III Grant Money Working Hard Enough for Your Institution?
It’s a competition that happens every two years, or when department of education determines there is enough Title III funds. The chance to be awarded a 5-year grant that is estimated between $400,000 and $450,000. The grant is intended to strengthen institutions by supporting them to become more self-sufficient. The money is to be used to expand capacity to serve low-income students and improve and strengthen academic quality, institutional management and fiscal stability. Applications were due mid-April and institutions will learn if they have received the grant in mid-July. There is close to $3.7M estimated available for this year’s highly competitive competition amongst a group of institutions who are all in need.
Once awarded, the competition heats up internally. According to the Title III Grant website, funds awarded can be used for one or more of the following activities:
- Scientific or laboratory equipment
- Improving classrooms and facilities
- Faculty support and development
- Development and improvement of academic programs
- Purchase of library books, periodicals, and other educational materials
- Tutoring, counseling, and student service programs designed to improve academic success
- Strengthening funds and administrative management
- Establishing or improving an endowment fund
- Creating or improving distance learning
I have focused largely on the student service side of the house for many years. Institutions are hungry for Title III funds to support student success and retention. The cost to acquire a student is substantial, but then once enrolled paper-based processes and sub-par systems create inefficiency and confusion. As a result, students may not receive the support they need and they leave the institution as a result.
I have had the fortunate experience of observing many institutions and how they approach utilizing Title III funds. There are a few who really approach this carefully and their approach is pretty similar.
- Establish a 5-year plan
- Identify technology or other solutions that support achieving these institutional objectives
- Implement the technology or other solution successfully
- Execute and manage like you have managed nothing before
- Measure and document outcomes
Establish a 5-year Plan
Your team has applied and now after sweating it out waiting for results, your institution has received Title III funding. What happens now? All departments want a piece of the pie. I have seen some strong roadmap with detailed, measurable outcomes after 5 years. While you may come across progressive technology, if it is not aligned with your institution’s goals and objectives it is likely a poor investment. It is also a good idea to involve as many as you can in the process while balancing progress through multiple opinions. When implementation meets execution your funds will start working for you.
Identify Solutions that Support Achieving these Institutional Objectives
This is a critical process. There are so many solutions out there and they each have their unique approach and set of features. I have noticed a strong inclination to select solutions from current technology on campus, such as the existing Student Information System. Michael Mathews, CIO and AVP for Technology and Innovation at Oral Roberts University, wrote an article in May 2017 titled “The Student Information System Dilemma.” He talks about the SIS industry and the confusion being created. He states, “As CIO’s, we are called to get into the digital era and lead revenue-generation efforts on campuses.” Take this opportunity of awarded grant funding and explore what is out there. These are big decisions and require a methodical approach to ensure the right solution is selected.
Once you have invested in the latest technology that is aligned with your 5-year plan, it is time to start the process of full integration. This typically requires a culture change and certainly involves a new workflow. Involve as many as possible. Generate a level of enthusiasm about the new technology and set clear expectations for utilization.
Execute and Manage (like you have managed nothing before)
Change takes time and a good solution will provide the support and expertise to optimize usage. It is important to realize that this takes a tremendous amount of work. That being said, we should work really hard for our students. As an example, it is not easy to move the needle on graduation rates. There are some fantastic solutions out there that will provide the necessary increases. The hard work that faculty and student support staff put into full utilization will lead to more students with a degree or certificate in hand. We are in the business of changing lives.
Measure and Document Outcomes
There are published expectations for program-wide performance measures. They center on year over year retention rates and graduation rates. More important, the new solution being implemented should provide support in creating a baseline and measuring progress over time. Adjustments should be made when falling short of expectations. Publish your results as soon as possible so that faculty and staff can directly see the fruits of their effort.
You know your Title III funds are working hard enough for your institution when investments have been made in solutions that allow faculty and student support staff to enhance how they educate and support students. These solutions result in measurable outcomes, namely increased retention and graduation rates. Student outcomes are certainly the primary focus, but it is also important to consider the residual impact. Such as, the ability to attract and retain top talent and energizing faculty and staff by providing innovation and technology.
Institutions that entered the Title III Grant competition are eagerly awaiting word. The maximum award is $450,000. This can go quickly. With a methodical approach to selecting new solutions and technology, it is possible to impact several areas within the university. If you are a fortunate winner, there is some pretty innovative technology out there just waiting to make a splash at your institution.
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