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Kutztown University library on the first day of classes for fall 2023

Kutztown University was awarded a $2.2 million grant from the Department of Education, enabling the institution to expand experiential learning, data-based decision-making and faculty development programs.

Kutztown University 

A new Title III grant from the U.S. Department of Education will help Kutztown University in Pennsylvania close equity gaps between student groups by funding high-impact experiences, faculty development, personnel and data visibility.

The university announced the $2.2 million grant on Oct. 5, and the funding will run for five years. “I’m excited that this is going to provide us with an opportunity to give opportunities to students who either haven’t been able to take advantage of them or haven’t even thought that might be something for them,” explains Lorin Basden Arnold, provost and vice president of academic affairs.

What’s the need: In applying for this round of Title III grants, Kutztown officials “focused on where we saw gaps in student achievement or in student success and what we might be able to do to reduce those gaps,” Basden Arnold explains.

Grant at a Glance:
Where the Funds Will Go

  • Experiential learning, including microinternships, study away and research opportunities
  • A new student success and academic recovery case manager
  • Online tutoring
  • Expanded integration of Starfish data platform
  • Faculty development on leading experiential learning, first-year seminars and working with neurodiverse students
  • Relocation of the Career Development Center into the Rohrbach Library
  • Incorporating tutoring into first-year seminars

The university’s current student population is 27 percent first generation, 31 percent Pell eligible and 28 percent underrepresented minority students. Kutztown has approximately 6,500 undergrads, according to 2022–23 data.

University officials hope this funding will serve as a launchpad for its student success efforts. “You need that initial push to get it going or to ramp it up a little bit so that then once you can show that it’s working, once you have the data to show this is helping us retain students, then it’s easier to continue funding the program,” Basden Arnold says.

Putting it to work: Grant funding will be applied to developing experiential learning programs, hiring a student success and academic recovery case manager, investing in online tutoring, and expanding integration of EAB’s Starfish data platform. Funds will also support relocating the career center to the library, where other student support offices already reside, creating a student success one-stop shop.

Kutztown offers study abroad and undergraduate research opportunities, but students often encounter barriers to participation because they conflict with their schedules, they need paid work or they’ve never traveled before. The grant funding will provide faculty with development opportunities to create new types of research and study away experiences for students to increase pathways to participation.

“Study after study has shown that [a] feeling of involvement and belonging is a good indicator of college-level success, and by creating more high-impact practices, we can help students feel engaged and connected to the institution,” Basden Arnold says.

Funding will also be allocated to creating microinternships for students over winter break or at the conclusion of the spring semester.

Faculty members can participate in faculty development related to teaching a first-year seminar, covering how to connect with younger students in transition and providing support and guidance. In addition, leaders will make sure faculty are more aware of available resources on campus.

The goals: Through the grant funding, officials hope to boost first-to-second-year retention and five-year graduation rates by at least 5 percent across all undergraduates and subpopulations.

For the 2016 cohort, Kutztown saw a 50 percent graduation rate among Pell-eligible students, six percentage points lower than the population average, according to Kutztown’s Institutional Research department. The fall 2021–to–fall 2022 retention rate for first-year students was 79 percent.

Kutztown officials will hire a project manager and new staff member for student success and academic recovery case management as the first step using the new funds, with plans to finalize its contract with an online tutoring provider soon.

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