TCC Announces Historic Grant to Redesign First Year Experience

TCC leadership gathers for announcement

Tulsa Community College announced the largest federal research grant ever received in the school’s history, which will be used to support first-year college students and improve retention and completion rates.

The U.S. Department of Education announced TCC will receive $3,717,502 through the Postsecondary Student Success Grant program to fund evidence-based strategies resulting in improved outcomes for underserved students. TCC was one of nine institutions receiving these grants and is the only Oklahoma institution to receive one.

“Over four years, TCC will study 500 students who declare a major in Social Sciences, in addition to redesigning the First Year Experience (FYE) course to improve success for underserved and underrepresented students,” said TCC Dean of Libraries and Knowledge Management Paula Settoon. “What makes this grant different from other grants TCC has received is that it is a research grant. We will be expected to publish and share what we learned. More importantly, this initiative will contribute significantly to advancing the mission of TCC, which is ‘Building success through education.’”

The two strategies used to redesign FYE include contextualization of the course for the intended major and embedding “Smart Start” sessions into the course. This will allow students to receive specific information about their program of interest, have an opportunity to meet the program faculty, and learn about the requirements and the academic rigor from someone in the program.

“This grant will allow faculty in the classrooms to have true conversations with students about what kind of job you can get with your degree, and what pathway you should follow to be successful in your chosen career,” said TCC Senior Vice President and Chief Academic Officer Dr. Angela Sivadon. “By offering students information that focuses on their chosen major, students will be more informed about what to expect as they advance in their education and career.”

As Oklahoma’s largest, multi-campus community college, TCC serves approximately 20,000 students in college programs annually. As a large, multi-campus institution serving a population that is 47% students of color, 41% low income (Pell recipients), and 27% first generation to college, TCC is distinctly situated to test the proposed intervention and provide insight for other institutions on improving retention for underserved students.

“This remarkable achievement underscores our commitment to student success and creating an environment where all students can thrive,” said TCC CEO and President Dr. Leigh Goodson. “I extend my deepest gratitude to every partner involved in this transformative endeavor. This is a testament to the unwavering dedication of our entire TCC community.

Support for students in the study will be included in the grant, such as laptops, hotspots, data plans, as well as JobsEQ User Licenses for Academic Advisors and interactive data dashboards. Additionally, the grant covers salaries for personnel including activity managers, Smart Start Orientation Coordinators, career navigators, faculty coordinators, and faculty stipends. 

“Access to laptops and reliable Wi-Fi connections are just some of the tools that students need to do their work. They also need confidence,” said Dr. Lori Coggins, Associate Professor and Coordinator of College Success, who will be leading the redesign of the College Success course as part of this project. “We can help students build confidence in their academic abilities by offering opportunities for them to learn what to expect as they move forward and practice the skills they will need.” 

The Postsecondary Student Success Grant is highly sought after by colleges and universities across the country. The program aims to equitably improve postsecondary student outcomes, which includes retention, transfer, credit accumulation, and completion, by leveraging data and implementing, scaling, and rigorously evaluating evidence-based approaches.