SRJC gets $2.65 million to develop Hispanic programs

Claudia Aceves, Staff Writer

Santa Rosa Junior College is one of 11 higher learning institutions in California to receive a $2.65 million Title V grant by the U.S. Department of Education (DOE).

The 55-page grant application started last fall and was submitted in May. Three deans wrote it: Catherine Prince of instruction and strategic program development, Kris Abrahamson of liberal arts and sciences and Victor Cummings of language arts and academic foundations.

During the writing process, the grant became known as Meta4, as meta translates to “goal” in English, and there are four main goals. The six-year limit for a student to receive financial aid made especially clear the importance of helping students transfer more quickly.

“One of the things we noticed among the Latino students was that there was a higher percentage of them not finishing in three years, but finishing in six years, so one of the goals is to lower the six-year completion rate and get students in and out quicker and efficiently,” Prince said.

Meta4 is designed to increase academic opportunity for and attainment by Hispanic and low-income students, increase enrollment of English-learning students, provide access to new technology that will serve as an electronic counselor and assist in the beginnings of Mi Casa, a multicultural center yet to be planned.

DOE representatives told SRJC officials that the first year applying for the grant is usually considered a planning year and they wouldn’t actually get funding. It came as a surprise when they were told in August that SRJC was granted the maximum amount applicable, which Prince said is rare.

Of the $2.65 million, the grant is allocated at $525,000 for five years each, the length of time the grant is expected to last. However, SRJC is required to submit a report to DOE at the end of each year to prove that the grant has achieved specific goals to receive the amount for the following year.

The Developing Hispanic-Serving Institutions Program (HSI) made the grant available to SRJC due to its Hispanic population in hopes of expanding educational opportunities for Latino and low-income students.

Eligibility for HSI funding requires enrollment of undergraduate full-time students at a higher learning institution be at least 25 percent Hispanic and 30 percent low-income students two years prior to application process.

Although SRJC consisted of 24.8 percent Hispanics in the 2011-2012 year, the number grew the following year to 27 percent, while 36 percent of SRJC students were receiving financial aid; thus Prince proved that the number of Hispanic and low-income students continues to rise.

“Every single student in the district will benefit from some part of the grant because we have four different goals and everybody will be touched by at least one of those,” Prince said.

The funding will not serve students specifically, like scholarship money does, but will support the changes necessary for an institution to better support student academic programs.

DOE granted 11 other schools HSI funding; only SRJC and San Diego Mesa College received the maximum amount of $525,000 per year.

“We eagerly welcome the grant and what we will be able to achieve with the additional resources to serve the unique needs of the Latino community in Sonoma County and the North Bay,” SRJC President Dr. Frank Chong said in a press release.