UMass Amherst Receives $207,000 State Grant to Assist Low-Income, First-Generation Students

AMHERST, Mass. - The University of Massachusetts has been awarded $207,377 by the Massachusetts Board of Higher Education to assist disadvantaged students who have been admitted for fall 1999. The monies are being allocated through the board''s highly competitive Ronald E. McNair Reserve grant program.

The funds will be used for the University''s Student Support Transitional (SST) Program, a new initiative designed to increase the enrollment and first-year retention rates of disadvantaged students, according to Joseph Marshall, assistant vice chancellor for enrollment services.

The program targets low-income students, students who represent the first generation of their families to attend college, disabled students, and students from underrepresented populations. "We know that as an institution we need to do a better job of increasing the enrollment of students from underrepresented populations," says Marshall. "We also recognize that we must do better work to support disadvantaged students to ensure their success. This program seeks to address both those needs."

Marshall says the SST program will provide faculty/staff mentors for students as soon as they are admitted; an extended and enhanced orientation program; guaranteed housing and course assignments in a residential learning environment; and a wide variety of learning support services through the first year of study.

"The first year on campus is the most critical for these students," says Marshall. "We know this. That''s why this program will provide a continuum of support, from the point of admission through the first year."

According to Marshall, the University is now identifying 100 students who have been admitted for fall 1999 for participation in the program. Recruitment efforts are focusing on students currently enrolled in the federally supported Talent Search or Upward Bound programs.

Marshall credited Gloria De Guevara, associate dean of enrollment services, for preparing and submitting the McNair grant proposal for the SST program. De Guevara and administrative intern Jannette Mendez will serve as the program''s coordinators.