Foundation, state's $300,000 to help state college students

Colleges and universities in the state will receive a $300,000 boost in part from a national philanthropic effort aimed at helping adult learners and low-income or racial-minority-group students succeed in first-year English and mathematics courses.

A $150,000 Kresge Foundation grant announced Tuesday and state matching funds of $150,000 are going to help schools take part in what is called the Strong Start to Finish network.

The Strong Start initiative, supported by the Education Commission of the States, in Arkansas will involve redesigning foundational English and math courses through the use of evidence-based practices, according to the announcement.

"The state is set to help many more students, especially those underprepared, through Strong Start. The students will be able to complete gateway English and math courses, and eventually credentials and degrees," Gov. Asa Hutchinson said in a statement.

The matching dollars are being pulled from the state's rainy-day fund and allocated via the Arkansas Economic Development Commission, said Hutchinson spokesman J. R. Davis.

The Kresge grant goes to the state Department of Higher Education in partnership with the nonprofit Arkansas Community Colleges association.

Last year the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Great Lakes Higher Education Corporation & Affiliates (now known as Ascendium Education Group) and the Kresge Foundation partnered to provide initial funding for the Strong Start to Finish effort.

Schools taking part are the 22 members of the nonprofit Arkansas Community Colleges and 10 public universities, including Arkansas State University, Arkansas Tech University, the University of Central Arkansas and the University of Arkansas, Fayetteville.

The state joins four educational or university systems in New York, Georgia and Ohio accepted to participate and receive grants after going through a competitive application process, according to the announcement. A goal of the Arkansas effort is to reach approximately 50,000 students yearly by 2020.

The initiative in Arkansas will receive help from the Charles A. Dana Center at the University of Texas at Austin, which develops strategies for boosting student achievement in science education, and Complete College America, a national nonprofit that works with members to increase the number of students earning degrees or other credentials.

NW News on 11/28/2018

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