$484,130 in Grants Will Help Students Complete Spring Semester Online, Persist to Graduation

April 20, 2020
By: Maureen Stokes

Grants totaling almost half a million dollars by Strategic Grant Partners (SGP) will be used to help Worcester State students complete the spring semester remotely and persist to graduation. SGP is a venture philanthropy firm that provides both multi-year grants to promising non-profits and pro bono strategic consulting support to support their strategic initiatives and goals.

The Worcester State Foundation and its administration had been working with SGP since last year on various initiatives, including launching a new student texting system, when suddenly things shifted.

“In February, we were very pleased to learn that our initial request had been granted. Then, in late-March, with all that was going on, we were thrilled to learn of additional funding from SGP to help support students completing the spring semester,” says Ryan Forsythe, vice president for enrollment management.

As many universities and colleges across the nation shifted their 2020 spring semesters online, SGP stepped up with an additional grant of support, bringing the total amount awarded to $484,130.

“Our first priority is seniors to ensure they have what they need to graduate, followed by any student who needs support to complete spring semester remotely. We’re removing barriers to ensure success, which has been everything up to students needing a laptop,” Forsythe says.

Approximately $154,000 has been designated for student laptops; $126,000 will support student needs to ensure they complete their spring semester; and $112,000 will support students completing this coming fall semester. Approximately $91,000 will be used to launch a student texting system in the fall, aimed at persistence and retention of current students.

“Students sometimes miss important deadlines that are traditionally delivered by email. With almost every student having a mobile device on their person, text reminders and/or interacting with departments seemed appropriate,” Forsythe says. The technology, which is a texting system and chatbot enhanced by artificial intelligence, will send text reminders to students of appointments, meetings and deadlines, and allow students to engage with departments for commonly asked questions via text.

“Research has shown, and we’ve noticed, that students, especially first-generation students, will stop-out of college due to something as simple as a missed deadline. This technology will help us bridge the gap and hopefully increase our persistence rates,” Forsythe says.

The grant, which was proposed to help WSU students persist to graduation, will provide support for students enrolled in the spring semester.

“We’re here ‘virtually’ to help students anyway that we can,” says Forsythe.

The Worcester State Foundation is committed to leveraging this generous investment in the coming months with additional grants and donations.  The Foundation recently launched a crowdfunding campaign for WSU’s Student Emergency Fund, and is almost half way to reaching a $50,000 goal.  To make a donation please visit:   https://alumni.worcester.edu/se.

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