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Education Department announces college completion fund competition

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News from the U.S. Department of Education

WASHINGTON, D.C. — The U.S. Department of Education (Department) announced the availability of $5 million in funds to support a new College Completion Fund for Postsecondary Student Success. The funding will support grants to Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs), Tribal Colleges and Universities (TCUs), and Minority-Serving Institutions (MSIs) such as Hispanic-Serving Institutions (HSIs) – many of which are community colleges – to invest in data-driven and evidence-based reforms that encourage postsecondary retention, transfer, and completion. Institutions are specifically invited to focus on supporting existing students who are close to graduation and reengaging students who withdrew from school temporarily during the pandemic.  

The availability of the funds will be announced by Education Secretary Miguel Cardona today, during the Raise the B.A.R.: Bold + Action + Results in College Excellence & Equity Summit. The one-day summit is being held at the Department with higher education leaders from colleges, systems, and organizations across the country. This is the Department’s latest action delivering on the Secretary’s priority of making higher education more inclusive and affordable. 

Leadership from Salish Kootenai College participated in the summit and shared its institution’s perspective on reimagining higher education. In total, more than 40 colleges and universities were represented at the event. A livestream of Secretary Cardona’s remarks and moderated conversation will be available online. 

“For far too long, our higher education system has left our nation’s most accessible, inclusive colleges without adequate resources to support student success, while many institutions chase rankings that reward privilege and selectivity over equity and upward mobility,” said U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona. “Reimagining higher education means rejecting a status quo in which so many students earn some college credits but no degree, leaving them with student debt they cannot afford and less access to good-paying jobs. (This) summit demonstrates the Biden-Harris Administration’s belief that investments in college completion can level up our entire higher education system and help more students from communities of color and other low-income and underserved communities make it to commencement day.”  

Invited guests will discuss opportunities to uplift inclusivity, equity, and excellence - rather than exclusivity and privilege - in our higher education system and share their experiences in reforming higher education to promote stronger outcomes, particularly for their students of color and low-income students. The summit will also serve as a launching pad for the Biden-Harris Administration’s renewed commitment to postsecondary student success, with remarks from White House and Department leadership. 

Additionally, the Department is announcing today that it plans to extend its Project Success initiative, currently set to expire next month, for an additional three-year period. Through Project Success, more than 200 HBCUs, TCUs, and MSIs, including HSIs, receive access to resources and support services to help improve their students’ outcomes. The extension announced today will enable the Department to continue the initiative and increase its focus on evidence-based strategies, including through capacity-building networks focused in improving student success. 

Institutions seeking funding under the College Completion Fund for Postsecondary Student Success have 60 days to submit their applications. Applicants should describe the work that their institutions are doing to promote retention and completion, propose activities and initiatives to be implemented through the program that meet at least the Department’s definition of promising evidence, and present a high-quality evaluation plan. Grantees will be eligible for up to $1 million in grant funds to support their proposals. All institutions eligible for Titles III and V, including HBCUs, TCUs, and MSIs, including HSIs, are eligible to apply. The Department has also established an invitational priority for community colleges where enrollment declines during the national emergency have been most severe and additional funds can help to support efforts to reengage students and get their educational pathways back on track. 

The funds provided through the College Completion Fund for Postsecondary Student Success are the latest action in the Department’s continued commitment to ensuring student success, particularly for students of color and low-income students. The Department has continued to improve upon and provide high-quality information about student outcomes through the College Scorecard, improving student choice about higher education.  

Additionally, the Department continues to lift-up inclusive institutions and has proposed billions of dollars in new funding for HBCUs, TCUs, MSIs, and community colleges. The Department is also working to promote innovation at colleges and universities across the country, including by requesting $110 million from Congress for the upcoming fiscal year to support additional retention and completion grants.

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