By Tatyanna Carman
Rider Student Support Services (SSS) and TRiO Programs received a five-year, $1.6 million grant from the United States Department of Education.
SSS will be receiving $348,002 each year within the five-years, according to Director of TRiO Programs Queen Jones.
According to Jones, this is the first time SSS has been awarded the grant at the amount that they asked for. The U.S. Department of Education gave SSS an additional amount of money, a 3.5% increase of what it had already asked for, but due to the pandemic, most of their students are home, which creates a challenge for the department.
“My goal this year in working with my staff is to figure out how we can make sure these dollars are servicing the students more effectively,” Jones said.
She also said that the process of creating the proposal for the grant was taxing because of the strict guidelines that had to be followed.
“The last competition we had some of our neighbors who lost their grant because they either put a decimal point in the wrong place when they were doing their budget or they did not double-space the materials that are inside of a text box,” Jones explained. “You know you try to be creative and make them look nice as well as read nicely. We’re very, very careful to make sure that we have included everything that should be there.”
Jones also said that research is done to compare data between Rider, neighboring institutions and national data. She explained that she always finds a little bit of a challenge in getting the data from Rider so she learned to give data to particular departments early. It takes her and her staff about 30 to 60 days to put the proposal together with all of the national, regional and Rider’s research data.
Vice President for Student Affairs Leanna Fenneberg said that the TRiO programs, and the Student Support Services grant, specifically “provides vital support for students from disadvantaged backgrounds – including students who are first in their family to go to college, face socioeconomic challenges, students with disabilities – leveling the playing field to assure students can maximize their potential and pursue their dreams.”
Research Coordinator of the Ronald E. McNair Program Kimyata Valere said that she knows “firsthand that TRiO positively impacts the lives of students by providing resources, services and mentoring they may not otherwise receive.”
“Without the support of both TRiO programs (SSS and Ronald E. McNair), I would not have been able to successfully enroll and complete a doctoral program directly after receiving my bachelor’s degree,” Valere said.
Fenneberg shared that she is also a first-generation college student and relates to the challenges facing students with “similar backgrounds as they enter a 4-year private university setting.”
She said that this grant allows SSS to continue its work to engage, educate and support students who have faced some disadvantages to assure their success at Rider, which aligns with Rider’s Inclusive Excellence Plan.
Fenneberg said that she was “entirely grateful” that the Rider SSS and TRiO Programs was awarded a 5-year Student Support Services grant extension.
“With the challenges facing our world and national economy, higher educational institutions were worried about [the] potential loss of funding for vital programs that promote access and student success for students in need,” she said.
Senior criminal justice major Nia Burns uses the services and said that SSS and TRiO Programs are also great for “guiding students down the right path” and helping with any struggles that they may come across while at Rider.
“These programs genuinely care about their students and seeing them graduate after their four years at Rider University,” Burns said.
Burns also said that the impact of SSS and TRiO Programs being awarded this grant is that there can be “more services offered to many students who may need help but [do] not feel comfortable just talking to anybody.”
Jones expressed how she and other staff members worried about how long they waited for feedback regarding the grant and whether or not they had a job. According to Jones, the grant covers the salaries of all of the staff members in the programs including herself. She said SSS usually waits six to eight months to hear back about the grant, but this time they waited up until two weeks before the grant expired.
“And so there is a little bit of a risk factor involved with it, but we have been, so I was going to use the word lucky but I really think it’s blessed, to be honest with you,” she said. “Every grant that I’ve written at this university, we’ve gotten. And so I am very, very happy about that.”