For Binghamton University and SUNY Broome students following unique pathways to graduation, grant money is coming, just in time to avoid program shutdowns.
A $215,000 grant was awarded to Broome County Higher Education Access, Retention and Success (BC HEARS), extending the program’s funding, which was scheduled to end in July 2018, until 2020. The grant will ensure students not following traditional paths to graduation continue to receive education assistance.
BC HEARS assists students who never completed their undergraduate education, or those looking to enroll who fall under the category of a nontraditional student, which, according to the National Center for Education Statistics, includes students who have delayed their enrollment, attend college part time, work full time, have dependents other than a spouse or do not have a high school diploma.
Elizabeth Carter, former assistant vice president for student development at BU, current director of BC HEARS and current president of Catholic Schools of Broome County, put in the original proposal for the grant, funding the program until July 2018. In order to extend the grant, BC HEARS staff members attended meetings in Albany last August. The $215,000 Performance Improvement Fund Grant was ultimately awarded to the program and will fund staff salaries and programming costs through January 2020. The grant is part of the SUNY Excels Grant Fund Program, which supports programs affiliated with SUNY schools that promise a commitment to continuous improvement in five key areas: access, completion, success, inquiry and engagement.
BC HEARS is a part of the Division of Student Affairs and began in July 2016 as a partnership between BU, SUNY Broome and Broome County Promise Zone, an organization geared toward improving learning environments in local schools.
Cory Rusin, a student success coordinator for BC HEARS, wrote in an email that the program offers a variety of assistance to students, depending on their specific needs.
“[We] help create an academic plan that works for the student by learning about their goals and connecting them to valuable resources,” Rusin wrote. “Some students need assistance with determining what paperwork is needed to re-enroll, others need application or financial aid assistance, others need to determine what their options are for distance learning as they no longer live in the area. Our program connects the dots and provides a one-stop-shop for students to get their questions answered in regards to completing their degree.”
BC HEARS also offers students one-on-one tutoring from BU and SUNY Broome students as well as computer literacy classes, summer reading events, open computer hours and adult reading roundtable events at The Mansion, a community center located on Walnut Street in the city of Binghamton.
In less than two years, BC HEARS has helped 133 BU and SUNY Broome students graduate with their associate’s or bachelor’s degrees and has supported the enrollment or re-enrollment of 69 students into programs of study. The program has received nationwide attention and was selected as the 2018 national recipient of an award for student affairs administrators in higher education at the annual conference for National Association of Student Personnel Administrators.
Students do not have to apply to be involved with the program and are either referred by community partners or contacted by a BC HEARS coordinator. Rusin said she speaks with former BU students and informs them of the resources available to them.
“I received lists from each of the different colleges of students that had stopped out in the last 5 years and were within a year of completing their coursework,” Rusin wrote. “There is no selection process other than the student wishing to return.”
BC HEARS offers opportunities for BU students to volunteer, tutor and intern for the program. Rusin encouraged interested students to contact firstname.lastname@example.org to learn how they could get involved.
Correction, Thursday, Feb. 8 at 4:55 p.m.: A previous version of this article stated that Elizabeth Carter was the former director of BC HEARS. She is the current director of program.