This year, about 200 people are getting their chance at a college education through a federally-funded program at Fort Scott Community College.
For the 2008-09 academic year, FSCC received a four-year, $236,500 federal grant for its Student Support Services program; a program that helps students who face financial challenges, have learning disabilities, or whose parents have not attended college.
The program also helps eligible FSCC students complete difficult college courses through the use of tutors and supplemental instruction, and can help ease a student's transition to a four-year college. Advisors in the program help guide students toward setting goals of attending four-year universities.
The program provides tours of universities such as Pittsburg State University, the University of Kansas, and Kansas State University, for students at least once a year to encourage enrollment, FSCC Student Support Services Director Steve Kramer said.
"We have a counselor specifically designed to help a student with transfer to a four-year university," Kramer said. "They tour the campus, and we get them connected with the Student Support Services group, if they have one, at the new university for an easy transition."
Kramer said the program received slightly more funding this year after some amendments were made earlier this year to the Higher Education Act; federal legislation that is designed to help colleges and universities nationwide provide more financial assistance to eligible students.
The program, which is federally funded by the U.S. Department of Education, can also provide grant aid to participants, although there is a limited amount of grant funds available, Kramer said.
To be eligible for the program, students must be U.S. citizens with plans to transfer to four-year universities. Students must also fit into at least one of three criteria -- first-generation students whose parents didn't attend college, low-income students, or students with disabilities.
The program also provides tutors for students who are struggling with difficult courses, and counselors, advisors and faculty who help students set educational and career goals, improve study skills, build healthy relationships, and learn to live on a budget. The program also offers a limited number of laptop computers to students who need them for educational purposes, and a textbook loan program for students who can't afford to purchase textbooks, Kramer said.
The program also has an early warning system in place to keep students whose grades are slipping from failing classes.
"We have a computer system that sends us a message that a student has poor grades, or is not attending class, something like that," Kramer said. "It gets put into a report that is sent to a counselor at FSCC. They then contact the student to get them a tutor."
All program staff work to help ensure students are getting the most out of their college careers, Kramer said.
"We help to make sure they're successful in college," he said.
Students in the program also participate in community activities and cultural events, including theater productions, museum visits, and other campus events, such as the Gordon Parks Celebration of Culture and Diversity.
"Not all students get to experience cultural events like this while in college," Kramer said. "We help them do this."
The FSCC program was instituted in 1998. Student Support Services is a TRIO program -- a U.S. government outreach program for disadvantaged students -- that is funded entirely by the U.S. Department of Education.
For more information on the program, call FSCC at (620) 223-2700, extension 363.