UWA awarded $2.3 million US Dept. of Education competitive grant

LIVINGSTON, Ala.—The University of West Alabama has just been awarded a U.S. Department of Education Competitive Grant totaling $2.3 million over five years. This is the single largest grant award that UWA has received to date and will be used in the ongoing initiative to improve retention rates.

The funding will be used to develop what University officials have dubbed a “one stop shop” retention center and also initiate a comprehensive program on campus called UWA CARES, the Center for Achievement, Retention, and Enrichment Services. The entire UWA CARES program’s costs are financed by the grant.

“UWA CARES is designed to provide students with access to early intervention strategies that will improve retention and steer them to graduation,” explained UWA President Ken Tucker. “The plan includes centralized advising, faculty and staff and peer mentoring, educational workshops, open study hall with tutoring, state-of-the-art technology, summer leadership camps, and other services and support to assist students in overcoming barriers to achieving their academic goals.”

Since taking office in January of this year, Tucker’s leadership has included a commitment to enhanced recruiting and improved retention. The establishment of UWA CARES, he explained, is a tremendous milestone in the University’s strategic plan.

“Quality educational programs, strong support services, and assistance in maximizing learning opportunities will lead to better retention and graduation rates and to graduates who are more competitive and successful in their chosen careers,” Tucker said.

Angel Jowers, director of Institutional Effectiveness, is the grant author and will serve as program director of UWA CARES. Jowers has worked closely with Institutional Effectiveness staff and UWA’s Office of Sponsored Programs, submitting the grant this past summer.

According  to Jowers, UWA CARES will strengthen the institution’s capacity to serve students from a region that contains 11 of the state’s 56 failing schools as defined by the Alabama Accountability Act of 2013.

“The program will help us identify and target high-need students who are most likely to drop out based upon outlined criteria and provide these students with access to the tools they need to complete a degree program,” Jowers said. “Completing a degree program can improve the overall quality of an individual student’s life as well as over time enhance the workforce and economy of a region.”

By using a student-service-centered approach, the University hopes to provide access to support services and learning opportunities, encourage participation in the available services, and enrich students’ overall campus experience.

“The ultimate goal of UWA CARES is to assist and help motivate students to remain in college until completion of their degree program,” Jowers said.

For more information on UWA CARES, contact Angel Jowers at 205-652-3547 or by email at ajowers@uwa.edu.