New Great Lakes Grant Program Helps Kent State Seniors Graduate, Despite Financial Difficulties
Alexandra Bangor dreams of the day when she moves to a big city to open her cosmetics/fashion line. Last month, Bangor took the first steps to turn her dreams into reality when she graduated from Kent State University’s College of Communication and Information with a major in interpersonal communication and a minor in public communication. But an unexpected family event almost pushed back her career goals.
“Toward the beginning of the semester, my father had a bad knee injury and was unable to work for about one month,” Bangor says. “He has a job where he works on commission and since he was unable to work, he was also unable to bring in money.”
To make up for the lack of financial support, Bangor planned to take on even more hours at work to pay for her last semester. In addition to the added stress, she worried about how the extra hours would take time away from her final academic responsibilities. But Bangor received the surprise of her life when she looked at her university account. Instead of seeing dollar signs in the form of a bill, she saw grant money applied toward her tuition. Bangor was one of the first recipients of the pilot Kent Completion Project funded by the Association of Public and Land-Grant Universities. That pilot now has been expanded to the Kent Completion and Success Program funded by a new grant from the Great Lakes Higher Education Guaranty Corporation. Great Lakes is a nonprofit group focused on helping students nationwide prepare for and succeed in postsecondary education and student loan repayment.
“It was totally unexpected,” Bangor says. “Throughout my life, I have worked hard as a student to maintain a high GPA, and although this has nothing to do with my hard work, I feel like in a way it was a reward for me because of all my work.”
Kent State is one of 14 colleges to receive a combined $2.6 million in College Completion Grants from Great Lakes. The fund provides an opportunity to help seniors – including low-income, first-generation, students of color and students with unexpected emergencies – stay on track to graduation.
The grants support the planning, launch and implementation of interventions at each college from January 2017 to July 2019. The colleges will serve a combined 7,000 students who have completed at least 75 percent of their program's requirements in high-demand fields where positions remain unfilled, such as nursing, information technology and business.
“We are honored that Great Lakes has chosen Kent State for its College Completion Grant,” says N.J. Akbar, assistant dean in Kent State’s University College. “The fund helps the university with its Students First priority by enhancing and expanding our student success efforts and ultimately improving graduation rates.”
Bangor understands the benefit of the grant. She says the funds arrived at the perfect time.
“I just want to thank the Kent Completion Project Program because it was such a pleasant surprise,” Bangor says. “I had never received any grants before, so I really did not know these kinds of things existed. I think what Kent State is doing is amazing in regards to this program, and I am thankful to be a part of it.”