Grant applications for the Department of Education's Student Support Services (SSS) program are due in less than four weeks (February 2). To those of you in the middle of your narrative draft, I say this not to panic you but to remind and encourage you; to those of you who are interested but unfamiliar with this federal TRIO program, I'm here to tell you a little bit more about SSS, which offers over $260 million and more than 1,000 awards annually to institutions of higher education.
The purpose of the SSS program is to increase the number of disadvantaged low-income college students, first-generation college students, and college students with disabilities in the United States who successfully complete a program of study at the postsecondary level. Support services provided to these students should increase the retention and graduation rates for these categories of students and facilitate their transfer from two-year to four-year colleges and universities. Eligible students include those who are enrolled or accepted into the institution of higher education. Two-thirds of the participants must be either disabled or potential first-generation college students who come from low-income families. One-third of the disabled participants must also be low-income.
Here's a glimpse of financial information of the SSS program:
Grantor: U.S. Department of Education, Office of Postsecondary Education
Deadline: February 2, 2015
Financial Info: An estimated $265,706,546 is expected to be available to support approximately 1,026 awards through this program. Awards will generally range between $220,000 and $360,000 per year, with an estimated average award of $282,000.
Cost Share Requirement: Applicants must provide at least a 33 percent match via nonfederal cash contributions. This match requirement does not apply to certain institutions of higher education.
Website: The RFP can be found here; eCivis Grants Network users can read summary details here.
It has been proven that student support services help first-generation, low-income students be successful in college. Providing wraparound services creates a vital link between participating students and university/two-year college resources. The services provided by the program encourage students to pursue academic excellence, persist in their collegiate studies, and earn their degrees. Services offered through SSS include a combination of academic tutoring; individualized counseling; financial literacy programs; exposure to cultural and academic events and programs; a connection to mentoring opportunities; assistance with career development; and help with course selection, navigating financial aid programs, finding scholarships, and applying to graduate or professional schools.
Some SSS Application Tips
How can you increase competitiveness of your grant application? First, make sure you address all the requirements of the RFP. Most often, I deal with clients who feel like this application is difficult to tackle. However, I have found that TRIO programs are very prescriptive on what you can and cannot do. Take a moment to study the RFP and create your next steps. When figuring out what data is important to use, I usually start with the performance measures stated in the RFP. Pull that data, along with the data to support the eligible students. Figure out where your students from that data set are struggling. From there, you can begin working on the support services that are most beneficial for your demographics. Working on this application is just like how you eat an elephant—one bite at a time! (To paraphrase Creighton Abrams...)
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