The Student Support Services (SSS) program, a federal TRIO program funded by the United States Department of Education, has been enhancing the student experience at WVU Tech since 1971, making it one of the oldest programs of its kind in the nation.
Known for their tutoring services, professional and academic development programs, printing services and computer lab, the program is dedicated to helping students navigate college life in and out of the classroom.
Student Support Services Director Scott Robertson says the program is working, and the statistics back him up.
Each year, the program provides an annual performance report to the US Department of Education detailing program success factors such as graduation rates and academic standing. When the current operating grant was approved in 2009, the program was required to maintain a persistence rate (year-to-year program retention) of 65%, a 40% graduation rate for students who entered college in the 2008-2009 academic year, and a 65% rate of students in good academic standing.
In this year’s report, the program shared information on more than 500 program students from the last six years, coming in well above those thresholds and boasting a 46% graduation rate, a 90% program persistence rate and an impressive 92% of program students in good academic standing.
“Those are pretty phenomenal numbers for our program and they show that Student Support Services is doing exactly what it is supposed to be doing. It’s helping students,” said Robertson.
Robertson, a program alumnus himself, attributes much of this success to SSS’s robust tutoring and advising efforts. Students in the program meet with staff counselors once a month to make sure that things are going well, and students have access to a wide range of subjects in which to receive tutoring.
“If it weren’t for the program, I wouldn’t have the college degrees I have now. So, for me personally, it’s very important that we offer these services. We’ve seen students who have so much potential and we’re here to help pull that potential out in order to see that they are successful not just within our program, but also at WVU Tech.”
Athletic Coaching Education major Alex Moore has been in the program for two semesters. He said the program gives members an invaluable boost.
“The program gives first-generation students and those who statistically may not be destined for college a leg up. It helps students strive for excellence in academics. It helps them financially and, in some cases, it just gives them someone to talk to about whatever they need,” he said.
Beyond academics, the program offers a number of cultural enrichment and professional development opportunities.
On February 4, the program took 26 students to Charleston for a night of exposure to Asian culture and cuisine. The group dined at a Japanese Hibachi-style restaurant and attended Shen Yu – a live performance portraying traditional Chinese culture through music and dance – at the Clay Center for the arts.
“Our cultural enrichment programs are an important part of our holistic approach to student success,” said Robertson. “Seeing Shen Yu was an experience these students will not soon forget. These events allow students to realize that a degree affords them the opportunity to continue doing those things down the road.”
In addition to cultural activities, the program will host a number of professional/personal development seminars this spring, including workshops on time management and maintaining healthy relationships, as well as a financial aid “boot camp” where students who answer questions incorrectly will have to perform physical exercises.
Robertson said these activities and the SSS’s open-door policy creates a space where program students can support one another as they work toward common goals.
“We’ve seen a lot of friendships being built, even with students who are commuters,” he said. “We’re creating a community within the program and within our office. We have people from all over the world and all walks of life. It’s great to see these students interacting and helping one another.”
Students interested in the program may join at any point. Applicants will need to complete an application, answer questions about why they want to be in the program and interview with program staff. Two-thirds of program participants must be first-generation, meaning neither parent has a four-year college degree, and must demonstrate financial need. The other one-third can be first-generation only, low-income only, or have a disability.
The program also provides scholarships for qualifying students, and awarded 19 scholarships totaling more than $26,000 for the spring 2015 semester alone.
Find out more on the Student Support Services website. To apply to the program or to become a tutor (tutors are not required to be in the program), visit Old Main Room 309. Students may also download the program application here.