Education is a critically important aspect of survival in our society. Educators have long sought out ways to improve the post-secondary educational experiences of students. Many educators feel that first generation students in particular are at a disadvantage when entering college. To address student needs the federal government has created the Student Support Services SSS Program.
The purpose of this discussion is to analyze the impact and effectiveness of the Student Support Services Program. We will pay close attention to the effectiveness of the mentorship programs that are provided by the SSS program. In addition, we will explain both the negative and positive impacts of SSS programs at various Universities across the country.
Before we can understand the impact and effectiveness of the program, we must understand the purpose of the program and how it came about.
The Student Support Services Program
The Student Support Services Program is a unique project that is sponsored by the United States Department of Education. The creation of this program has been instrumental in providing a safe haven for students that are transitioning from high school to college. (Purpose 2003)
According to the U.S. Department of Education the Student Support Services Program, "provides opportunities for academic development, assists students with basic college requirements, and serves to motivate students towards the successful completion of their postsecondary education. The SSS program may also provide grant aid to current SSS participants who are receiving Federal Pell Grants." (Purpose 2003)
The U.S. Department of Education believes that this program will increase retention and graduation rates of college freshmen. (Purpose 2003) The department also aims to ease the transition that takes place between high school and college. (Purpose 2003)
In addition, the aim of the program is "to foster an institutional climate supportive of the success of low-income and first generation college students and individuals with disabilities." (Program Authority; Authorization of Appropriations 2003)
There are several services that the program provides including; tutors, financial aid, mentors, study skills, academic counseling, and assistance for students that are not proficient in the English language. (Purpose 2003)
The Department of education explains that only institutions of higher education such as colleges and universities are allowed to participate in the program.
The Student Support Services Program is part of the Sec. 402D Higher Education Act Of 1965 SEC. 402D. 20 U.S.C. 1070a-14. (Program Authority; Authorization of Appropriations 2003) According to this act students that apply for the program must be first generation college students from low income environments or have disabilities. (Program Authority; Authorization of Appropriations 2003)
Additionally, any student participants must be enrolled or accepted an institution that has received the Student Support Services Grant. (Program Authority; Authorization of Appropriations 2003) The Department of Education also reports, "Two-thirds of the participants in any SSS project must be either disabled or potential first-generation college students from low-income families. One-third of the disabled participants must also be low-income students." (Eligibility 2003)
Grants are available to those that meet eligibility requirements. These requirements are that the student must have completed the first two years of college. (Eligibility 2003)
In addition, they must be at a high risk for dropping out of school if they do not receive the grant. (Eligibility 2003)
As you can see the SSS program came about as a result of the Higher Education Act of 1965. This act was designed as a blueprint for addressing the needs of students enrolled at institutions of higher learning throughout the country. In recent years this program has become an important lifeline for first generation students.
Impact and Effectiveness of the SSS Program
To explore the effectiveness of the program at colleges around the country, we will consider reports that have been published in several educational journals and the findings of individual Universities. We will begin by looking at some statistics provided by the National Center for Education Statistics. These statistics take several of the TRIO programs into consideration and are referred to as precollegiate programs.
These statistics are found in a NCES report entitled, "Programs at Higher Education institutions for Disadvantaged Precollege Students." The report asserts that approximately 32% of all colleges and Universities have precollege programs. ("Programs at Higher Education institutions for Disadvantaged Precollege Students," 1995) These programs are designed to help students get to college and complete their education. The report also asserts that, "Precollegiate programs were more common in large institutions (71%) than in small institutions (21%), in public institutions (45%) than in private institutions (22%), and in 4-year institutions (35%) than in 2-year institutions (28%)." ("Programs at Higher Education institutions for Disadvantaged Precollege Students," 1995)
The statistics also assert that funding for these programs is largely the responsibility of the federal government. The report asserts,
The federal government was the primary source of funding for 51% of the largest programs, while state and local governments were the primary source for 20%, institutional funding for 14%, and private funding (including both individuals and corporate/foundation funding) for 13% (table 4). Federal funding was especially important for public institutions (60% versus 36% for private institutions) and was more important in the Southeast than in the Northeast (69% versus 31%). On the other hand, private funding was more important at private institutions than public institutions (28% versus 5%)." ("Programs at Higher Education institutions for Disadvantaged Precollege Students," 1995)
As you can see many institutions of higher education have adopted Trio programs in an effort to improve the educational experiences of students. Although these statistics are reflective of all of the Trio Programs, they do shed some light on the need and desire that Universities have for such programs including the Student Support Services Program. In addition, the funding for such programs can be very costly and institutions rely upon the federal government to meet the cost of funding such programs.
Journal and University Findings Concerning Impact and Effectiveness
An article in the Peabody Journal of Education (PJE) discusses the Student Support Services Program in a University World. The article provides several characteristics of the SSS program at many Universities and the impact of these programs on student participants. The author writes,
These programs are usually affiliated with and administered by the Student Affairs unit within the university and are not officially linked with administrative or academic departments. These programs are operated with low budgets, and funds for many of these services are received from outside the university. In many instances, funding comes from federal, legally mandated programs. There is usually strong public support from students, university personnel, and the general public for these programs. They are often "high profile" programs that receive a great deal of media attention. Many of these programs and policies are designed to "buffer" students from the impact of the larger university environment or as interventions to help students adjust (i.e., change) in order to meet the traditional goals of the university." (Barnhardt 1994)
Barnhard (1994) also asserts that these programs can be extremely effective for some individuals because it aids them in understanding college life. The students are able to ask questions and get answers from qualified professionals. In addition, they are often mentored by their peers who can give new students a great deal of encouragement.
Another article in the Peabody Journal of Education explains that the Student Support Services Program can have some extremely negative impacts when they are not properly utilized. This negativity is most apparent in the area of student retention and the alienation of minorities. The author asserts,
Programs that are under-funded and under-staffed retard retention efforts. Among the many problems that have traditionally relegated student support services to a position of low esteem, one clearly stands out. This is the establishment of student support services that only serve minority students. When this avenue is taken, two negative outcomes are apparent: minority students are isolated, and an impression is created that only minority students need support (Green, 1989). A student program organized in this manner is dysfunctional to the goal for which it was designed. The appropriate approach is to integrate -- not isolate -- minority students into the institutional environment. Mainstreaming student support services, of course, can result in greater cost to the institution. However, creating a climate in which all students believe the institution is committed to enabling them to succeed means bringing them into the mainstream of academic life." (Borkowski 1988)
The author also explains that mentoring is an extremely effective way for student participants to adapt to college life. The article contends that the mentoring programs are most effective when the participating students are paired with mentors that are faculty members or professionals.
Borkowski (1988) also explains that mentees should be given mentors that are in the same field that the student participant is majoring in. (Borkowski 1988) The author asserts that this will allow the student to have a point of contact on campus. (Borkowski 1988)
The article goes on to explain that the Student Support Services programs are important in bringing together people…