Department of Education announces college completion grants, calls for greater focus on equity

The U.S. Department of Education recently announced $5 million toward the College Completion Fund Competition for Postsecondary Student Success, a new grant program that will advance student retention, transfer, and completion initiatives at Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs), Tribal Colleges and Universities (TCUs), and Minority-Serving Institutions (MSIs). Schools are eligible for awards of up to $1 million and are encouraged to use those funds to support students near completion and those who stopped out of college at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. The College Completion Fund gives priority to community colleges, which have seen significant enrollment declines in recent years.

Providing deliverables for underserved students

“Years of underinvestment, state budget cuts, and lagging federal support for Pell Grants have shifted costs to students and left you chronically underfunded,” Department of Education Secretary Miguel Cardona said in a speech addressing HBCUs and other MSIs during an August summit called Raise the B.A.R.: Bold + Action + Results in College Excellence & Equity, Higher Ed Dive reports.

Cardona called on U.S. colleges and universities to place less emphasis on rankings and rather “embrace a new vision of college excellence”—one in which institutions invest in inclusive programs that fulfill student’s basic needs, forge partnerships with other colleges and community organizations, ensure underserved students thrive, and deliver upward mobility to low-income students.

The creation of the College Completion Fund is one of several actions the Department of Education is taking to prioritize postsecondary student completion and success. During the Summit, the Department also announced a three-year extension for its Project Success initiative, which provides resources and support to up to 250 HBCUs, TCUs, and MSIs dedicated to improving student outcomes, particularly among students of color and low-income students. The Department has also requested $110 million from Congress for additional retention and completion grants. 

Topics in this story
, ,

Next Up

Study: GPA thresholds for popular majors limiting upward mobility for low-income students and students of color

A study from researchers at the University of California, Santa Barbara and Yale University highlights the unintended consequences of using GPA requirements to restrict access to in-demand majors.