SOLDOTNA, AK (October 18, 2010) – A new federal grant that could reach as much as $2.8 million over the next five years has been awarded to Alaska Christian College (ACC) in order to strengthen and expand the school’s academic curriculum as well as fund a new Academic Success Initiative, says Keith Hamilton, president.
The college will receive $540,000 the first year of the grant, which began October 1. The awards are five-year grants, and ACC anticipates it will receive a similar amount annually, Hamilton says.
The U.S. Department of Education awarded the grant under the Alaska Native and Native Hawaii Title III Program. According to the department, “The program provides grants to eligible institutions of higher education to enable them to improve their academic quality, institutional management, and fiscal stability, and increase their self-sufficiency.”
The curriculum will add to the rigor of the school’s academic program and ensure that students can earn an Associate of Arts degree, says Hamilton. The funding will enable the school to add a science lab, “smart classrooms,” and $1 million toward the expansion of all academic building areas.
The school qualified for the grant because of the student population it serves, Hamilton says. A majority of ACC students come from remote villages with high unemployment, limited higher educational offerings, and various abuse issues and suicide.
“The mission of Alaska Christian College is to empower Alaska Natives through biblically based education and Christian formation to pursue excellence in character, learning, and service as followers of Christ,” Hamilton says.
“Our rosters are filled with educationally struggling, yet capable, minority students who enter ACC with significant academic and financial challenges,” Hamilton said. Enrollment has almost doubled to roughly 40 full-time equivalent students since the school first started classes in 2001. Ninety percent are Alaska Native.
Hamilton said the grant was important to helping the school expand. “Because of our mission to serve rural Alaska Native students, ACC focused its initial development phase as an institution on a specialized first-year curriculum, as well as the outreach, basic skills, and counseling services necessary to transition students from village life to higher education.”
That focus has developed students eager to pursue their college education, but the degree completion was limited by “critical gaps” in general education curriculum, facilities resources, as well as service, and faculty training and expertise. “Funds to develop the needed curricula and services are simply too much to pull from existing financial resources,” Hamilton said.
In addition to addressing curriculum needs, the grant will enable the school to develop an Academic Success Initiative, which will include building renovations, tutoring, support and assessment services, general education library holdings, and provide professional faculty development for using the new curricula.