ADA — East Central University aims to boost retention and graduation of American Indian students with programs funded by a $2.5 million federal grant.
The two-year grant, providing $1.25 million a year, was awarded by the U.S. Department of Education. ECU garners about $20 million a year in grants and other external funds that help support academic and cultural offerings. The American Indian grant is one of ECU’s largest, the result of efforts to meet local needs, said C.J. Vires, associate vice president for sponsored programs and research. About 20 percent of ECU students are American Indian. But those students have lower retention and graduation rates than white students, and often are unprepared academically for college, Vires said. They tend to come from families with lower incomes and fewer parents with college degrees. ECU will use the funds to hire more staff to work with at-risk students, to train faculty members to improve curriculum and to renovate some classrooms. Vires said ECU hosts a retention specialist who works for the Chickasaw tribe, and wants to expand such efforts to students from other tribes and to all low-income students. A similar grant was given to Seminole State College, where about 25 percent of students are American Indian.