In 2019, Athens State University was awarded a five-year, $2.1 million federal grant to enhance student support in the process of degree completion. A portion of the funds from the grant were used to hire Student Success Coaches who assist students with academic advising, degree planning, and any other student matters to keep them motivated and on track for degree completion. The grant was also used to fund two courses that Athens State has been able to offer for free to incoming students - a Pathways to Success seminar designed to provide students with the tools such as writing, team skills, awareness of diversity and inclusion issues, financial literary, and cross-cultural communication that they need to succeed during their college career, and a Career Capstone seminar. 

As a result of these efforts, undergraduate retention rates from Fall 2019 – Fall 2020 increased to 78.4% from the previous rate of 73.2% (Fall 2018 to Fall 2019). This marks the highest undergraduate retention rate the university has recorded in over a decade.

“We are very excited about the impact that the grant and the Success Coaches are having on student retention and success. This is precisely what the grant was intended to do,” said Dr. Jackie Smith, Athens State’s Interim Provost.

Aside from increasing retention rates, other goals of the Title III grant include improving student pathways from campus to career through early and consistent advising, improving the diversity and inclusion of our campus through increased campus-wide initiatives and targeted support and expanded campus-wide professional development to include advising models, financial literacy, and collaborative team development. 

Last fall and in the early months of 2020, the University was also able to host on-campus events that focused on diversity and inclusion such as Diversity Day and themed Lunch and Learns. With COVID precautions now in place, Athens State has hosted similar virtual events and is in the process of planning more for the upcoming spring semester.