Junior Dane Hansen can easily recall the mix of excitement and nervousness he felt when he first stepped foot on UNCG’s campus.
Not only was he new to UNCG, but he was new to the college environment. As the first in his family to attend a four-year university, the transition to life as a college student presented a unique set of challenges.
“I got here and I was overwhelmed with everything,” he said. “The course load was really challenging compared to what I was used to.”
Hansen and his family knew that he needed to find a support system on campus in order to be successful. The solution was UNCG’s Special Support Services (SSS), a federal TRIO grant program for first-generation students, as well as those who have a disability or come from modest-income backgrounds.
SSS offers individual tutoring, academic skills instruction and academic/career counseling to approximately 200 UNCG students each year. All services are offered free to students who are accepted into the program.
“During my first year, I logged more than 60 hours in the program,” Hansen said. “The sessions really helped me with time management.”
UNCG has a long tradition of supporting students through SSS. The federal program has been offered on campus for nearly half a century, and the results are impressive.
Last year, SSS students persisted, or returned for a second year, at a rate of 90 percent. Ninety-two percent of students were in good academic standing, and the six-year graduation rate for SSS students is 67 percent – approximately 7 points above the national average (according to 2014 data from the U.S. Dept. of Education).
But it’s not just the data that demonstrate the program’s success. It’s the countless stories from students like Marlina Avery.
As a graduate of an early college high school, Avery was used to a heavy workload. Even still, she knew UNCG courses would be more demanding, and she wasn’t sure how to navigate campus life. Similar to Hansen, she became involved with SSS as soon as she arrived, and continues to take advantage of the resources it provides.
“As a first-gen student, I knew I needed a support system outside of home,” Avery said. “Being involved in SSS has given me that. It’s helped campus feel like home.”
What makes SSS so impactful for students? The investment from the university.
“Many TRIO programs do not receive additional support from their institutions, but UNCG commits to additional funding every year to ensure our students get all of the support they need,” said Kara Baldwin, SSS director. “That means additional tutoring, graduate assistants, student workers and materials that we would not be able to provide otherwise.”
For Hansen, it’s made a world of difference.
“If I wasn’t involved in SSS, I’d probably be at home right now,” he said. “SSS offers so much, and it’s all free. They’re here to help.”
Interested in joining SSS or want to learn more? Visit studentsuccess.uncg.edu/sss/.
Story by Alyssa Bedrosian, University Communications
Photography by Martin W. Kane, University Communications