Columbia College awarded $1.18 million federal grant to improve college readiness for adults

 Columbia College has been awarded a five-year federal education grant totaling $1.18 million to launch an Educational Opportunity Center (EOC) for the Mother Lode region. The college will partner with more than a dozen local agencies in the central Mother Lode to encourage and assist adults who are interested in college and career training to improve their economic opportunities.

The grant, awarded by the U.S. Department of Education, will support staffing and outreach to connect with and serve an estimated 1,000 individuals per year, providing them with information on educational and career training options, financial literacy, and assistance with college applications and financial aid.

Columbia College was one of 143 colleges and organizations across the nation selected for the five-year EOC program, and one of just four in California.

“We are very proud that, once again, Columbia College has successfully competed with much larger institutions across the nation for resources to support our community needs—we are small but mighty”, says College President Angela Fairchilds. “This funding allows us to extend our reach to underserved communities in our region with a goal of helping more adults to access education and training beyond high school.”

Grant funding will support a part-time director, two transition specialists and an administrative assistant who will work in coordination with a range of public and nonprofit partners in five counties – Amador, Calaveras, Tuolumne, Mariposa and Stanislaus. Partner agencies will include social service agencies and nonprofits, school districts, job training centers, the Sierra Conservation Center and more.

The Motherlode Educational Opportunity Program (MEOC) will be hiring staff and launching services this fall.  The new transition specialists will be centered at Columbia College and will travel to partner agencies on a weekly basis to assist adults with the following services:

  • Information regarding the benefits of, and options for, participating in postsecondary education
  • Support applying for college
  • Support applying for financial aid
  • Referral to alternative and adult education programs including GED and ESL programs
  • Workshops on goal setting, financial planning, major and career selection, etc.
  • Connections to services including test prep, tutoring, counseling (academic and personal), etc.

Brandon Price, Columbia’s Associate Dean of Student Equity, said the services are essential for adults in the Mother Lode who want to prepare for better opportunities.

“Our MEOC partners indicated that adults in our area have a profound need for support in their efforts to enroll in, and navigate, post-secondary institutions,” Price said. “And research suggests that access to, and participation in, higher education is key to economic mobility.”

Regionally, only one in five adults age 25 or older hold a college degree, yet that is an increasingly important step to better paying jobs. Nationally, by 2020, an estimated 65 percent of jobs will require at least an associate degree, and regional trends match that outlook. Of the region’s 300 occupations that now pay at least $20 per hour, 68% require at least some college or post-secondary training.

Educational Opportunity Centers are one of eight federal grant programs collectively known as the Federal TRIO Programs. TRIO Programs identify and provide services for individuals from disadvantaged backgrounds. They help low-income individuals, first-generation college students, and individuals with disabilities progress through the academic pipeline from middle school to post-baccalaureate programs.

Columbia College has a related TRIO program, Student Support Services, now in its sixth year, that provides support services to first-generation or low-income college students already enrolled at Columbia College who are headed for a four-year university. The new MEOC program seeks to reach adults in the community who are not attending college, and are interested in learning more about options of all types of college and post-secondary training.

For more information contact: Anneka Rogers-Whitmer, Director of TRiO – 209-588-5145

Additional information is available from the US Department of Education.