USC Upstate Awarded $425K to Help Students Overcome Academic Challenges

April 20, 2023 at 8:00 am

The University of South Carolina Upstate has been awarded a two-year $425,311 grant for a summer bridge program that will enable students to earn college credit while they learn soft skills necessary to successfully navigate college life. The grant, which was approved by the S.C. Commission on Higher Education and will be funded through the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Fund, also known as ESSER, aims to address learning loss stemming from the pandemic.

“We are delighted to offer students impacted by the pandemic an economically viable pathway to earn academic credit during the summer while also learning non-cognitive academic competencies such as time management and study skills, and developing support systems that will foster an increased sense of belonging,” said USC Upstate Chancellor Bennie L. Harris, Ph.D. “This will greatly enhance our ability to increase access to education and to improve retention following what is surely one of the most difficult times in modern history.”

The program will serve six cohorts of 20 students—three cohorts this summer and three cohorts in the summer of 2024. Each cohort will participate in a five-week summer session in July.

Each year, the first cohort will consist of rising first-year students who earned less than Bs in high school English and math. These students will enroll in a 3-credit hour first-year experience course and participate in a math refresher course to prepare them to be successful in their general education math class in their first year of college.

The second and third cohorts will consist of current first-year students who did not earn 30 credit hours in their first year of college. Specifically, the second cohort will consist of students who failed to earn their general education credit for English; while the third cohort will consist of students who failed to earn their general education credit for math. 

Additionally, both current first-year cohorts will complete a 1-credit hour study skills class. Both groups will attend class and study hall with an embedded expert learner trained to help students transfer study skills to the academic content. Lunch programming will provide opportunities to build support networks, understand campus resources, and develop a sense of belonging.

Kim Purdy, assistant vice chancellor for academic affairs and dean of University College, and Susannah Waldrop, executive director of student success services, served as co-principal investigators on this project.

“This is an exciting opportunity for students,” Purdy said. “We are confident that all students will develop a stronger sense of belonging and demonstrate an understanding of what is needed to be successful in college.” “Connecting with campus resources is an integral part of student success, and we will help students feel more confident about using these resources and building their support network,” Waldrop said.