Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts (MCLA) has been awarded a $2.177 million Title III “Strengthening Institutions Program” grant from the United States Department of Education to increase retention and graduation rates of students from low-income families and students of color over the next five years.

“What wonderful news to receive as we welcome our students to campus this fall,” Birge said. “Twenty-seven percent of the Class of 2020 self-identify as coming from diverse backgrounds, so this funding will support and promote the success of MCLA students. In addition, the program will lead to students graduating sooner, which means they will spend less on their education overall and graduate with minimum debt, with a degree that provides the foundation for a successful career.

“The initiatives supported by this grant also align perfectly with the goals of the ‘Massachusetts Vision Project – A Public Agenda for Higher Education in Massachusetts,’” Birge continued, “which was created to increase college completion and eliminate disparities in degree attainment.”

Last spring, the U.S. Department of Education recognized MCLA as one of 13 institutions nationally for graduating students from low-income families at the same rate as students from high-income families. Thirty-nine percent of MCLA students are from families that earn less than $40,000 a year—the highest percentage in the state university system—and 46 percent receive Pell grants, a federally funded grant program for low income students.

MCLA admits a high percentage of students from underserved and minority populations. In addition, over the past five years, the College is closing the achievement gap in graduation rates between African-American and white students at a higher percentage rate than all but one of the other state universities in the Massachusetts State University System, according to the state’s latest Vision Project report.

“I’m very proud to see MCLA emerging as a national leader for its work in developing winning strategies to recruit, retain and graduate more low-income students and students of color,” said Carlos E. Santiago, Massachusetts Commissioner of Higher Education. “Here in Massachusetts, the College’s success provides a critical model for other campuses and will help our public higher education system reach its goal to graduate more students in less time.”

The $2.177 million Title III grant will be distributed to MCLA over five years, with the program slated to begin on Oct. 1. The first disbursement for the 2016-17 academic year will be $443,346.

Through the “Strengthening Institutions Program” MCLA will:

· Increase intensive advising utilizing the Canvas Learning Management System (LMS) and early alert software;

· Acquire Degree Works software to provide electronic academic planning and degree audit utilities;

· Redesign MCLA’s First Year Experience course to further support student transition and persistence;

· Create online undergraduate courses for summer enrollment to assist in increasing graduation rates;

· Increase supplemental instruction across the disciplines in freshman, sophomore and junior level courses;

· Develop curriculum to incorporate an undergraduate research component in all academic programs; and

· Purchase equipment, electronic journals and database subscriptions to support undergraduate student research.

The ability to work with state-of-the-art tools not only will prepare students to excel in their majors, but also to compete for and receive employment in growing science, technology and knowledge economy industries, Birge said. In fact, one-third of MCLA students major in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) fields and 30 percent of the Class of 2020 selected a STEM discipline as their major.

The “Strengthening Institutions Program” supports MCLA’s mission to promote excellence in learning and teaching, innovative scholarship, intellectual creativity, public service, applied knowledge, and active and responsible citizenship, Birge said.

Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts (MCLA) is the Commonwealth's public liberal arts college and a campus of the Massachusetts state university system. MCLA promotes excellence in learning and teaching, innovative scholarship, intellectual creativity, public service, applied knowledge, and active and responsible citizenship. MCLA graduates are prepared to be practical problem solvers and engaged, resilient global citizens.

MCLA offers a quality, affordable education in a supportive, collaborative environment that embraces diversity; provides direct access to professors; more than 50 undergraduate programs; and combines classroom and hands-on learning with service-learning, educational travel opportunities, student organizations and athletics programs designed to broaden and deepen students’ learning and engagement. For more information, go to