Bellevue College has announced receipt of two federal grants: One, a nearly $2.1 million award to improve retention, completion, and transfer rates of students while closing achievement gaps experienced by underserved populations; and another of nearly $2 million to help community and technical college educators nationwide with industry partnerships that improve students’ work-ready skills.

Student support grant

Bellevue College will receive the Title III, Strengthening Institution Program grant from the U.S. Department of Education for a total of approximately $2.1 million over five years. The grant will fund about 66 percent of the planned student support improvement efforts in the first year of the grant. Bellevue College and the Washington State Board for Community and Technical Colleges have allocated an additional $222,000.

As a member of Achieving the Dream, a national network of community colleges seeking to improve student outcomes, the college developed an action plan that served as a foundation for the grant’s work plan.

“It’s a highly competitive award and will help Bellevue College implement its student success improvement plan developed with the guidance of the Achieving the Dream framework,” Bonnie Berry, director of grant development and BC’s Achieving the Dream co-lead, said in a statement. “As open access higher education institutions, community and technical colleges offer the only way many people have to gain the knowledge and skills required to enter and advance in careers with living wages. At Bellevue College, we are serious about making sure all our students have the opportunity and the support they need to reach their academic and career goals. This is critical for economic mobility, and it also strengthens our local economy.”

Industry partnerships grant

Additionally, Bellevue College won a four-year, $1.97 million grant from the National Science Foundation Advanced Technological Education program. The grant project, titled Engaging Educators, Strengthening Practice, will design and facilitate workshops and virtual communities for community and technical college educators nationwide on how to create and sustain industry partnerships, according to a Bellevue College news release.

“Industry relationships are critical for developing programs that are aligned with workforce needs, and ensuring students graduate with work-ready skills,” Mary Slowinski, the grant’s principal investigator and Bellevue College faculty member, said in a statement. “We found that educators often don’t know how to cultivate and steward industry relationships. These workshops will connect educators to best practices, guide them to develop an industry partnership development plan, and create learning communities where they can share their successes and challenges.”

The Engaging Educators, Strengthening Practice team includes Mary Slowinski, Rachael Bower, and Edward Almasy with support from an advisory committee of education, industry, and professional association experts. This grant builds on the findings of a four-year $754,934 National Science Foundation research grant awarded to this same team in 2015 which focused on the discovery, documentation, and dissemination of key factors associated with industry/college partnerships.

The new funding will be used to develop instructional materials, tools, and curricula on initiating and sustaining industry partnerships based on this research; deliver professional development workshops and webinars to guide the use of the materials; establish a virtual community of practice for post-workshop participant support, exchange, and collaboration; and create supplementary online workshop materials for reference by participants and others.