West Virginia University at Parkersburg’s Ascend program is on track to start this fall. Accelerating Student Completion: Encouraging New Dreams (Ascend) is a program created to help more students earn certificate and associate degrees within three years by increasing financial, academic, and personal supports.
Funded by a $1.7 million, five-year grant from Arnold Ventures, Ascend is modeled after the Accelerated Studies in Associate Programs (ASAP) at City University of New York’s (CUNY) colleges. WVU Parkersburg is one of two community colleges in W.Va. selected to pilot this program.
WVU Parkersburg Ascend students will receive textbook assistance to reduce or eliminate the cost of books; a monthly Kroger gift card to help pay for groceries or gas; a tuition gap waiver covering remaining tuition and mandatory fees left after applying a student’s financial aid award; a devoted advisor from start to graduation; special registration options to get students the courses that best fit their schedule; and enhanced academic and career assistance from campus support areas.
As students approach graduation, they will receive additional assistance to transfer to a bachelor’s degree program at WVU Parkersburg, another four-year college or enter the workplace, depending on their goals.
To be eligible for Ascend, students must have less than 15 college credits (credits obtained by high school students are not counted unless a student has 30 or more credits), minimum 2.0 GPA and enroll in an Ascend-approved major. Students must qualify for in-state tuition and re-apply for FAFSA each year, accepting all federal and state grants and scholarships.
“WVU Parkersburg is proud to begin this partnership and provide more benefits to our students as they achieve their academic goals,” said Jennifer Forster, WVU Parkersburg Ascend director. “CUNY has positively impacted the lives of so many students and we hope to do the same with these invaluable resources.”
A study by Levin and Garcia (2017) found a 30.8% increase completion rate for students participating in the ASAP program as well as more students graduating and placing into the workplace. WVU Parkersburg hopes to replicate these success rates, increasing the number of students who enter and graduate from high-demand programs, and then move on to high-wage jobs.
Established in 1961, West Virginia University at Parkersburg is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission. Academic credits earned at WVU Parkersburg are transferable to any institution in the West Virginia higher education state system as well as other accredited institutions throughout the country. WVU Parkersburg is the only public community college in West Virginia accredited to offer baccalaureate degrees.