On July 29, 2021, Goodwin University and the University of Bridgeport (UB) were notified that they are the co-recipients of a $3 million Institutional Resilience and Expanded Postsecondary Opportunity (IREPO) grant. The funds, distributed over a two-year span, will address learning impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, with support directed to student emergency funds and a wide range of technology assistance. Specific funds will be directed to early college manufacturing programs and Open Education Resources (OER), which increase student accessibility to courses.
The IREPO grant is sponsored through the Department of Education, Office of Postsecondary Education, as part of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act. The program proposal, titled Forward Together, notes the first successful joint application for Goodwin and UB.
The Coronavirus pandemic has presented considerable economic challenges to students at the two universities, which both serve communities traditionally underrepresented in higher education. Nearly half of Goodwin’s population and two-thirds of UB’s are students of color. First-generation students represent two-thirds of Goodwin’s student body and one-third at UB, with a majority of students at both universities being Pell eligible.
Even in normal circumstances, temporary financial hardships can cause a low-income student to stop out. These can include a short-term lack of funds for food, rent, or utility bills; computer breakdown during critical study time; home Internet service; travel expenses related to family death or emergency; emergency medical treatment or medication not fully covered by insurance; illness; loss of transportation; and temporary need for childcare or eldercare. These challenges have all been magnified by the pandemic.
Areas funded through the grant:
- Student scholarships
- Emergency student support
- Laptop loaner program
- Accessibility to Wi-Fi and hotspots
- Case management staff
- Center for Teaching Excellence to support Universal Design for Learning and Open Education Resources
- Technology-enhanced classrooms
- Accessibility software
- 3PlayMedia captioning software
- Read&Write literacy software
- Respondus service
- Zoom Enterprise software
- OER course conversion
- Early College Advanced Manufacturing Pathway (ECAMP™)
Leadership at both schools are excited about capitalizing on the enormous short- and long-range educational opportunities made possible through the grant.
“This is an incredibly collaborative milestone for both universities,” said Goodwin’s president, Mark Scheinberg. “The pandemic has affected every aspect of our lives, particularly in education. It’s critical that as we focus on resilience on our path to a new normal, we support those students who are in the greatest need. The IREPO grant empowers them not only to ‘keep up’ but also to excel in new ways.”
“Post-pandemic, the learning process will never be the same,” added UB president Danielle Wilken. “Through this grant, we can truly explore opportunity in adversity. While we might struggle in the short term, some of the advancements IREPO makes possible will enhance the educational experience at both schools for generations to come.”
Being able to support students and adjust to whatever public health guidelines may be necessary in the future is critical to effective learning. “We’ve learned during this pandemic that the educational process has to be flexible and take all learners — including their access to resources — into consideration,” said Lisa Manley, Director of Online Studies for Goodwin. “This grant empowers us to remove obstacles to learning. It also gives us the opportunity to create new best practices that will positively impact the student experience, even when we’ve moved on from the current COVID crisis.”
Goodwin University is a nonprofit institution of higher education and is accredited by the New England Commission of Higher Education (NECHE), formerly known as the New England Association of Schools and Colleges (NEASC). Goodwin University was founded in 1999, with the goal of serving a diverse student population with career-focused degree programs that lead to strong employment outcomes.