MAYS LANDING – The U.S. Department of Education announced that Atlantic Cape Community College will receive a federal Student Support Services grant totaling $1,740,010 to help more students succeed in and graduate from college. Atlantic Cape has been a recipient of this award since 1994 and uses the funding to serve 200 students each academic year.

SSS helps college students who are low income, first generation (those whose parents do not have a four-year college degree) or students with disabilities. The array of services the grant will provide are comprehensive and will include academic tutoring, financial aid advice, career and college mentoring, help in choosing courses and other forms of assistance. These services enhance academic success and make it more likely students will graduate or transfer with the lowest possible debt. Many Student Support Services alumni have gone on to great success, among them Emmy, Tony and Academy Award winning actress Viola Davis, U.S. Rep. Gwendolyn Moore of Wisconsin’s 4th District and Franklin Chang-Diaz, the first Hispanic astronaut.

SSS began in 1968 and is one of the eight federal “TRIO” programs authorized by the Higher Education Act to help college students succeed in higher education. It recognizes that students whose parents do not have a college degree have more difficulties navigating the complexity of decisions that college requires for success. SSS bolsters students from low income families who have not had the academic opportunities that their college peers have had, and helps students with disabilities remove obstacles preventing them from thriving academically.

“This program really made it possible for me to reach all of my academic and career goals,” said Harlin Colon, who graduated from Atlantic Cape in 2017 with a degree in criminal justice.  “Being the first person in my family to attend college, there were times I would question how I was going to make it to the finish line with the lack of support in the household/financially, and struggling academically. The SSS program assigned me a counselor that I met with several times a semester who made sure I was keeping up with all my schoolwork and passing all of my classes.”

“We pride ourselves on the support we can offer our students,” Atlantic Cape President Barbara Gaba said. “We want everyone to have access to education along with the tools to help them successfully complete their studies. This federal grant has given us the opportunity to help so many individuals and will continue to assist many others in the years to come.”

“The COVID-19 pandemic has worsened the systemic inequality and financial hardship which keep promising students from succeeding in college. Student Support Services is needed now more than ever,” said Maureen Hoyler. Hoyler, president of the non-profit Council for Opportunity in Education in Washington, D.C., which is dedicated to furthering the expansion of college opportunities for low-income, first-generation students, and students with disabilities.

For more than 50 years, the Student Support Services program has made important contributions to individuals and society as a whole by providing a broad range of services to help students succeed. This vital program can and does make all the difference.

Nanette LoBiondo Galloway

Award winning journalist covering news, events and people of Atlantic County for more than 20 years.