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The funding conundrum.

If there's one thing that has become clear to community college leaders over the last few years, it's that they can't sit back and rely on the same old funding sources. State appropriations have slipped, local taxpayers are hesitant to ante up more of their hard-earned dollars, and raising tuition often works against a community college's mission. With this in mind, Community College Week examines some of the new avenues two-year colleges are traveling in order to diversify their funding streams.

* A Rich Source of Funding

NSF provides more funding for community colleges in an effort to increase minority participation in the sciences

BY PAUL BRADLEY

Of the 40 grants worth $38 million she manages for Kirkwood Community College, Pat Berntsen considers those from the National Science Foundation to be paramount.

The NSF has approved nearly $8 million in grant funding for the college over the years, a relatively small but hugely significant portion of its funding.

"It's the most important money we get," Berntsen says. "It funds the academic side of science and technology education, and there is not a lot of money for that available to community colleges."

Kirkwood, in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, has been one of the nation's most successful colleges in landing NSF grants. It has used some of the money to establish National Center for Agriscience and Technology Education--known as AgrowKnowledge--a national partnership of community colleges devoted to training students to use emerging technologies in agriculture, food, and natural resources.

The NSF would like to develop many more Kirkwoods, says Elizabeth J. Teles, the foundation's liaison to community colleges. It is directing more money than ever before to two-year colleges. It also recently launched a program to expand the roster of such institutions receiving NSF funding, reserving money for colleges that have not received a grant in tenor more years.

In fiscal year 2004, the NSF awarded 219 grants to two-year colleges totaling $73 million. In fiscal year 2006, the foundation awarded 218 grants to community colleges totaling $82.4 million, an increase of almost 13 percent.

"What we are doing is making longer awards that are larger," says Teles. "Community colleges are increasingly partners in a lot of different research projects."

Established in 1950 to promote science education, the NSF has an annual budget of nearly $6 billion and is the funding source of about 20 percent of federally-backed basic research at American colleges and universities. In areas such as mathematics, computer science and social sciences, the NSF is the major source of federal funding. NSF disburses grants on a competitive basis and funds about 25 percent of the applications it receives.

The push to direct more grant money to two-year colleges reflects the NSF goal of increasing the number of women, minorities and other underrepresented groups in science and technology.

Teles, herself a former math professor at Montgomery College in Maryland, said the foundation believes community colleges are a rich source of talent in the so-called STEM fields--science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

According to a 2006 foundation study, 44 percent of all science and engineering graduates attended a community college at some point in their academic careers. Another recent NSF study found that undergraduates who participate in hands-on research are more likely to pursue advanced degrees and professional careers in science fields.

"This study indicates that carefully designed undergraduate research experience motivates students," says Myles Boylan, an NSF program director. "Students consider their research experiences to be effective previews of doing STEM graduate work as well as good learning experiences."

Though NSF distributes grants through several programs, the Advanced Technological Education (ATE) program is the largest that provides funding to community colleges. More than half of the grant money received by two-year colleges in 2006 came from that program.

It was designed with two-year colleges in mind and focuses on the education of technicians for the high-technology fields, Teles says. The program supports curriculum development, professional development of college faculty members and secondary school teachers and career pathways to two-year colleges from secondary schools and from two-year colleges to four-year institutions.

The roots of foundation support for community colleges actually stretch back to 1992, when Congress passed a law directing the NSF to direct at least 25 percent of its educational awards to two-year colleges.

In the immediate aftermath of the law's passage, the NSF awarded about $4 million in grants to community colleges. In fiscal year 2006, of the $200 million in research grants directed to colleges and universities, 41 percent went to community colleges, according to the NSF.

Several community colleges historically have been very successful in landing NSF grants. They include Sinclair Community College in Dayton, Ohio. Since 1989, when the college was awarded a modest $26,000 grant to improve equipment in chemistry labs, the college has won 36 NSF grants totaling nearly $15 million, according to information on the NSF Web site.

Sinclair operates a sophisticated grants office aimed at identifying funding needs and matching them with potential grants. Faculty members can get coaching in writing grant proposals. A financial team looks for matching funds. Officials guide faculty members through conflict-of-interest questions. The college works with other educational institutions, non-profit groups and government agencies to develop, implement and assess projects.

Because many community colleges don't have the kind of resources like Sinclair to write sophisticated grant proposals, the NSF is willing to help, Teles says, offering technical support to assist colleges in identifying needs and writing grant proposals.

* Attracting Alumni

As funding sources dry up, community colleges turn to graduates

BY CHARLES DERVARICS

Four-year colleges can play the "nostalgia" card with alumni, reminding graduates of their carefree years living on campus. But that message usually isn't relevant for two-year institutions with no dormitories and many non-traditional students.

Hence the need for innovative ideas to build alumni support--such as the upcoming "Schmooze-a-Palooza," the latest in a series of cutting-edge plans at Western Virginia Community College.

"We're approaching this like a business," says Kay Strickland, executive director of the Roanoke, Va., college's foundation, which houses the alumni office. As a result, the focus is less on the good old days and more on practical activities for skillbuilding and careers.

At "Schmooze-A-Palooza," alumni will teach graduating students the art of networking and other soft skills championed by employers. The graduates should master new skills and, in the process, strengthen their bond with the college, she says. Alumni have a chance to serve as mentors and, perhaps, find new employees or contacts along the way.

"It's a win-win situation," she says.

The event is the latest activity in a four-year effort to increase alumni support at the college. "We started from zero," notes Erik Williams, Western Virginia's alumni coordinator. But that allows the institution to test ideas without fear of failure. "It's like a start-up operation," he says.

So far, the college has raised more than $16,000 from two annual giving campaigns targeted at alumni, and more than $5,000 in membership dues and donations.

As more students enroll at two-year colleges and institutions face funding challenges, alumni outreach is emerging as an increasingly important focus. Some colleges operate phone-a-thons and directmail campaigns, and others are just building a foundation of programming that they hope will lead to contributions down the road.

When it launched its alumni effort, Western Virginia had a list of 20,000 graduates with addresses--though information dated back as far as 1973.

"The first step was that we had to find our alumni," Strickland says. Looking for ways to update the list, the college went to the state Department of Motor Vehicles. Since both institutions are state agencies, the department agreed to update addresses if available.

"It was a cost-effective way to start," she says, though the college later found a better solution by matching names to a national change-of-address database. The college mailed a newsletter to these graduates with information about membership in an alumni association. For $10--half of which goes toward student scholarships--alumni receive regular updates from the college plus coupons and a discount card from area merchants.

Western Virginia also created a series of alumni programs, from wine tastings to breakfasts with the college president. Early messages did not emphasize fundraising.

"We wanted to make them feel immediately welcome," Williams says.

Instead of a fundraising phone-a-thon, the college recently sponsored a friend-a-thon in which student volunteers surveyed graduates over the phone about their needs and interests.

"This may not translate immediately into dollars," he says. "But it's promoting the college. It makes us more visible. We're being more responsive to our community."

The college has conducted some direct-mail fundraising with mixed success. But leaders are confident their comprehensive approach will pay off in the long run.

"We don't want our first, or second, or third message to be about money," says Strickland. So far, the college has an alumni association of nearly 500 members plus an updated mailing list with thousands of names. Contributors get a mention on the college's Web site, which has rich content about alumni activities.

Community colleges with extensive experience in alumni relations endorse such a comprehensive approach.

"We have some people with limited financial capacity but a strong emotional tie to us," says Marianne Gorczyca, executive director of alumni affairs at Sinclair Community College in Dayton, Ohio, which has had an alumni association since it was a private institution in the 1950s.

While nostalgia may not be an effective message with two-year alumni, many graduates feel a strong affinity for the institution. "For some students, the community college experience was the life-changing experience for them," she says.

Sinclair makes this appeal by tailoring its message for specific groups. During a recent phone-a-thon, volunteers had separate messages for past donors as well as those yet to contribute. The college also has a separate message for graduates who received scholarships from Sinclair, she says.

With rising direct-mail costs, Sinclair has found the phone-a-thon a cost-effective alternative. "Direct mail costs were growing exponentially," Gorczyca added, and the last phone-a-thon attracted 380 new donors.

At Montgomery College in Rockville, Md., alumni leaders build bonds with students before graduation. The alumni office sells flowers for graduation and DVDs of the ceremony, which raises about $5,000 for scholarships, says Jessica Warnick, college alumni director.

Similar to other alumni directors, Warnick seeks long-term relationships with former students--she likes to call them former students, rather than alumni, since many never seek or get a degree--so small donors eventually may become large ones. A new initiative is to build "affinity" groups among alumni based on study areas, such as graduates from nursing or engineering.

In recent years, the college has received $5 million in bequests and donations, including a $3-million bequest from the family of a former student who only took a handful of refresher classes in nursing. The family was moved by the college's committment to all types of students. There was also $2 million in gifts from a family that owned a pharmaceutical company. The mother, four sons and a daughter-in-law all had attended the college.

Warnick also relates the story of a one alumnus--a DuPont executive--who had a choice to donate to his other alma mater, Duke University. The executive concluded that a donation could do more at Montgomery.

* In Search of Grant Money

Community colleges are turning professors into grant writers

By SARA BURNETT

The first day of science and technology camp, the four boys were too cool for school. They weren't particularly interested in group activities. They stood off by themselves during lessons.

But by the end of the week--around the time the lesson focused on shooting water-filled rockets 40 to 100 feet in the air--everything changed.

"By the last day they were asking 'Could we stay? Could we do it again?'" recalled Sharon DeReamer, who leads Salt Lake Community College's Applied Science, Technology and Engineering Camps.

Such camps represent the kind of outreach that community college leaders across the country say is part of their mission yet is often hard to finance.

Though Salt Lake began offering the camps a few years ago to a few dozen students, it wasn't until two years ago--when DeReamer, a computer science professor at the college, secured a grant from the state of Utah--that it was able to expand the camp to some 100 young people. It was also through the grant that the college was able to offer more scholarships for students like the young Latino boy whose interest in science piqued along with those plastic rockets.

More and more, cash-strapped two-year colleges are turning to grants to fund programs like the science camp. And more and more, two-year colleges are taking a page from their colleagues at four-year colleges and universities, giving the responsibility for writing those grants to faculty members, rather than one or two grant writers in a college's development or grants and contracts offices.

At the City University of New York system, community college faculty members also are writing grants for research. CUNY established a fund four years ago that provides up to $30,000 in "seed money" for two-year college instructors to get a research project off the ground. The goal is for faculty members to use that money over the course of one year, then apply for external grants from groups such as the National Science Foundation to continue the projects, says Gillian Small, CUNY dean for research.

Since they began the program, CUNY community college faculty members have received more than $500,000 in external grant funds.

In an environment where faculty members can be overwhelmed by a teaching load, the grants give instructors encouragement and hope that they also can conduct research, Small says. Each year, 10 to 15 grants are awarded. Faculty members have used some of the money to "buy themselves out" of teaching courses, or for a summer salary, Small says. It also has been used to hire research assistants, for travel or to purchase equipment colleges otherwise wouldn't be able to buy. Four years into the program, several faculty members have been successful in obtaining external funding to continue their work, Small says.

That's created a buzz among other faculty members, many of whom attend CUNY workshops on grant writing to learn how it's done or refine their own proposals, Small says.

"They can see that it's possible," she says.

Stella Perez, vice president for operations and technology programs at the League for Innovation in the Community College, said the League's grant writing workshops also have become increasingly popular as other funding sources have shrunk in recent years.

In many cases, grants are the only way to fund innovative new ideas or initiatives, and two-year colleges are becoming increasingly savvy in acquiring them, she says.

"It's something we know is a necessity," Perez adds.

But writing grants also can pose challenges. At Salt Lake Community College, for example, officials are looking at ways to recognize the time and effort grant writing takes, and to either compensate instructors or adjust their schedule accordingly, says Deanna Anderson, director of the faculty teaching and learning center and an associate professor of environmental technology.

Anderson estimates it takes about three months to see the typical grant application through from start to finish. The work can take anywhere from 40 to 80 hours.

The college also is trying to streamline its process so faculty members know which signatures are needed and people aren't duplicating efforts. If a grant application asks for information about the college, for example, it's likely a template for the questions already exists.

Anderson, who has successfully written several grants of her own, says she's seen the amount of grant writing increase "tremendously" at Salt Lake since she arrived in 1999. The college has started offering brown bag lunches in which grant writers are brought in to train faculty members and answer questions. A storage room in the teaching and learning center is now dedicated to grant and contract information.

How to Get the Grant

Grant writing can quickly become a frustrating, time-consuming experience if an applicant doesn't know what he or she is doing. For the uninitiated, Salt Lake Community College professors, offer these bits of advice:

1. Make sure the grant matches your idea. It isn't better to apply for more grants, hoping to land one. Rather, search for the grant that is a "good fit."

2. Collaborate with local community groups, other schools or other departments. Showing the organization that there is a community need, and several entities willing to work together to address it, makes your application more attractive.

3. Be realistic--and prudent--with your proposed budget, Organizations want to make sure they'll get the biggest bang for their buck.

4. Try again anal again. If you're not funded the first time, get feedback as to why the grant wasn't awarded, refine your proposal, and submit it again.

5. Realize there is a cost to applying for grants. It can be the instructor's time. or money in the form of matching funds. Choose the grants you'll apply for accordingly.

6. Edit your proposal carefully, and turn it in on time. Have two people read the proposal. Then put it away for a bit, take it out and read it again.
Funding for Science Education on the Rise

Funded by Congress, the National Science Foundation is an increasingly
important source of grant money for community colleges. The following
chart shows the grants the foundation has doled out to community
colleges over the past three years.

 FY2004 FY 2005

Program No. of Dollars No. of Dollars
 Awards (in 1000s) Awards (in 1000s)

ATE 132 44,545 142 44,414
CCLI 14 1,488 6 408
Noyce 0 0 0 0
SFS 1 75 1 100
S-STEM 33 9,721 5 35
STEP 4 2,586 4 4,407
TCUP 19 10,358 27 9,960
Other EHR 5 2,101 8 1,722
Other NSF 11 2,235 15 1,727

TOTAL NSF 219 73,018 208 62,773

 FY 2006

Program No. of Dollars
 Awards (in 1000s)

ATE 128 44,735
CCLI 5 615
Noyce 1 242
SFS 0 0
S-STEM 34 17,783
STEP 4 2,775
TCUP 30 9,725
Other EHR 5 4,755
Other NSF 11 1,780

TOTAL NSF 218 82,437

Key
ATE: The Advanced Technological Education program is by far the
 largest program aiding two-year colleges. It is a competitive
 grant process providing seed money to innovative educators to
 develop and test ideas for improving the education of
 technicians and the educators who teach them. The program who
 teach them.

CCLI: The Course, Curriculum, and Laboratory Improvement program is
 aimed at all types of undergraduate colleges. It supports
 efforts that conduct research aimed at improving
 undergraduate education in science, technology, engineering
 and mathematics.

Noyce: Robert Noyce Scholarships are awarded to college juniors,
 seniors and graduate students who agree to teach science or
 mathematics in public schools in return for the financial
 aid.

SFS The Scholarship for Service program seeks to increase the
 number of students entering the cyber-security field.

S-STEM NSF Scholarships in Science, Technology, Engineering, and
 Mathematics makes grants to colleges to support scholarships
 for academically talented, financially needy students,
 enabling them to enter the workforce following completion of
 an associate, baccalaureate, or graduate level degree in
 science and engineering disciplines.

STEP The Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics Talent
 Expansion Program seeks to increase the number of students
 receiving associate or baccalaureate degrees in established
 or emerging fields within STEM. Three within science,
 technology, engineering and mathematics.

TCUP The Tribal Colleges and Universities Program, aimed at
 colleges educating Native Americans.

EHR The Educational and Human Resources Directorate of the
 National Science Foundation, which gives teaching
 and research grants to faculty members.

SOURCE: NATIONAL SCIENCE FOUNDATION
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Title Annotation:SPECIAL REPORT: Funding Community Colleges
Publication:Community College Week
Date:Jul 16, 2007
Words:3291
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