The University of Central Arkansas in Conway has received a $1.6 million federal grant for a new initiative that supports low-income, first-time students during their first year.
The new five-year program, called Bear Life, aims to decrease the achievement gap in retention and persistence rates for low-income students, improve their academic performance and increase their sense of belonging. UCA said low-income, or Pell grant-eligible, students comprise more than 40% of its annual enrollment.
The grant from the U.S. Department of Education also supports a counselor and administrative specialist, as well as a part-time graduate assistant and three undergraduate guides, UCA said in a news release. It will operate as part of the UCA Office of Student Success.
Services provided under the grant will include advising and counseling on the admissions process, enrollment and registration, academic progress, financial literacy and major and career exploration.
The university named Nadia Eslinger director of the Bear Life program. She previously served for five years as the associate director of the UCA Office of Student Success.
"This program will provide an opportunity for UCA students to receive essential guidance that will positively impact their college career," Eslinger said in the release. "Many students have the grit and determination to succeed at UCA, but this program will give them the agency they need to help them actualize their dreams of becoming college graduates."