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Gateway Technical College has been awarded a $1.53 million federal grant to increase opportunities for high school students to earn college credit and begin their careers before high school graduation.

The two-year U.S. Department of Education Fund for the Improvement of Postsecondary Education grant will support added opportunities for Gateway’s dual credit program offerings, focusing on increased and improved technology and resources for students and dual credit instructors in areas hardest hit by the COVD-19 pandemic.

“I’m excited that we received the grant,” said Katie Graf, Gateway director of high school partnerships. “We saw that there were some challenges with students completing their dual credit classes at the end of 2020 and into the 2021 school year with unmet needs.

“I think we have a great plan in place to address those needs, to be able to adapt quickly and provide technology and resources to students and instructors. It’s a great benefit for students who want to engage in the great opportunity of dual credit.”

Dual credit allows high school students to earn Gateway credits free of charge, starting their college education and career pathway before graduation.

Graf said the college experienced a decline in dual credit enrollment as some area high schoolers in 2020 and 2021 struggled to engage in the courses because they didn’t have a laptop or other tools needed for virtual learning.

The grant will help to provide opportunities for even more students to enroll in dual credit programs. Among other innovative practices, the program will include funding for laptops, equipment and supplies for students and dual credit instructors.

The program will also allow the college to expand its Virtual Academic Network (VANguard) program to underserved high schools and improve the VANguard model to allow for flexibility to students who are adversely affected by virtual learning resource deficiencies.

By the end of the grant period, Gateway’s VANguard program will be available in 15 high schools, with 30 total course offerings, 10 VANguard instructors and 800 total students. By the end of the grant period, 50 dual credit mini-grant awards will be awarded to dual credit instructors to allow for sufficient program resources and benefiting more than 6,000 dual credit students.

Gateway competed with other colleges to receive the grant, which uses the CARES Act and the Fund for the Improvement of Postsecondary Education (FIPSE). The college program is called the Virtual Opportunities in Career Education program. Gateway was notified of the grant award this month – and it’s already ready to roll out to area high-schoolers.