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New Gates Grants for Remedial Ed at CT Community Colleges
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HARTFORD, Conn. -- Housatonic and Norwalk Community Colleges are among 15 schools nationwide to share $16.5 million from the Bill and Melissa Gates Foundation to help more students earn a college degree.

Vanessa Smith-Morest is Dean of Institutional Effectiveness at Norwalk Community College. She said for the past four years, NCC has helped college students become more successful through a national initiative called Achieving the Dream. Smith-Morest said the program emphasizes the use of data and research to drive change.

"And that's where the Gates foundation comes in. Gates is interested in funding Community colleges who have been involved in Achieving the Dream and already doing this kind of work to bring up successful strategies to scale."

Smith-Morest said about sixty percent of new, first-time students test below college level in English and Math, and require remediation courses.

"Based on our research, they are students who are serious about succeeding -- actually the retention rates of the students are pretty good, and they're higher than retention rates of non-remedial students -- but a lot of them don't do well in their classes, so we're trying to find ways of helping them become more successful."

Norwalk and Housatonic Community College will both receive $743,000 in grants over the next three years.

Connecticut has 12 community colleges. Smith-Morest said they're a critical element of the Higher Education system, as nearly half of all under-graduate students are enrolled in community colleges.

Other states receiving grant money include Florida, North Carolina,  Ohio, Texas and Virginia.