LaGuardia Community College Awarded “First in the World” Grant by U.S. Department of Education for Innovative Programs to Improve Graduation Rates for Low-Income and Minority Students

Oct 1, 2014
In The News

Long Island City, NY—Sept. 30, 2014—LaGuardia Community College was awarded a highly competitive “First in the World” Grant intended to improve student retention and graduation rates among low income and minority students. 

"After receiving nearly 500 applications from around the country, we're excited to announce LaGuardia Community College will receive a First in the World grant, funded for the first time this year," said U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan.  "Each grantee demonstrated a high-quality, creative and sound approach to expand college access and improve student outcomes.  We are confident these projects will have a positive impact on increasing access and completion and help us reach President Obama's 2020 goal to once again have the highest share of college graduates in the world." 

“We are deeply pleased that the United States Department of Education has recognized La Guardia Community College of The City University of New York through its innovative First In the World competitive grant process,” said Chancellor James B. Milliken of The City University of New York.  “We extend warmest congratulations to the talented, hard-working faculty, staff and students of one of our nation's premier community colleges.  This investment in student success is particularly significant in light of the program's highly laudable emphasis on improved retention and graduation of low income and minority students.” 

“Winning the ‘First in the World’ competition will give LaGuardia the resources we need to further spur innovation at our campus and directly and powerfully help our students graduate so they can transform their lives and their families’ lives,” said Dr. Gail O. Mellow, President of LaGuardia Community College. “We greatly appreciate the vision of Secretary of Education Arne Duncan and Under Secretary of Education Ted Mitchell, and the Obama Administration, for launching this competition, which will unearth smart ideas from across the nation on how we can open the doors to higher education to more Americans and help them earn a college degree, which is essential to a prosperous future for our students and nation.” 

“LaGuardia Community College provides top-notch education to New York City students and this federal investment will help make sure these students succeed. Now is the time to invest in our students, so I am pleased that the U.S. Department of Education awarded La Guardia Community a grant through the First in the World Program,” said NY Senator Charles E. Schumer. 

“This is such a great investment for La Guardia Community College,” said NY Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, who wrote a letter to the Department of Education in support of the application. “Providing New York’s students with the resources and support needed to enroll and complete college will help bridge the gap for students - so they can reach their full potential. This funding will help students partner with faculty so they can get the attention they deserve; helping them focus so they can succeed.” 

“LaGuardia is known as the "World's Community College," enrolling students from 158 different countries. Participation in the First in the World initiative will strengthen LaGuardia's support services for over 25,000 low-income and minority students, many of whom are the first in their families to attend college. This funding is critical in helping underrepresented and high-risk students complete their degrees and advance to careers. I'm proud to support this truly innovative institution that continues to expand opportunities for all students,” said Congresswoman Carolyn B. Maloney (D-NY). 

"I congratulate LaGuardia Community College on receiving a 'First in the World' grant from the U.S. Department of Education," said Rep. Joe Crowley (D-Queens, the Bronx). "I was happy to support their application for federal funds and I am thrilled they will have the opportunity to implement an innovative program that will help our students succeed. LaGuardia is among the premiere community colleges in America, and I know they will put these funds to good use while serving a diverse and dynamic group of students here in Queens." 

U.S. Under Secretary of Education Ted Mitchell formally presented the DOE’s First in the World $2.9 million grant to LaGuardia during a daylong Innovation in Higher Education meeting at the College. The Under Secretary met with CUNY Chancellor James B. Milliken, CUNY officials, and joined in an open discussion with a number of LaGuardia students, faculty, staff and local and city businesses. 

With this funding LaGuardia will launch, Project COMPLETA, Comprehensive Support for Student Success, which will advance three interlocking core activities to help low-income and under-represented college students succeed.  COMPLETA will strengthen academic and co-curricular engagement from the moment of admission through the first college year and beyond, creating a comprehensive support and assessment structure to speed students to graduation.  

LaGuardia’s emphasis on comprehensive effort is underscored by the project’s name. In Spanish, porcompleta means to make whole, to go all out, to make perfect. At LaGuardia, COMPLETA will exemplify a fully-rounded, campus-wide effort to transform student learning, advance completion and graduation, and help one of the nation’s most important community colleges open the doors of higher education to all and ensure student success. 

COMPLETA’s interlocking core activities will build engagement, retention and graduation. 

1. Back on Track - Support thousands of high-risk students as they move from LaGuardia’s non-credit programs to academic enrollment.  Roughly one third of LaGuardia’s matriculating students first come to campus when they take non-credit classes.  This includes out-of-school youth and adults working towards high school equivalency (HSE) diplomas. By strengthening pre-enrollment support, holding specialized orientations and skills workshops, and providing advisement to every HSE student, it will increase the percentage of HSE students who matriculate by 10%. 

2. Rethink the First Year Seminar - Integrate new discipline-based curriculum with co-curricular innovation to launch more than 20,000 new students towards graduation.  Nationwide, the transition to college is challenging for first generation, low-income and minority students.  To address this problem, LaGuardia will create a new, required, credit-bearing First Year Seminar that will integrate an introduction to key concepts and careers in each major with intensive advisement, co-curricular engagement, peer mentoring, and an introduction to LaGuardia’s technology suite, giving students the tools to more successfully adjust to and persist in college. 

3. Transform Advisement for All Students: Train and activate College-wide faculty/staff/peer mentor teams to guide students more effectively to graduation, transfer and career.  Pro-active advisement can make a powerful difference for low-income urban students, and a faculty advising system can be an important ingredient in the retention process.  To address this problem and sustain the momentum toward graduation created by the First Year Seminar, LaGuardia will activate a comprehensive and shared model of advisement, consisting of teams of faculty, staff, and peer mentors trained by LaGuardia’s award-winning Center for Teaching and Learning and empowered with new digital systems such as ePortfolio to help guide students more effectively to succeed. 


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LaGuardia Community College located in Long Island City, Queens, was founded in 1971 as a bold experiment in opening the doors of higher education to all, and we proudly carry forward that legacy today. LaGuardia educates students through over 50 degree, certificate and continuing education programs, providing an inspiring place for students to achieve their dreams. Upon graduation, LaGuardia students’ lives are transformed as family income increases 17%, and students transfer to four-year colleges at three times the national average. Part of the City University of New York (CUNY), LaGuardia is a nationally recognized leader among community colleges for boundary-breaking success educating underserved students. At LaGuardia we imagine new ideas, create new curriculum and pioneer programs to make our community and our country stronger. Visit to learn more.