Student Support Services provides vital connection

When first-generation and low-income students enroll in college, many face a myriad of issues ranging from poor organizational skills to struggles with financial support.

That’s where Henderson State University’s Student Support Services (SSS) steps in. As one of Henderson’s six federally funded TRIO education programs, SSS helps enrolled undergraduate, low income and/or first generation students successfully complete their postsecondary education.

“Our SSS Project is extremely successful with its retention and graduation of students because our staff provides a wide range of services,” said Brenda Hagerich, assistant director.

Some of the services listed by Hagerich include: individualized academic advising and tutoring; information on financial aid and graduate school opportunities; workshops on study skills; time and stress management; financial and economic literacy; and career options.

“The program offers monthly support group sessions for non-traditional students where information about the campus community is shared and monthly training sessions for our tutors are provided,” Hagerich said. “Our tutors must have taken the course they are tutoring and have earned an “A” or a “B” in the course.”

Because of poor academic performance in high school and low ACT/SAT scores, some Henderson students must be placed in development courses which can prolong their degree completion by as much as one year, said Dr. Pam Bax, TRIO director.

“With a great many of the students having a lack of connection from their major to career, the SSS Project has proven to be a great source for these students to be able to receive the mentoring support and the services that will help them decide on a career field and remain on track to graduate in their field of study,” she said. 

Bax pointed out that some students must deal with inadequate financial support, unmet financial need, high loan debts and a tendency to overspend and misuse credit cards.

“The SSS Project has made it a priority to address these issues through financial literacy workshops and individual assistance to students in helping them gain knowledge of money management and effective budgeting so that they do not graduate with high student loan debts,” Bax said.

Based on its most recent annual performance report, the TRIO SSS Project showed a persistence rate of 86 percent, good academic standing rate of 91 percent, and graduation rate of 50 percent for the more than 300 students it serves. 

Henderson’s SSS program is staffed by three education specialists. Debbie Miller coordinates free and individualized tutor services. The Capsol Learning Styles Inventory is administered to all students and information is shared with their tutors. This allows the tutors to use the teaching/learning style best suited for each student. 

Reo Cummings provides financial aid information and works with students to advise them on their course selection. Wanda Harris is responsible for providing graduate school information and advising students.

Administrative assistant Vickie Lowe is the source for data documentation that meets federal guidelines of the SSS Project, and is responsible for much of the follow-up and contact with SSS students.

Henderson’s TRIO programs serve more than 2,000 participants, receiving annual funding of $1,525,634.

To learn more about the SSS Project, contact Hagerich at 870-230-5474 or hagerib@hsu.edu.