University News

WIU Receives RPED Grant From U.S. Department of Education

February 6, 2024

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MACOMB/MOLINE, IL - - Western Illinois University has been named as one of only 22 higher education institutions in the nation to receive a Rural Postsecondary and Economic Development (RPED) grant from the U.S. Department of Education.

The goal of the RPED grant program is to improve rates of postsecondary enrollment and completion among rural students in the region.

The grant provides WIU with $2.2 million over four years for its Addressing Equity Gaps Among Rural Students (AEGARS) project.

The AEGARS project has four core objectives:

  • Increase enrollment for secondary students by improving college readiness and access to postsecondary education through coordination with rural local education agencies.

  • Increase first-year retention for students by improving support for new incoming freshmen transitioning from rural high schools to a four-year institution of higher education.

  • Increase third-year retention rates among students by developing targeted programs.

  • Increase post-graduation employment rates of students by supporting workforce development and enhancing academic career pathways in rural culturally and linguistically diverse communities.

WIU Political Science Professor Julia Albarracín serves as the AEGARS project principal investigator, and Justin Schuch, assistant vice president of Student Success and Enrollment, serves as co-principal investigator.

"We are grateful to the Department of Education for this award, and are very excited for this opportunity, which will provide us with the resources to support our students and increase access to higher education for underserved communities in the region," Albarracín said.

"I commend the team across the university who worked on this vital grant. This award will allow students in our region to increase their access to higher education, and Western students to boost their graduation rates and workforce participation after graduation, thus also contributing to the economic growth of our region. We are truly excited to work on this project in partnership with the Department of Education," WIU President Guiyou Huang said.

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