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Christie Dade, ‘Stay the Course’ program manager for Catholic Charities Kansas City-St. Joseph discusses, how the Stay the Course program works to help low-income students graduate from community colleges.

Catholic Charities of Kansas City-St. Joseph recently received a $1.2 million grant to provide case management services to low-income community college students through a program called “Stay The Course.

Stay The Course, a program developed by Catholic Charities of Fort Worth, is designed to combat the high drop-out rate among community college students, said Christie Dade, Stay the Course program manager for Catholic Charities of Kansas City-St. Joseph.

“Statistics show that less than 60 percent of students graduate after six years of attending a community college,” Dade said. “They identified some barriers that most community college students experience, and those barriers are financial, their lack of preparation for higher education classes, there are family and social barriers, then there are barriers that most people face.”

Stay The Course is different from other intervention programs in that it goes beyond academic counseling to address students’ social, financial, academic and personal impediments to achieving a college degree.

Economically disadvantaged students are three times less likely to complete college than those on a more solid economic footing

In the program, each low-income student is paired with a “navigator,” who sets goals for the student, meets weekly with him or her and helps the person overcome obstacles that threaten progress toward degree completion, Dade said.

“Those navigators are actually social workers who work with low-income college students to help them overcome the non-academic barriers, and those barriers can be things like lack of preparation, understanding how to keep a schedule, things like perhaps a car issue or your child care changes,” Dade said.

She added there is also some small-dollar emergency assistance. The assistance is $1,500 per student that can be spent over the course of the schooling, with a maximum of $500 per semester.

Funding for the program comes through Catholic Charities of Fort Worth to cover 55 months.

“To be eligible for the program, you have to be enrolled at Metropolitan Community College, who is our partner. You have to be not dual enrolled, so you can’t be both enrolled in high school credit and college credit. You have to be taking a minimum of six hours of credit,” Dade said. “The really critical part is this is aimed at low-income students so you either have to be Pell grant eligible or at 200 percent below the set poverty level for your community.”

Dade said close to 3,000 students would qualify, but due to limited funds this will be a limited research study of 120 students who will be chosen through a lottery system.

Nationwide graduation rates hover between 3 and 6 percent a year for community college students, and officials with the agency in Fort Worth found that with this intensive case management program, the graduation rate for students who were in Stay The Course went up four times, Dade said.

“They’re wanting to see if they can replicate those type of numbers in other parts of the country, and that’s what we get the chance to do,” she said.

For more information on Stay The Course, call Catholic Charities at 816-221-4377.

To support the program, contact Susan Walker at Catholic Charities Kansas city-St. Joseph at 816-659-8218.

Alonzo Weston can be reached at

alonzo.weston@newspressnow.com.

Follow him on Twitter: @SJNPWeston.