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Windward // Windward Oahu Coverstory
Christina O’Connor

Project’s Goal: To Boost Degrees In Four Years

Presenting its matching grant of nearly $1 million to Windward Community College, Harold K.L. Castle Foundation hopes to help boost graduation rates and UH Manoa transfers over four years in the pilot project Paipai 'o Ko'olau. At the ceremony last month in front of the WCC Library Commons are (from left) Donna Vuchinich of the UH Foundation, John Morton of the UH Community Colleges System, Ardis Eschenberg of WCC Student Affairs, WCC chancellor Doug Dykstra, and Castle Foundation's Mitchell D'Olier, Terrence George and Beth Murph. Photo from Shauna Goya.

A new partnership and $922,815.33 are launching Paipai ‘o Ko’olau, a four-year pilot project to boost college access, transfer and graduation rates at Windward Community College – and applications will be ready by the end of this month.

Harold K.L. Castle Foundation awarded the matching grant last month to WCC to support the program that will identify and nurture 200 students (50 per year) with college potential but who lack the means to achieve a degree. WCC intends to launch the project this summer, and is seeking its first group of 50 students, 25 part-time and 25 full-time. Nontraditional students also will be considered.

“We want to find students who are not going to college because of various perceived barriers … and we want to try to remove the barriers,” explained foundation president and CEO Mitchell D’Olier.

Paipai ‘o Ko’olau translates as “the support or encouragement of the Ko’olau,” and WCC vice chancellor of student affairs Ardis Eschenberg said it will “nurture these students from their first contact with (WCC) until they’re ready for graduation or transfer.”

Included are summer bridge classes, peer mentoring and cohort scheduling, plus advisers to guide them in selecting classes and monitor overall progress.

“We saw this as an opportunity to (do) … all of the things you wish you could do with your students if you had the resources,” said WCC chancellor Douglas Dykstra, “and to be given the resources to do it is phenomenal – it’s a dream.”

“Now more than ever, a key gateway for our young people is college,” said foundation executive vice president and COO Terrence George. “We see this as an investment in the future, and there is a pretty specific return on investment for students who succeed.”

The grant also gives students full-tuition scholarships for the first year.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics found that high school graduates earn an average of $652 per week, but that figure jumps to $785 with an associate degree and to $1,066 with a bachelor’s degree.

The nonprofit Complete College America also found that 68 percent of Hawaii jobs will require a college education by 2020, yet state graduation rates are low for associate-degree programs, with only 18.6 percent of students in a two-year program graduating within four years.

“A lot of that has to do with the challenge of making a living in Hawaii – paying rent, paying for food,” Dykstra said. The new program helps alleviate the financial burden of education and also tap into an under-utilized talent pool.

“For students who are behind, until they catch up, you don’t have any idea how they’re going to perform against other high-performing students,” D’Olier said.

“If there is somebody out there with the dream to go to college and who doesn’t think they can, I want them to call Ardis.”

For more information, call her at 235-7466, email ardise@hawaii.edu, or visit windward.hawaii.edu/paipai.

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