First-generation, poor students to benefit from grant

The Tri-Cities' only four-year university has received a federal grant to improve services for low-income and first-generation students.

The U.S. Department of Education has approved a grant of $1.1 million to Washington State University Tri-Cities.

The grant is to be used to create a Student Support Services Program, which the federal agency requires to include tutoring, assistance with the financial aid process, intensive counseling and help in moving on to post-graduate studies.

About 40 percent of WSU Tri-Cities students are classified as low-income, according to the WSU announcement. With an enrollment of more than 1,500 students, that would mean about 600 fit that description.

The new program will serve about 140 students annually.

The program is seeking enrolled WSU students who plan to graduate from a four-year program and who clearly will benefit from the program.

This program is expected to help WSU become the state's first public four-year university to be classified as a Hispanic Serving Institution. That determination is bestowed on colleges in which 25 percent of students identify as Hispanic, and it allows those schools to apply for certain federal grants.

In Washington, only Yakima Valley Community College and Heritage University, a private institution in Toppenish, qualify for such grants, according to lists published on the U.S. Department of Education website.

WSU this week also welcomed Carol Wilkerson, director of the new program, who's coming from a college in Atlanta.