INA — The 13 Rend Lake College students who visited with Department of Education official Sue Liu on Wednesday attributed their academic success to college support services — the Student Transfer and Retention Support (STARS) Program in particular.

“We can see how important some of the supports you have received here are. I think this has been an enriching experience for us,” Liu told the students at the conclusion of the hour-long roundtable discussion in the RLC Student Center.

She engaged in another roundtable discussion with RLC administrators and students on overcoming challenges to attend and complete college before joining Deputy Secretary of Education Tony Miller at Continental Tire in Mount Vernon, where they visited with local business and education leaders about partnerships established here between education and employers.

Liu and Miller’s visit was part of a 2012 cross-country back-to-school bus tour “Education Drives America,” now in its third year that promotes education.

“We’ve heard so much about Rend Lake College,” Liu said at the onset of the discussion, referring to the school’s high graduation rate according to statistics from the Chronicle of Higher Education.

Students who participated in the discussion ranged from those entering college from high school to late bloomers, single parents and some who had been in the work world for a long period before re-entering school.

They spoke about overcoming obstacles with solutions such as financial aid packages, individual counseling and caring attitudes from RLC faculty and staff.

And much of the success stories included a mentioning of the federally funded STARS program designed to increase student retention through various means such as financial aid packages and tutoring.

RLC administrator Leah Stallman, who oversees federally funded programs at the college, said the RLC support services assisted 160 students during the 2010-11 academic year, of which 85 percent were low income. Of that total, there was a 77 percent graduation rate and 87.5 percent had good academic standing, Stallman said.

“We feel privileged to help students become successful,” Stallman said.

Liu said after the discussion that she hears about the value of support services at each college she has visited on the tour.

“Student support services are a consistent theme we are hearing. We see all kinds of students coming in with different needs and interests,” Liu said.



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