Grant aims at fostering economic mobility for YVC students
YAKIMA, Wash. — With Yakima Valley College serving a student population that is more than 80% first-generation and 57% Latinx, providing pathways to economic opportunity is central to the institution’s mission.
Over the next five years, a $3 million federal Hispanic Serving Institution grant will provide an additional boost to building classes and structures that benefit YVC students. The project, “Universal Design for Equity and Accountability in Learning” or UDEAL, will focus on enhancements to the college’s learning environment that enable students to be more successful in their academic work and life beyond college.
“We’ve already shown some great success with creating equitable access to education for students at YVC and this grant will take the work of our faculty and staff to another level,” said Maribel Torres Jiménez, director of the project.
At its core, the project will draw from the principles of universal design — which aim to make environments accessible to all people, regardless of age, disability or other factors — to center the needs of systemically disadvantaged learners in teaching and learning, assessment of student learning and online learning. Extensive professional development on universal design (UD) will be provided to YVC faculty and staff to support them in implementing UD in courses and support programs.
“If faculty and student services personnel proactively plan instruction and services to be inclusive of all learners, student learning and achievement will improve, leading to greater persistence to degree completion for all students,” Torres Jiménez said.
Other key enhancements that YVC students will see include:
- A simulation lab that will provide students in the college’s associate’s and applied bachelor’s degree programs in business management, business technology and information technology with more robust real world experiences, including additional internship opportunities and access to upgraded technology.
- Embedding financial literacy across the student experience, including coursework, academic advising and student services, to build students’ personal financial understanding and responsibility.
- Hiring of additional full-time faculty that will enable YVC to add another cohort for its applied bachelor’s degree in business management and offer all courses in its bachelor’s degree in information technology program each year instead of every other year — expansions that will be particularly helpful to the large number of working adults in those programs.
Torres Jiménez noted that UDEAL will support faculty in building relationships with more businesses and government and non-profit agencies in south-central Washington where YVC students can gain professional experience through internships.
“Here in the Yakima Valley, we have a significant opportunity to support the economic mobility we want our students to experience,” she said. “If we can provide more internship opportunities for our students right here in the Yakima Valley, it will enable them to stay local and give back to our community.”
Meanwhile, the focus on financial literacy is intended to empower students with more knowledge about the financial aid system in higher education as well as budgeting and other personal finance decisions students will need to make throughout their lives. All full-time faculty will participate in financial literacy advising training and financial literacy concepts will be integrated into the curriculum of existing developmental math courses.
“If you don’t have anyone in your family who has experienced higher education before, it’s hard to understand what to do,” Torres Jiménez said. “We want to embed the financial knowledge from the start of their experience at YVC so students feel confident they can succeed.”