GVSU an early adopter of national call to employ more college students as K-12 tutors

Grand Valley is immediately answering a national call to action to engage more college students in the academic support of K-12 students by committing to employ more GVSU students in tutoring roles.

The announcement May 10 by the U.S. Department of Education lists Grand Valley as one of 26 colleges and universities nationwide that are early adopters of the effort and one of two in Michigan, along with the University of Michigan.

The move is part of the National Partnership for Student Success, a partnership that was launched in 2022 after President Biden called for an additional 250,000 adults to serve in academic support roles to help K-12 students with learning challenges exacerbated by the pandemic. 

The Department of Education has called on institutions to set a public goal of using at least 15% of Federal Work Study funds for community service within the next two years, with any increase in such employment devoted to the objectives of the call to action. Grand Valley has agreed to that goal.

Grand Valley will fulfill the commitment primarily through the K-12 Connect academic support program, which was created in 2020 to address learning loss during the pandemic. It has already helped thousands of K-12 students through intensive tutoring delivered mostly by GVSU students.

The carillon is shown with pink tree blossoms in the foreground.
Grand Valley is one of 26 schools nationwide, and two in Michigan, that is an early adopter of this effort.

“Grand Valley State University is proud to help advance the goals of the National Partnership for Student Success by building upon our robust K-12 Connect tutoring programs,” said GVSU President Philomena V. Mantella. “We recognized early in the pandemic that our students could provide high-quality academic support to elementary and secondary students who were struggling. We look forward to engaging more GVSU students to work in and learn from these crucial tutoring positions.”

The fact that GVSU already had the successful and growing K-12 Connect program in place was key to the university's ability to join this national effort, officials said. 

Not only has K-12 Connect helped more than 3,000 K-12 students with tutoring and mentoring services, but it has also hired more than 1,000 college students, 95% of whom are GVSU students. K-12 Connect has grown into a program that contracts with school districts to provide tutoring and has become a large GVSU student employer, said Steven Hodas, executive director of the GV NextEd Co-Lab, which houses K-12 Connect.

"That is an index of the popularity of the work both with our clients, who caused us to need more tutors, but also with Grand Valley students who found it to be a good job and recommended it to their friends," Hodas said.

The Federal Work Study program provides funds to assist with employing students who have a financial need by supplementing the wages offered by campus employers, said Michelle Rhodes, associate vice president for Financial Aid. 

While the program's rules require that 7% of employment fall into a community service category, GVSU was already well above that threshold because of the student employment through K-12 Connect, Rhodes said. That means GVSU will only need to boost Federal Work Study student employment in academic support roles by 2% to 3% to reach the goal of this national call to action.

"It just seemed like a natural partnership," Rhodes said. "We're not creating anything new, so it was easy for us to say 'Yes' because we're already doing this."

Hodas also noted that because equity is an important part of the K-12 Connect mission, its leaders have emphasized working with students in the Federal Work Study program.

"We know that one of the things that is most helpful for persistence and on-time graduation for students with a financial need is having a secure, rewarding source of employment throughout the time they are on campus, as well as creating a community of which they are a larger part," Hodas said.


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