CHAPEL HILL, NC -- The 17-campus University of North Carolina today announced a three-year, $3-million grant from the Oak Foundation of Geneva, Switzerland, that will enable UNC campuses to better meet the needs of students who learn differently. 

The STAR project (Supporting Transition, Access and Retention) will provide a network of comprehensive services for students who historically have slipped through the cracks of the education system—students who are capable of successful college attendance and graduation, but who often struggle academically because they learn differently.  Using the principles of a system developed at North Carolina State University called “Universal Design for Learning” and other resources, the project will also help faculty on UNC campuses identify and incorporate more effective strategies for teaching students with varying learning styles.

The grant will fund implementation of programming on three UNC campuses—East Carolina University, the University of North Carolina at Greensboro, and a third campus yet to be determined.   The longer-term goal is to expand the program to three additional UNC campuses and also to engage campuses within the North Carolina Community College System.

In announcing the grant, UNC President Tom Ross said, “We know that North Carolina’s economic future hinges on our ability to get more of our young people better educated and equipped to compete for the jobs of tomorrow. This grant will help us make our campuses places where talented students who learn differently can get the services they need to be successful in college and in life. We are grateful for the Oak Foundation’s support of our efforts and look forward to an ongoing collaboration.”

Research suggests that 15% to 20% of today’s students have what are now referred to as “learning differences”—developmental strengths and/or weaknesses that can cause smart, talented students to struggle in the classroom.  In spite of demonstrated abilities, learning differences cause these students to attend and graduate from college at lower rates than their peers.  UNC aims to become the first public university system to intentionally meet the support needs of students who learn differently and the instructional development needs of the faculty who teach them. 

The Oak Foundation commits its resources to address issues of global social and environmental concern, particularly those that have a major impact on the lives of the disadvantaged.

The oldest public university in the nation, the University of North Carolina enrolls more than 220,000 students and encompasses all 16 of North Carolina’s public institutions that grant baccalaureate degrees, as well as the NC School of Science and Mathematics, the nation’s first public residential high school for academically gifted students.

Friday, May 13, 2011

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