Summary: Get REAL (Refocus Education on Adult Learners)

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Curious about Virginia Western’s Title III grant?

Our grant narrative might have been 55 pages long, but we were able to boil main points down to one page.

You can download the summary as a PDF and print, or find the overview below (updated as of March 2021):


Get REAL (Refocus Education on Adult Learners), 2020 to 2025

What: A 5-year, $1.8-million grant from the U.S. Department of Education Title III Strengthening Institutions Program (SIP). VWCC President Dr. Robert H. Sandel calls it the “holy grail” of community college grants.

Purpose: To better serve and model stronger pathways to employment for the region’s adult learners (age 20 and older)  – the new majority in higher education – especially adults from low-income backgrounds and students of color.

VWCC data (2018-19): Average age: 25 / 54% adult learners / 82% of all students attend part-time

Project director: Dr. Milan Hayward, Vice President of the School of Corporate and Career Training

National education reform organizations Achieving the Dream (ATD) and the Council for Adult and Experiential Learning (CAEL) will provide data coaching, professional development, and expertise in the adult-learner space.

Personnel to be hired (updated March 2021):

Get REAL Budget graph

Innovative approach: The College Affordability Navigator will serve as an internal and external connector — the hub who will connect critical resources for adult learners, starting with VWCC’s Office of Financial Aid and Veterans Affairs and the numerous scholarships offered by the Educational Foundation, including the Fralin Futures Finish Line scholarship. The navigator’s mission will go beyond one-on-one service to students and will be key to institutionalizing affordability and financial literacy education throughout the college.

Outcomes: Adult learners will not only gain hands-on training experiences, but will also learn how to manage their finances and thrive in the workplace.

Educational Foundation impact:  The Educational Foundation endowment will receive $145,000 over 5 years to help bridge the affordability gap for adults. The Foundation will match with non-federal funds.

Why could this project be so transformative? Experienced new personnel, data-informed decision-making, strategic action, structural reorganization, stronger curricular platforms, and stakeholder commitment have uniquely positioned VWCC to model what an adult learner-focused community college could look like for Virginia and America.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has negatively affected us all, but it has had a disproportionate impact on individuals who struggle to make ends meet during the best of times. Now we will have more opportunities to help these people find their pathway to the middle class through higher education.”

— Dr. Robert H. Sandel


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1 Response
  1. I would like to find a balance to an affordable institution and financial literacy education. I did not get a chance to go to college when I was younger. So I would love to get a higher education now as long as I can afford it.

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About Stephanie

Stephanie SeagleStephanie Ogilvie Seagle has served as Grant Specialist at Virginia Western since 2016, but she prefers her honorary title: “Chief Joy Officer.” Stephanie spent most of her career at The Roanoke Times, a daily newspaper, where she served in various news and features roles including “Shoptimist” shopping columnist. She earned a bachelor’s degree in integrative studies at George Mason University and a master’s of arts in liberal studies at Hollins University. Stephanie is a mom to one human daughter and multiple chihuahuas … and is obsessed with reading nonfiction, Halloween, and crafting glow necklaces inspired by the Mill Mountain Star. Glow Roanoke!

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