CPP RAMP program RAMPs up funding to students in need

By Diana Vasquez, Feb. 16, 2021

With a $2.2 million increase in funding, Cal Poly Pomona’s Reading, Advising, and Mentoring Program plans to offer a grant of $650 to a minimum of 20 RAMP students while continuing to provide panels for financial skills, career advising and remaining a community to low-income, first-generation and students with disabilities.

RAMP, a federally funded U.S. Department of Education TRIO Student Support Services project, received a 4% allocation on the federal grant acquiring $2.2 million for the next five years. This allows the program to continue supporting 250 eligible underrepresented students. The increase in funding comes after 33 years of assisting CPP students.

“A good chunk of the grant is staff salaries and benefits; however, another decent chunk is providing grant aid to freshmen and sophomores who are Pell Grant recipients,” said Laura Ayon, director of RAMP. “We have more students that would qualify than we have money to give, so we have made it a competition. Students have to apply for the aid, and we go through a process of scoring their applications and awarding until we run out of money.”

Courtesy of Brandon Johnson

Pell Grant recipients are undergraduate students who present exceptional financial need to the Department of Education.

In order for RAMP to continue receiving federal funds, the program is required to show that 90% of students continued their education from one year to the next or obtained a bachelor’s degree all while maintaining good academic standing. RAMP surpassed these standards with 93% of its 242 students returning or graduating and 94% in good academic standing for the 2019-2020 academic year.

According to Ayon, another expectation RAMP must exceed is for 60% of new student participants to graduate within six years of joining the program. In 2014-2015, 82% of 134 new participants obtained a bachelor’s degree within six years entering RAMP.

Besides providing financial scholarship opportunities to its participants, RAMP prepares a series of workshops ranging from financial literacy, FAFSA renewal, steps on how to rent an apartment, buy a home or car and apply for graduate school.

“The Department of Education is aware that programs across the nation are struggling to meet their numbers,” said Ayon. “At the same time, we’re serving the neediest students and therefore our services are that much more important.”

Ayon added that the most difficult part of running a program online is the drop in student participation. RAMP is funded to support 250 students, but the program currently serves an estimated 150 students. However, the decrease in student participation does not affect the amount of support the program provides to the students.

First Gen Graduate Panel held in March 2020 (Courtesy of Laura Ayon)

Arely Navarro, a first-year agricultural science student, found a niche within RAMP and feels like she wouldn’t have succeeded this past fall semester without the program.

“Laura reached out to me during winter break and asked me about my laptop status,” said Navarro. “I told her I was sharing a laptop with my younger sibling, and that my dad was our only income, so it’s been really hard for us to get a new laptop. I don’t know how she did it but I’m very grateful and blessed; she was able to get me into this scholarship where I was able to get a new laptop.”

Navarro finished her high school senior year through the screen and started her first year of college on one. She is involved with RAMP’s book club and First-Gen Crew meetings. According to Navarro, RAMP has been an additional support system in offering tutoring services she attends two hours per week.

RAMP’s tutoring services focus on developing a student’s reading comprehension. Students may apply to the program but must meet certain requirements including low-income verification. According to Ayon, students must present a need for the program, as part of the application includes a reading assessment allowing to see where the student falls within their literature comprehension.

Fifth-year general civil engineering student and mentor Brandon Johnson also participated in the First-Gen Crew meetings and said that students expressed concerns of imposter syndrome, a psychological pattern where individuals doubt their skills and talents.

He realized how intimidating it can be to navigate college, but the panel focused on students learning how to give themselves space to adjust and hearing experiences of past students. Johnson described RAMP as a community.

“RAMP checks up on you; they give you a support system all the way through graduation,” said Johnson. “It’s a very optimistic program. Being in RAMP you’re able to participate in mixers and even through the pandemic we’re able to connect with students.”

Students who would like more information about RAMP can visit https://www.cpp.edu/ramp/.

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