Government and Higher Education

College wins $2.5M grant from feds

October 10, 2016
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Aquinas College in Grand Rapids is a Catholic liberal arts school, founded in 1886. Photo via

A local college has received a $2.5-million federal grant to address the lack of English as a second language, or ESL, and bilingual teachers in Michigan.

Aquinas College said last month it was awarded $2,523,712 through a U.S. Department of Education five-year Professional Development grant.

The grant supports an initiative by Rui Niu-Cooper, an associate professor of education at Aquinas, to improve classroom instruction for English-language learners.

The grant allows Aquinas to develop a series of professional development courses for pre-service teachers, paraprofessionals and in-service teachers. After completing the program, participants will be eligible to receive Michigan Department of Education, or MDE, ESL/bilingual teaching endorsements.

There are 88,000 students in Michigan in need of ESL education, and there are 300 ESL and bilingual programs in the state, according to the MDE.

Niu-Cooper said Aquinas’ ESL program is a “model program,” and the grant will help the school work collaboratively with its partner schools.

The program is in partnership with eight school systems: Grand Rapids Public Schools, Kelloggsville Public Schools, Kentwood Public Schools, Kent Intermediate School District, Wyoming Public Schools, the Diocese of Grand Rapids Office of Catholic Schools, Godfrey-Lee Public Schools and Godwin Heights Public Schools.

Aquinas will receive the grant funding in increments of $425,000 to $549,000 each year for the next five years.

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