National Science Foundation awards grant to Townsend Communications

Townsend Communications has received a $690,000 research grant from the National Science Foundation to develop an online program aimed at improving the graduation rate of students attending the nation’s community colleges.

The Kansas City-based company said it is designing what it calls MyCCMajors, which will include academic advising and other features geared to helping students at two-year colleges find a major that best matches their interests and abilities.

The grant is in addition to $150,000 in funding that Townsend Communications received in 2013 from the National Science Foundation to conduct initial research on developing a web tool for community college students.

Only 25 percent of students enrolled in community colleges actually graduate, according to Townsend Communications, citing a 2012 study by the American Enterprise Institute and the American Institute of Research. Failure to earn a degree often leads to “lower wages throughout the course of their lives,” the study said.

“If community college retention rates were increased, graduates could become part of a wholly different income bracket,” according to the research.

Guy Townsend, the president of Townsend Communications, said the community college project will complement the company’s website. That online tool is designed to help high school students and college students attending traditional four-year schools identify potential majors and academic opportunities.

Townsend said his company plans to license a customized version of MyCCMajors to community colleges to assist student advising, especially for first-year orientation programs. He said work on the web site also has drawn the attention of traditional colleges and universities seeking to attract transfer students from the community college ranks.

Townsend said six part-time researchers will be hired during the two-year grant period to work on the project. Townsend Communications, in addition to its web-based educational resources, publishes College Outlook and several other magazines.