To increase student interest and participation in math, science, engineering and technology in Pinal County, Central Arizona College has secured the largest grant in the 42-year history of the institution.
In October, the U.S. Department of Education awarded CAC a five-year, nearly $3.4-million Hispanic-Serving Institution-Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (HSI-STEM) Grant.
The funding will have an impact throughout most of CAC’s 10 campuses and centers.
“As an institution of higher education, we need to do our part to address the challenges faced by the STEM areas of study,” said Steven Gonzales, the acting associate vice president of academic service. “Too few students are pursuing STEM-related areas of study. Retention rates in STEM areas tend to be lower when compared to other areas of the college.”
Due to low enrollment and lower retention, graduation rates in STEM areas are significantly lower than other degree programs at the college, Gonzales said.
“Transfer rates to universities, therefore, are lower, while students are academically underprepared in mathematics and lack a comprehensive approach to STEM areas of study.”
This particular grant was written to address the identified issues on multiple fronts and complements the Title V Grant that addresses issues related to developmental education at CAC.
***ADVERTISEMENT***“This grant continues the focus of concentrating on Hispanic and low-income STEM students,” Gonzales said.
The aggressive districtwide plan includes hiring seven full-time positions for the life of the grant, including a coordinator, office assistant, four preceptors and a student services generalist, as well as a team of up to 16 peer academic mentors/leaders.
Some of the money will be used to enhance transfer pathways for microbiology and biotechnology, provide supplemental instruction for students and develop summer science camps. Math enrichment and refresher courses, as well as programs such as robotics also are being considered.
The program has components for family involvement including financial literacy and financial aid workshops.
Coupled with the $2.7 million Title V Grant issued to CAC by the U.S. Department of Education in October of 2011, CAC has a total of more than $6 million in grant monies this fiscal year.
The HSI-STEM grant is expected to help nearly 6,000 students in STEM classes and degree programs during its five-year lifespan.