How the $5 million STEM scholarships will help students

St. Cloud State University is partnering with other community colleges across the state, promoting a 5-million dollar scholarship from a grant received from the National Science Foundation. The grant, the Academic Collaboration and Coordination Model to Ensure Student Success in STEM, or better known as, ACCESS STEM, will help students complete bachelor’s degrees who are interested in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math fields.

Their target goal is to help 100 students attending SCSU or any one of the partnering institutions, to help obtain those degrees in a 5-year period.

According to the criteria, the scholarship has five standards that students must achieve in order to receive them:

1) Students must be citizens, nationals or aliens who were admitted as refugees or lawfully admitted to the U.S. for permanent residency.

2) They must be a full-time student in a STEM program, either at a community college or university and must continue to be full-time upon getting the scholarship and must transfer to SCSU from the community colleges to receive the two-year scholarship. 

3) Students must show high academic potentiality and ability; have a high school GPA of 3.0 and above and an ACT score of 22 or above.

4) The students applying are eligible to receive PELL grants, which is determined after they complete their FAFSA.

The breakdown of the scholarships per year varies between the university and the partnering post-secondary schools. As of now, SCSU will be accepting 20 students for the scholarship and the four community colleges will be accepting five students for the first year.

In Fall of 2018, there’s expected to be 40 students in the scholarship program – 20 from SCSU and 20 from the community college, while in the fall of 2019, another 40 students will be added into the program from SCSU and more from the community colleges. In fall of 2020, that number will continue to grow, with an expected amount to be 20, adding up to a total of 100 students. 

SCSU Interim Associate Provost for Research and Dean of Graduate Studies, Latha Ramakrishnan, said she believes the STEM Scholarship will benefit those who are eligible.

“ACCESS stands for “Academic Collaboration and Coordination to Ensure Student Success, in STEM [Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math],” she said.

This is an opportunity for students in the STEM program, to apply and potentially receive a scholarship so that they can continue studying and receive a degree.

“In total, it is a four-year scholarship that each of those 100 students can receive,” Ramakrishnan said. “Provided they meet all those criteria, which is they have to meet the minimum GPA and they have to continue [being] in the STEM program,” she said.

Ramakrishnan explained that this scholarship project isn’t just concerned with helping students financially, and there’s more to it than one would think.

“The project has two bigger objectives in addition to giving this financial aid, those objectives are to increase the retention of students from year 1 to year 2 and then to support transfer community college students to four-year institutions in a way to bridge the gap,” she said.

Ramakrishnan and her team are working on implementing the kind of programs that will increase the likelihood of new students to feel a sense of belonging, especially for transfer students who come to SCSU to get their degree in the STEM program.

“What we are calling it is a sense of belonging,” Ramakrishnan said. “So, the ACCESS STEM project has various elements to it and those are all interventions that help increase in the sense of belonging for a student,” she said.

Some of the interventions that Ramakrishnan talked about include tutoring services and first-year seminars, as well as implementing career and professional development aspects from the very beginning.

According to Dr. Melissa B. Hanzsek-Brill, a professor of Mathematics and Mathematics Education and Coordinator of STEM Education, the scholarship is an opportunity to research and learn more about what helps students.

Hanzsek-Brill mentioned they have implemented a model that will measure the sense of belonging to the students in the STEM scholarship program.

“What we are going to be looking at is, given their sense of belonging, we have a predictive model we’ve developed and see their belonging high, medium or low and depending on where their belonging is we’d look at particular interventions to see if those interventions make a difference with their sense of belonging,” Hanzsek-Brill said.

She concluded that she is excited about this research because it will help in the long run to find ways to help future students based on the predictive model as well, taking things off students’ plates besides finances.

“We will never be able to always give everybody money to come to college,” Hanzsek-Brill said.

The hope is that this STEM scholarship will produce enough learning that SCSU can better help students have an easier time staying and getting a STEM degree.

Students can go on the SCSU website to find more information about the scholarship or if they are at one of the partnering community colleges in the STEM field. They can then apply to SCSU or for a scholarship.

Students who are in the STEM field and are considering applying for this scholarship can do so between late fall and early spring semesters.

There will be announcements sent out letting students who are planning to study at SCSU or one of the partner community colleges, know about the scholarship. 

“If you are aspiring to go into STEM [and] if you meet the eligibility criteria, here is a scholarship opportunity for you,” Ramakrishnan said.

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Sarv Mithaqiyan

Sarv Mithaqiyan (a.k.a. Sodid Misaghian) is a Baha'i, journalist, philosopher and runs a YouTube channel entitled Elevated & Meaningful. He's a news reporter for UTVS and currently getting his Master's in Strategic Mass Communication at SCSU. He holds a Bachelor's degree in Philosophy and Minor in Religious Studies from UC Davis. Follow him on twitter @SarvMithaq

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