The number of underrepresented minority (URM) students earning degrees in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) continues to lag, despite recent improvements, according to Cal State Long Beach officials (CSULB).
The university has received its second five-year $5.8 million grant from the U.S. Department of Education’s Hispanic-Serving Institutions (HSI)-STEM and Articulation Programs grant, Si Puedo, officials announced today.
Sí Puedo helps close opportunity gaps in STEM fields and boosts bachelor's degree attainment for Hispanic and low-income students, according to CSULB. The grant will be implemented as a collaboration between the colleges of Natural Sciences and Mathematics (CNSM) and Engineering (COE).
“This partnership between the colleges will impact a large number of students and place them in a better position to achieve success and confidence to become scientists and engineers,” stated Eric Marinez, associate professor in the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry and the project director.
Spanish for “I can do it,” Sí Puedo (Strengthening the Impact by Providing Undergraduate Educational Development Opportunities) aims to improve student academic success, timely degree completion and retention, and degree attainment, as well as develop model transfer programming, according to the university.
Although CSULB has had recent success in improving the graduation rates of freshmen and transfers in STEM, URM students have dramatically lagged behind non-URM students, showing achievement gaps at 15.3 percent in COE and 8.3 percent in CNSM. Additionally, first-time Latino freshman one-year retention rates are lower in COE at 73.1 percent and in CNSM at 56.2 percent compared to the university overall (88.3 percent), according to CSULB.
The university’s three-year graduation rate for transfer students is significantly higher, at 61 percent, compared to lower rates for CNSM and COE, at 30 percent and 25 percent, respectively, while much remains in closing a significant opportunity gap within STEM over the last three years, according to the release. Sí Puedo serves as a direct response, with its programming specifically targeting first-year students by equipping them with the tools and resources to be successful.
On a national scale, CSULB presented the sixth-most baccalaureate degrees to Hispanic and minority students in 2015, while Latino/Hispanic undergraduate representation at the university has increased over the past five years from 31 percent to 38 percent, as the institution's largest ethnic population. However, within the colleges in which the program is being applied, Latino representation remains below onethird, at 32 percent in COE and 31 percent in CNSM.
A Hispanic-Serving Institution (HSI) is defined as a non-profit institution that has at least 25 percent Hispanic full-time equivalent enrollment and, of that Hispanic enrollment, at least 50 percent are low income. CSULB obtained its HSI eligibility status in fall 2005. Grants are awarded to HSI institutions to expand educational opportunities for, and improve the academic attainment of Hispanic students. In addition, they are designed to enhance the academic offerings, program quality and institutional stability of colleges and universities that are educating the majority of Latino college students and other low-income individuals completing post-secondary degrees.
Marinez will be joined by Krzysztof Slowinski, Associate Dean for Academic Programs, Evaluation, and Advising and Tracy Maples, Acting Associate Dean for Academic Programs, serving as co-program directors for the grant.