$5M federal grant to help UIC graduate more Latino scientists, engineers

Latino students

A $5 million federal grant aims to strengthen UIC’s efforts to increase the number of Latino and low-income students attaining degrees in STEM fields. Photo: Roberta Dupuis-Devlin

UIC has received a five-year, $5.3 million grant from the U.S. Department of Education affirming the designation of the university as a Hispanic-Serving Institution.

The grant, from the Education Department’s Hispanic-Serving Institutions–Science, Technology, Engineering, or Mathematics (HSI-STEM) and Articulation Programs, is aimed at augmenting UIC’s efforts to increase the number of Latino and low-income students attaining degrees in STEM fields.

UIC is one of only two institutions among the 91 receiving HSI-STEM grants that is classified by the Carnegie Foundation as a doctoral institution with the highest level of research activity.

“UIC provides top-notch STEM education to Latino students,” said Susan Poser, provost and vice chancellor for academic affairs. “Our undergraduate Latino students have the opportunity to participate in a wealth of research opportunities with nationally recognized faculty, so that by the time they graduate, they will have gained experience that is often reserved for graduate students.

“UIC’s mission is to provide the highest levels of teaching and intellectual excellence to all students,” Poser said. “This grant gives us more tools to help us to provide even broader access to fulfill this mission.”

The U.S. needs about a million more STEM professionals to remain globally competitive, said Aixa Alfonso, associate professor of biological sciences at UIC and principal investigator on the HSI-STEM grant, citing 2012 findings of the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology. Reaching that goal requires the country to graduate more than a third more scientists and engineers than are currently earning STEM degrees.

“We need people, and we are an increasing proportion of the population,” Alfonso said, referring to scientists and engineers in the first case, and Latinas and Latinos in the second. Although Latinos and Latinas now make up 15 percent of the adult population in the U.S., they comprise only 6 percent of the STEM workforce.

“We need to address that gap,” Alfonso said.

“At UIC, as elsewhere in the country, we have many Latino students who come here intending to have careers in STEM fields, but we lose them after the first year,” she said. “They tend to switch majors or not graduate.”

Nationally, 42 percent of Latino freshmen intended to major in a STEM field, slightly above the average of all groups, according to the National Science Board. However, they receive only 10 percent of STEM degrees, even though they account for 21 percent of the 18-24 population.

Many factors contribute to Latino attrition from STEM fields, Alfonso said. At UIC, a 2015 survey of more than 500 Latino students showed 58 percent were first in their family to attend college; 65 percent were eligible for federal Pell grants or receiving state financial support; and 46 percent were working 21 to 30 hours a week to support themselves or their families.

“We’re taking a multipronged approach,” Alfonso said. “We want to increase the proportion of Latino students who apply and are admitted to UIC in STEM fields, and once here, we want to help them succeed.”

UIC calls its initiative Latinos Gaining Access to Networks for Advancement in Science, or LAS GANAS (“the desire”). The program will provide academic support and coaching to Latino undergraduates who have an interest in STEM fields. The LAS GANAS program will support the students’ strong ties to their heritage as Latinas and Latinos, Alfonso said, as well as their emerging identities as scientists.

UIC’s plans call for an innovative, model program that not only supports the success of Latino STEM students at UIC, but also “engages the Latino community on campus to increase levels of science literacy,” Alfonso said.

During the grant period, LAS GANAS will focus on Latino undergraduates in biological science degree programs, with a long-term goal to scale up the program to other STEM disciplines across the university, Alfonso said. Co-principal investigators for LAS GANAS are Dr. Jorge Girotti, associate dean and director of admissions in the UIC College of Medicine; Bernard Santarsiero, director of the Research Resources Center and research professor in the Center for Biomolecular Sciences; and Susan Farruggia, assistant vice provost for undergraduate affairs.

To improve academic outcomes, the program will include five components shown to be effective: opportunities for undergraduate research with faculty mentors; holistic academic support and advising; support networks of faculty and peers; collaborative learning opportunities; and financial support.

To increase Latino STEM enrollments and raise science literacy, the program will work with other UIC units to expand recruiting in high schools and community colleges that serve large Latino populations. To facilitate the transfer of Latino college students, LAS GANAS will work with the City Colleges of Chicago to develop model transfer and articulation agreements.

UIC is one of the nation’s most diverse university campuses, with no ethnic majority in its student body. Its Latino undergraduate enrollment climbed above 25 percent for the first time in 2014, making it eligible for Education Department designation as a Hispanic-Serving Institution. That same year, UIC’s Latin American Recruitment and Educational Services program was named the nation’s top program for increasing achievement for Latino undergraduate students by Excelencia in Education, a national nonprofit. Latino undergraduate enrollment this fall reached 31 percent.

5M federal grant to help UIC graduate more Latino scientists, engineers

Latino students

A $5 million federal grant aims to strengthen UIC’s efforts to increase the number of Latino and low-income students attaining degrees in STEM fields. Photo: Roberta Dupuis-Devlin

UIC has received a five-year, $5.3 million grant from the U.S. Department of Education affirming the designation of the university as a Hispanic-Serving Institution.

The grant, from the Education Department’s Hispanic-Serving Institutions–Science, Technology, Engineering, or Mathematics (HSI-STEM) and Articulation Programs, is aimed at augmenting UIC’s efforts to increase the number of Latino and low-income students attaining degrees in STEM fields.

UIC is one of only two institutions among the 91 receiving HSI-STEM grants that is classified by the Carnegie Foundation as a doctoral institution with the highest level of research activity.

“UIC provides top-notch STEM education to Latino students,” said Susan Poser, provost and vice chancellor for academic affairs. “Our undergraduate Latino students have the opportunity to participate in a wealth of research opportunities with nationally recognized faculty, so that by the time they graduate, they will have gained experience that is often reserved for graduate students.

“UIC’s mission is to provide the highest levels of teaching and intellectual excellence to all students,” Poser said. “This grant gives us more tools to help us to provide even broader access to fulfill this mission.”

The U.S. needs about a million more STEM professionals to remain globally competitive, said Aixa Alfonso, associate professor of biological sciences at UIC and principal investigator on the HSI-STEM grant, citing 2012 findings of the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology. Reaching that goal requires the country to graduate more than a third more scientists and engineers than are currently earning STEM degrees.

“We need people, and we are an increasing proportion of the population,” Alfonso said, referring to scientists and engineers in the first case, and Latinas and Latinos in the second. Although Latinos and Latinas now make up 15 percent of the adult population in the U.S., they comprise only 6 percent of the STEM workforce.

“We need to address that gap,” Alfonso said.

“At UIC, as elsewhere in the country, we have many Latino students who come here intending to have careers in STEM fields, but we lose them after the first year,” she said. “They tend to switch majors or not graduate.”

Nationally, 42 percent of Latino freshmen intended to major in a STEM field, slightly above the average of all groups, according to the National Science Board. However, they receive only 10 percent of STEM degrees, even though they account for 21 percent of the 18-24 population.

Many factors contribute to Latino attrition from STEM fields, Alfonso said. At UIC, a 2015 survey of more than 500 Latino students showed 58 percent were first in their family to attend college; 65 percent were eligible for federal Pell grants or receiving state financial support; and 46 percent were working 21 to 30 hours a week to support themselves or their families.

“We’re taking a multipronged approach,” Alfonso said. “We want to increase the proportion of Latino students who apply and are admitted to UIC in STEM fields, and once here, we want to help them succeed.”

UIC calls its initiative Latinos Gaining Access to Networks for Advancement in Science, or LAS GANAS (“the desire”). The program will provide academic support and coaching to Latino undergraduates who have an interest in STEM fields. The LAS GANAS program will support the students’ strong ties to their heritage as Latinas and Latinos, Alfonso said, as well as their emerging identities as scientists.

UIC’s plans call for an innovative, model program that not only supports the success of Latino STEM students at UIC, but also “engages the Latino community on campus to increase levels of science literacy,” Alfonso said.

During the grant period, LAS GANAS will focus on Latino undergraduates in biological science degree programs, with a long-term goal to scale up the program to other STEM disciplines across the university, Alfonso said. Co-principal investigators for LAS GANAS are Dr. Jorge Girotti, associate dean and director of admissions in the UIC College of Medicine; Bernard Santarsiero, director of the Research Resources Center and research professor in the Center for Biomolecular Sciences; and Susan Farruggia, assistant vice provost for undergraduate affairs.

To improve academic outcomes, the program will include five components shown to be effective: opportunities for undergraduate research with faculty mentors; holistic academic support and advising; support networks of faculty and peers; collaborative learning opportunities; and financial support.

To increase Latino STEM enrollments and raise science literacy, the program will work with other UIC units to expand recruiting in high schools and community colleges that serve large Latino populations. To facilitate the transfer of Latino college students, LAS GANAS will work with the City Colleges of Chicago to develop model transfer and articulation agreements.

UIC is one of the nation’s most diverse university campuses, with no ethnic majority in its student body. Its Latino undergraduate enrollment climbed above 25 percent for the first time in 2014, making it eligible for Education Department designation as a Hispanic-Serving Institution. That same year, UIC’s Latin American Recruitment and Educational Services program was named the nation’s top program for increasing achievement for Latino undergraduate students by Excelencia in Education, a national nonprofit. Latino undergraduate enrollment this fall reached 31 percent.

Craven Community College receives $1.74 million grant

Craven Community College receives $1.74 million grant

(Craven Community College photo)





NEW BERN, Craven County – Craven Community College (CCC) announced that it received a $1.74 million federal Title III Part A Strengthening Institutions grant from the U.S. Department of Education.

Under this program, eligible institutions of higher education are provided the financial resources to expand capacity to serve low-income students to improve academic quality, institutional management and fiscal stability. The grant award period is October 2016- September 2021.

The grant award will fund CCC’s “Title III Connect 2 Success” program which is designed to increase student persistence and academic success. This comprehensive development program will focus on increasing student success in developmental courses and first-year “gateway” courses. For example, by 2020, the first-time pass rate of students in English courses is expected to increase from 67.5 percent to 71.5 percent.

“The Title III grant provides much needed resources, such as tutoring and advising that will greatly enhance the ability of our students to persist and complete their programs of study. Their success in certificates, diplomas, and associate degrees opens new doors for employment opportunity, continued education, and financial health across our community,” said Dr. Ray Staats, CCC president.

The addition of the Title III funding enhances CCC’s student success initiative which includes the development of a Student Success Center on the New Bern campus. The Student Success Center will be a “one-stop” destination for students to receive the learning support they need to successfully achieve their academic goals.

CCC was also recently awarded the following federal grants: $1.18 million federal TRIO grant in September 2016 to establish an Educational Opportunity Center, and $1.1 million TRIO grant renewal in August 2015 to continue its TRIO Student Support Services.

Founded in 1965, Craven Community College (CCC) is part of the North Carolina Community College System. With campuses in New Bern and Havelock-Cherry Point, Craven serves about 3,200 curriculum students and more than 10,000 continuing education students each year. The college offers a wide range of associate degree and certificate programs, as well as college transfer courses, career and occupational offerings, partnerships with four-year universities, specialized workforce training options, developmental studies and basic skills classes. Craven Early College High School programs are available on both campuses. CCC is also home to Public Radio East, one of the few community colleges nationally with this distinction. For more information about the college, visit www.cravencc.edu.

Federal grant will help Gilmor Homes residents get and keep jobs …

Dana Cowan lived in the Gilmor Homes public housing community in 1999, working a job with irregular hours that didn’t pay enough to support her two children.

Through Jobs Plus, a federally funded program that helps connect residents with employment, education and financial literacy, she got a job with the Housing Authority of Baltimore City. She and other residents in the program were also offered work clothing if they didn’t have it.

Seventeen years later, she still works at the housing authority as a Section 8 inspector, and the program helped her get her GED, her driver’s license, her first car and a new apartment.

“I love my job,” said Cowan, 46. “At the time I had two small ones, so I was trying to get better employment… I was able to obtain a better paying job and I’ve made a career out of my job.”

The public housing also is near where police apprehended Freddie Gray whose death after a spinal cord injury suffered in police custody later sparked rioting last year.

Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake said the neighborhood’s crime rates, low education rates and lack of quality affordable housing made it a prime candidate for such a grant.

“The thing that I am so grateful for is that time after time we learn from what’s worked, we learn from what hasn’t worked and we build a better system. And I think Jobs Plus is a great example of that,” Rawlings-Blake said. “This a holistic approach to ensuring that we are creating positive pathways for people in this community to achieve the sustainable and sustaining jobs that they want for themselves and their families.”

Linda Moyd, the Gilmor Tenant Council president, said the program will help residents “change their lives, to move from just getting a job to making a career. There’s a big difference. So this grant truly means a lot for the residents of Gilmor Homes. Making a difference in peoples’ lives is just awesome.”

cwells@baltsun.com

10 Reasons We Love Hillary Clinton’s College Accessibility and Student Loans Policy – AFL

In an election cycle that seems mired down with nastiness, Hillary Clinton’s New College Compact is a breath of fresh air—and it offers a lot of breathing room for those struggling with the high cost of higher education. 

  1. Restores funding through tax fairness. Clinton has put forward a robust federal funding program to provide states with increasingly large matching grants to correct state disinvestment in public higher education—the root cause of today’s high costs of attendance. The cost of the New College Compact will be entirely covered by closing tax loopholes for the rich.
  2. Offers free and more affordable tuition. Under Hillary’s plan, we won’t end up with another $1.3 trillion student debt mess because in-state public colleges and universities, and all community colleges, will be tuition-free for low- and middle-income families.
  3. Rewards schools for serving low-income and first-generation students. The funding formula for Hillary’s plan will give schools more money for enrolling and retaining students from low- and middle-income families. Federal funding must be used for instruction and student services like career counseling. A federal grant program would help private schools that serve large numbers of Pell-eligible students, like historically black colleges and universities, lower tuition and better serve more students.
  4. Allows Pell Grants for non-tuition costs. Other costs of attendance, like books, room and board, and transportation, make a high-quality education unattainable. Students would be able to use Pell grants to cover the non-tuition costs of attendance, ensuring those costs aren’t a barrier to attendance.
  5. Provides lower interest rates. The interest rate for new federal student loans would be lowered so that the government won’t profit off undergraduate loans if families do need to borrow to cover costs.
  6. Increases child care support for student parents. Because Hillary recognizes that college students are not just young people with few obligations outside of class, federal funding for on-campus child care is drastically increased under her plan, and scholarships would be made available to cover other costs of being a student and parent.
  7. Uses federal aid for certificates and training programs. Workers seeking retraining would be able to use federal funding to access high-quality, accredited certificate programs they can attend online or part-time.
  8. Reins in for-profit abuses. In addition to making alternative training programs more readily available and affordable, Hillary’s plan would more tightly regulate for-profit schools that have long targeted non-traditional students, ensuring that public money spent on education goes to improving workers’ lives and our shared economy, not enriching private shareholders.
  9. Proposes refinancing of federal and private student loans. For those currently dealing with student debt, Hillary proposes allowing borrowers with high-interest rates on their loans, including private student loans, to refinance into lower-interest rate federal loans.
  10. Recommends an easy and affordable repayment for existing loans. She also proposes a simplified income-driven repayment plan similar to the Pay As You Earn plan currently available only to more recent borrowers. Borrowers in public service jobs like teaching would receive additional repayment assistance benefits.

Donald Trump also has outlined a proposal of sorts that is short on details and raises a lot of questions. While he claims he would put a cap on student loan payments, his plan would eliminate most federal funding for higher education, would allow for-profit colleges to run amok and would make it even harder for non-traditional students to access higher education.

 We can achieve debt-free higher education within our lifetime. It starts with electing Hillary Clinton.

CSUF awarded $5.8 million federal grant for STEM education

screen-shot-2016-10-18-at-1-09-25-am

STEM students in Chem 422 work on a lab assignment in Dan Black Hall. Mark Filowitz, Ph.D., associate dean of the College of Natural Sciences and Mathematics said he hopes this five-year grant for project RAISE will cater to low income and Latino students trying to transfer into these STEM programs.
(Roberto Muniz / Daily Titan)

The U.S. Department of Education has awarded Cal State Fullerton a five-year $5.8 million grant for STEM education that started Oct. 1.

The grant goes toward Project RAISE, the Regional Alliance in STEM Education, which includes eight community colleges.

Cal State Fullerton is collaborating with Citrus, Cypress, Fullerton, Golden West, Mt. San Antonio, Orange Coast, Santa Ana and Santiago Canyon community colleges, according to interim dean of the College of Engineering and Computer Science Susamma Barua, Ph.D.

Mark Filowitz, Ph.D., associate dean of the College of Natural Sciences and Mathematics, said the grant targets Hispanic and low-income students as CSUF, along with the participating community colleges, are all Hispanic-Serving Institutions.

Filowitz said about 70 percent of Latino students start their careers in a community college and less than 10 percent go to a four-year to get their bachelor’s degree, and that’s a problem.

CSUF has been working with similar programs to Project RAISE, and there has been a gradual growth of participating community colleges with each program, according to Filowitz.

In 2008, a three-year $1.5 million program called TEST-UP was funded by the National Science Foundation, with Mt. San Antonio and Santa Ana community colleges participating, Filowitz said.

In 2011, a five-year $6 million HSI-STEM grant was awarded to go toward a program called (STEM)2 that had CSUF working with Citrus, Cypress and Santiago Canyon community colleges, Filowitz said.

Filowitz said that the amount of students transferring from a community college to a four-year has increased since 2011.

“The first cohort that we were able to actually measure was last year because they (students) had to be here a couple of years to graduate.” Filowitz said. “Over 80 percent of the students that were in the program did transfer to a four-year and are getting a bachelor’s degree.”

The last project resulted in over 175 students transferring to Cal State Fullerton, Barua said.
Project RAISE will offer priority registration, the summer research project, bilingual family orientation and peer-mentors.

The summer research project lasts for eight weeks, and allows 32 community college students the opportunity to work with Cal State Fullerton faculty and students, according to Barua.
Teddy Kidane, part-time faculty, lecturer for the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry, has participated in the summer research project.

Kidane said the students he has been able to work with from the community colleges are “very good” and “very motivated” for the most part.

Some new components are a paid summer internship and a free open source program called Transferology.

Filowitz said they are working with the Orange County Business Council to offer paid summer internships so that students gain experience in the real world.

The summer internship will be 10 weeks and will have 30 students, Barua said.

Students will be trained through Transferology, which will help students know about the courses they have already taken that are accepted at Cal State Fullerton, Filowitz said.

“The goal is to develop enough convincing information so that the campus can eventually look toward institutionalizing these programs so we don’t have to wait for grants, (as they) are hard to get and you never know what’s going to happen,” Filowitz said.

Barua is co-principal investigator, and Maria Dela Cruz, who ran (STEM)2, will still serve as a consultant while remaining at Santa Ana college, Filowitz said.

Barua said there is assurance that Project RAISE will do well.

“We are very confident that this will be an extremely successful project, and we will be able to make a significant impact at all eight colleges,” Barua said.

Michigan’s use of welfare funds for private college tuition grants gets new scrutiny

With the state experiencing huge revenue shortfalls during the recession in the late 2000s, Michigan lawmakers got creative with their budget process.

Their maneuvering led the state to direct federal welfare funds to state college tuition grants — one of a handful of options to tackle a huge state budget shortfall. But nearly a decade later, that budget tactic has become a permanent feature of Michigan’s funding of higher education.

That means that at least a portion of federal money designated for safety net spending in the state is going to the children of middle- and upper-income families attending institutions in the state like Aquinas College, Albion College and Kalamazoo College — an arrangement that is getting new scrutiny. According to the Michigan Department of Treasury, more than $93 million of Michigan’s allocation of funds from the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program goes to tuition grants, and more than $40 million went to private institutions in fiscal year 2016.

Advocates for college access and private institutions that benefit from the tuition grants say what’s needed in Michigan isn’t removal of those welfare dollars but expanding support for higher education over all.

Other states have used funds from the federal TANF program for postsecondary education, experts say. But the funds are clearly targeted to low-income populations.

“I would say it is out of the ordinary, definitely, at the level of income Michigan has allowed the grants to creep up to,” said Amy Ellen Duke-Benfield, a senior policy analyst at the Center for Law and Social Policy, which advocates for people not represented by interest groups in Washington.

One of the requirements for states receiving federal stimulus money was maintaining funding for higher education. Redirecting federal welfare funds to college tuition grants allowed the state to meet that requirement while continuing to cut back spending elsewhere in response to declining revenues.

Michigan has three tuition grant programs that are funded most or entirely with TANF money: the Tuition Incentive Program, the Michigan Tuition Grant and the Michigan Competitive Scholarship. The first program, which accounts for about half of TANF spending on tuition grants, is restricted to students whose families qualify for Medicaid.

The other programs are merit based but also take into account the cost of attending a particular college or university, which can be significantly higher at private institutions than public colleges.

The median family income is $49,000 for students receiving the Michigan Tuition Grant and $57,000 for those receiving the Michigan Competitive Scholarship, according to Michigan Independent Colleges and Universities, which represents private colleges in the state.

Depending on their circumstances, a student could qualify to receive awards from all three grant programs. No group has a clear breakdown of how many students from middle-class families receive welfare money.

About $31.6 million went to the Michigan Tuition Grant program, which provides a maximum award of $1,830 and is restricted to private institutions.

Another $3.6 million went to tuition grants for private institutions through the Michigan Competitive Scholarship program, an award of $636 per year. And $4.97 million was allocated to awards at private colleges through the Tuition Incentive Program, which pays out $500 per semester for a maximum of $2,000 over two years.

Peter Ruark, a senior policy analyst at the Michigan League for Public Policy, said to the extent that TANF funds are going to middle- and upper-income students, the state has a problem.

“We’re really in a sense robbing poor families in order to pay for financial aid for middle-class families,” he said.

Ruark said Michigan could be using money going to tuition grants for private colleges to improve the child care subsidy or increase the Family Independence Program, which is monthly cash assistance to poor families — all forms of safety net spending for the extremely poor meant to be served by welfare.

“We’re using the TANF allocation as a slush fund with which we fund things that we used to fund out of the general fund,” Ruark said.

The reason the state can allocate TANF funds that way? The 1996 federal welfare reform law said states could allocate the money to programs serving one of four purposes: help needy families, end dependence on government benefits through job preparation or work, encourage the formation of two-parent families, and reduce out-of-wedlock pregnancies. It’s that last purpose that Michigan cites in justifying the allocation of welfare money to the college tuition grants. And the state isn’t required to demonstrate that the program is actually doing anything to address or meet that goal.

Robert LeFevre, president of the Michigan Independent Colleges and Universities, said there is wide agreement that student financial aid programs aren’t a great fit for TANF money.

“The problem is we don’t have $100 million in general fund money to replace it,” he said.

And although the colleges spend $415 million on institutional aid annually, LeFevre said, $2,000 could be a make-or-break amount for students at any income level. He said the real problem Michigan must address is inadequate state support for higher education over all.

“Michigan has the lowest financial aid amount in the region,” he said. “In order to be a top 10 state, we need to double or triple our investment in student financial aid in general.”

A study released this month by the National Association of State Student Grant and Aid Programs showed that Michigan allocated a lower amount of total student aid than any other state in the Midwest. It doesn’t appear that a significant boost in expenditures is on the horizon, although Governor Rick Snyder, a Republican, set up the 21st Century Education Commission to make recommendations for the state’s education system to meet economic demands.

Brandy Johnson, executive director of the Michigan College Access Network, said ideally the state would consolidate all scholarship programs so there isn’t a separate amount set aside for independent colleges. She said the state should also add a reasonable means test to make sure financial aid is really targeted to those who need it.

Absent such an overhaul, Johnson said the TANF money should remain in the college tuition programs.

“What Michigan needs is a more robust financial aid program that’s comprehensive,” she said. “We don’t think it would be wise to yank out $100 million now. It would be like yanking the rug out from students because the state isn’t in the position to immediately replace it.”

High School Graduation Rate Hits New High as Obama Credits Federal Investments in Education

The overall graduation rate was 83.2 percent for 2014-15, up one percentage point from the year before and 4-point increase over the 2010-11 year, when all states adopted a comparable, standardized calculation method. Gains were recorded among all demographic groups of students, and achievement gaps were narrowing, although disparities remain.

The graduation rate isn’t just a statistic, Education Secretary John King said on a call with members of the press: “It represents real students in real cities, towns and rural communities who are better prepared for success in college and careers. It represents greater opportunity.”

Administration officials also touted federal investments in preschool, innovation grants, high school redesign, teacher training and broadband in schools. A White House press release trumpeted federal efforts to improve higher education, like new federal loan repayment plans, increases to Pell Grants, the “College Scorecard” to help rate institutions and a proposal to make community college free.

(The 74: The White House Reflects on Education Victories – What Obama Did for Dropouts, Standards, Pre-K)

During the press call, King pushed back against the idea that graduation rates lag several years behind the policies that affect them, so that the current statistics are really the result of work done during the George W. Bush administration under No Child Left Behind. King cited federal investments that prevented large education budget cuts during the Great Recession and funded school improvements. The turnaround money, he said, “undoubtedly contributed” to closing so-called dropout factories that graduate fewer than two-thirds of students.

“Our work builds on the work that was done by previous administrations, but ultimately, credit goes to teachers, parents and students,” King said.

Despite the new high, gaps remain across groups, with Asian (90.2 percent) and white (87.6 percent) students graduating above the national average, and American Indian (71.6 percent), Hispanic (77.8 percent) and black (74.6 percent) students graduating below. The disparities between racial groups, low-income and more affluent students, English language learners and native speakers, and disabled and non-disabled students have all narrowed since the 2010-11 school year.

“These new data show that our nation is preparing more students to succeed, but we have more to do,” King said.

President Obama spoke later on Monday at a high school in Washington, D.C., the jurisdiction with the fastest-improving (7 percentage points) but still lowest (68.5 percent) graduation rate in the country last year.

Cecilia Munoz, director of the White House Domestic Policy Council, called the progress in D.C. “extraordinary” and drew a direct line between those improvements and the District’s adoption of reforms that the Obama administration advocated.

D.C., a second-round winner of a Race to the Top grant, adopted tough standards, a new teacher evaluation system and school turnaround practices. In particular, Munoz highlighted D.C.’s universal public preschool program, which enrolled 86 percent of 4-year-olds and 64 percent of 3-year-olds last year.

(The 74: Washington, D.C. – The Pre-K Capital)

“Progress like this doesn’t happen by accident,” she said.

States with the lowest graduation rates included Nevada (71.3 percent) and Oregon (73.8 percent). The states with the highest graduation rates last year were Iowa (90.8 percent), New Jersey (89.7 percent) and Alabama (89.3 percent).

Santa Monica College Receives Federal Education Grant

By Lookout Staff

October 17, 2016 — Santa Monica College (SMC) was the only California college to receive a U.S. Department of Education grant to expand its programs in foreign languages and cultures, SMC officials announced this week.

The grant from the Undergraduate International Studies and Foreign Languages Program (UISFL) will provide SMC with $200,000 over two years “to give students the knowledge and skills they need for 21st-century careers and a competitive edge in the global marketplace,” officials said.

“Santa Monica College prides itself on a legacy of preparing students to thrive in the global community,” said SMC Superintendent/President Dr. Kathryn E. Jeffery. “This includes not just making sure that they are globally competitive in an economic context, but — even more importantly — that they understand the privilege and opportunity of living in an interconnected world.

“This grant will help extend that legacy and open up exciting new avenues for so many of our students.”

The grant will help SMC develop programs that integrate learning a new language with career development and provide hands-on experiences inside and outside of the classroom, college officials said.

The Department of Modern Languages and Cultures plans to partner with the Career Technical Education (CTE) programs in Early Childhood Education, Business, Communication/Media Studies and Nursing. It also will collaborate with SMC’s Career Services Center to create opportunities for students studying Spanish, Japanese, Chinese, or Korean.

The students will “participate in work-based or service learning projects where they can use their language skills,” officials said.

“The benefits of acquiring another language and a global perspective are invaluable when it comes to developing a career, competing for a job, or interacting with and contributing to the global community,” said Dr. Toni Trives, who chairs the Department of Modern Languages and Cultures.

The UISFL grants were awarded to two dozen educational institutions nationwide, Department of Education officials said.

“Employers from a cross-section of education, business, and government are expecting our graduates to be able to communicate and collaborate with peers in a global context,” said U.S. Secretary of Education John B. King Jr.

The grants, he said, will “help to achieve exactly that, by providing teachers, students, and our communities with the opportunities and resources for ensuring our nation’s capacity for global competitiveness.”

For more information, call the SMC Department of Modern Languages and Cultures at (310) 434-4248.

Mercy College gets $700,000 STEM grant – The Journal News

Mercy College has been awarded a nearly $700,000 federal grant to create a five-year program to help Latino and low-income students complete STEM coursework.

The funding, from the U.S. Department of Education, is part of a national push to create science-savvy, job-ready graduates by beefing up studies in STEM — science, technology, engineering and math. Last year, President Barack Obama pledged to invest more than $3 billion in federal STEM education programs across the country.

The $696,572 grant will be used to establish Team STEM with Westchester Community College. The partnership aims to help Hispanic and economically challenged undergraduates complete a bachelor’s degree within six years in one of six disciplines offered at Mercy: biology, psychology, mathematics, computer science, computer information science and cybersecurity.

“We are a proud Hispanic-serving institution, and these dollars will allow Mercy College to open the minds of so many of our students,” said Tim Hall, president of Mercy College. “With knowledge and motivation, the possibilities are endless.”

Christian Castillo, a Mercy College senior and biology major, said his experience with the college’s STEM summer research program “solidified my ambition to continue scientific research, as I quickly came to fall in love with the work.”

Sharp STEM skills hold promise not only for students, but also for the region’s economy.

In the Lower Hudson Valley, there are more than 2,500 unfilled positions in fields that require a STEM education, such as health care and software engineering, according The Westchester County Association.

“Educating more students in STEM fields is one of the most productive steps we can take to strengthen our economy,” said U.S. Rep. Nita Lowey, D-Harrison, who helped secure the grant. “I’m pleased that Mercy College and Westchester Community College are using these federal dollars to address a growing need for STEM professionals in the Hudson Valley.”

Twitter: @ASKSanders