Salt Lake Community College has been awarded a $2.23 million grant under the Department of Education's hallmark Strengthening Institutions program. This grant will support strategic initiatives in the School of Science, Mathematics and Engineering, including the remodel of the Math, Science & Technology Resource Center, the creation of analytic systems to study critical attrition points in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) education, and the large-scale implementation of best-practice support services for STEM students.
An increasing number of students enter SLCC each year underprepared for college level math and science. The result is that many students struggle to complete key courses that are required to graduate or transfer. “An extremely frustrating problem is that there is a general awareness that completion rates are declining but no one can discover the underlying causes,” said Craig Caldwell, dean of the SLCC School of Science, Mathematics and Engineering. “This project will pioneer a new approach to supporting, assessing and improving achievement in STEM.”
The federal Strengthening Institutions (SI) program is designed to serve institutions with a high percentage of low-income students as well as those with relatively low operating budgets per student. Institutions must first apply for a SI designation that “qualifies” entities to then be eligible to apply for grant funds. The designation has to be applied for each year in December and is good for only the next calendar year. The unique SI grants help institutions develop and build sustainable infrastructure and capacity rather than fund programs of limited scope and duration.
“This five-year award will strongly support SLCC’s goals in student completion, equity in student participation and completion and institutional stability and capacity,” said Nicole Omer, director of SLCC’s Office of Sponsored Projects. “This is a win for the entire SLCC community.”
Funds from the $2.23 million grant will help SLCC remodel a portion of its Science and Industry Building to create a new Math, Science & Technology Resource Center, which will be centrally located and easily accessed with an array of learning supports available. Grant monies will help create a supplemental workshop program that will offer strategic support for students at critical times during the academic term. The workshop series will be developed and taught by faculty members in high attrition gateway courses in science and math. The grant will also support an early alert system for identifying at-risk students, using an intrusive advising strategy. This approach will actively reach out and connect struggling students with learning support mechanisms to help them persist and be successful. Money from the grant will also be used for the creation of performance indicators and quantitative measures of success for the academic divisions within the SLCC School of Science, Mathematics and Engineering.