$650K grant to help low-income EvCC students in STEM studies

EVERETT — Everett Community College has received a grant from the National Science Foundation to help low-income students study science and technology subjects.

The grant, totalling just under $650,000, will be used for tuition and other support and to conduct a study on how that support helps those students succeed.

For the next five years, 15 students enrolling in the college’s summer STEM Bridge program will be awarded $5,000 scholarships.

The STEM Bridge program enrolls high school seniors from low-income families in 12 credits of science, technology, engineering and math courses during the summer quarter.

That program also is supported by a separate federal grant from NASA.

In the 2015-2016 academic year, 2,410 students at Everett Community College received need-based financial aid. That’s about 30 percent of 8,063 students enrolled in a certificate or degree program at the school.

The goal of the new National Science Foundation grant is to follow those 15 selected students from STEM Bridge through their entire time at Everett Community College.

“People do bridge programs to recruit people, but they generally don’t do anything afterward to ensure students stay,” said Kristine Washburn, a physics instructor at the college who will oversee the program.

“This is all to see if we can not just get these students recruited, but all the way through to success,” she said.

Success can be defined by receiving an associate’s degree, transferring to a four-year school or even maintaining good grades in classes like calculus, Washburn said.

In addition to the scholarships, the students will be taking part in an enhanced advisory program in collaboration with the school’s existing Trio student support services program.

Trio’s philosophy is that students receiving financial support also need help in the form of academic advising, financial literacy, tutoring and other services, said Kesia Ceniceros, the associate dean for the Trio programs.

Trio receives its funding from the U.S. Department of Education and is in the second year of a five-year funding cycle. It currently serves 260 students who are first-generation, low-income or have a disability, or some combination of the three.

“It just offers a suite of extra service that low income students or first-generation students in particular ordinarily wouldn’t think to do,” Washburn said.

The National Science Foundation in turn is seeking data on how that extra support helps student progress at the college.

“They’re looking for data that shows that offering these wraparound services to low-income students moves the needle on their success,” Washburn said.

Washburn said she’ll be spending a lot of time helping students with financial aid, but she’ll also be doing more intensive follow-up, checking in on students’ home and family situations, for example, to see if they’re dealing with any other obstacles that could disrupt their education.

“There are barriers to student success that have nothing to do with passion or talent,” Washburn said. “The goal is to get them past those.”

Chris Winters: 425-374-4165; cwinters@heraldnet.com. Twitter: @Chris_At_Herald.

STEM Bridge seeks applicants

To qualify for the summer STEM Bridge program and scholarship funds, students must be high school seniors, U.S. citizens, Washington state residents and able to attend summer school from July 3-Aug. 24. Students can apply for the program at EverettCC.edu/STEMbridge. The deadline is March 30.

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