Schools with large numbers of minorities receive government grants

Posted 6:04 p.m. Nov. 13

by Bernard Pollack
U-WIRE (DC BUREAU)

(U-WIRE) WASHINGTON–The U.S. government granted $90 million to 81 selected colleges and universities nationwide last week in an effort to increase funding for schools that cater to disadvantaged and predominately minority students.

Federal lawmakers hope that the increased funding will help to level the playing field with neighboring colleges operating with a greater budget.

The grants are awarded under the Strengthening Institutions Program a result of the Higher Education Act and the Minority Science and Engineering Improvement Program (MSEIP). These programs aim to help eligible schools attract and retain students by allowing them to update technology, offer faculty training and facility improvements.

“The purpose of the grant is to improve critical thinking and reasoning skills,” says Dr. Deva Sharma, Professor of Physics and Director of the Project for North Carolina A&T State University in Greensboro.

Deva says that this grant will impact one-third of the largely African-American and Latino student body, focusing on integrating incoming students and helping them with their Math and Science requirements.

“We will set up 35 new computers to test students and give them projects in science and math. By February we hope to have the labs set-up and train at least 5 faculty members,” he says.

Nineteen institutions were awarded $6.7 million to carry out a variety of these activities that strengthen their self-sufficiency and make them more competitive with other schools. These grants are awarded for five years.

University of Central Arkansas, a school with predominately minority students, was one of the recipients of the annual grants of $347,135.

“We were very excited because this was highly competitive,” said University Program Coordinator Terry James. “We will use the funding for a faculty development program to better use technology and improve internal communication. First, the focus will be on new students and transition students and there core curriculum classes, then more specifically on writing and math courses.”

The MSEIP grants are geared towards improving the long-term results of engineering and science disciplines at universities with more than 50 percent minority enrollment. The goal is to increase the number of qualified ethnic minorities, especially minority women, who enroll in school and pursue careers in science and engineering.

Professor of Biology Daniel Lemons of The City College of New York/CUNY, a commuter school with a majority of students who are recent immigrants, said that the MSEIP grant will have immediate impacts as they will use the funding to develop web sites for math and science courses.

“As a Department we-redid our own curriculum. The focus of the grant is on incorporating technology which will predominately focus on the Biology department,” he said.

This year, 42 institutions received $4.4 million under the MSEIP. Forty-one of the grants are two- or three-year development grants and one is a one-year planning grant.

Virginia Commonwealth University received a development grant to prepare a proposal in order to compete for funding. They will receive $31,176 for two years as a preliminary planning grant.

“If we were to receive the grant it would predominately serve to help introductory Math and Science classes. It would be to help students receiving D’s, F’s or Withdrawals,” said Associate Professor and Assistant Chair of the Chemistry Department Sally S. Hunnicutt.

“We want to substantially improve student support tutoring, diagnostic tools, and computers for college wide activities,” she says.

An additional 14 colleges will receive $475,000 for one-year planning grants. The funding with give schools the opportunity to assess there specific needs and take other preliminary steps to better prepare a development grant application the following year.

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