SPRINGFIELD — Springfield Technical Community College (STCC) has been awarded two grants worth more than $7 million from the U.S. Department of Education to boost student success among Latinx and low-income students in STEM fields, U.S. Rep. Richard Neal announced on Wednesday during a visit to STCC.
“I am thrilled to celebrate the success of Springfield Technical Community College’s grant applications to the U.S. Department of Education,” Neal said. “These two awards totaling more than $7 million over a five-year period will help support the science, technology, engineering, and math programs at the college and welcome more students into the ever-growing field. This area of study is important across the country but is especially vital here in Massachusetts where we have some of the highest concentration of research and development in the world. Graduates of STCC will be ready to meet the challenge.”
The first grant, titled “Project Acceleration: Re-engineering Pathways to Student Success in STEM,” will run for five years for a total of $3 million. It will allow STCC to create a STEM studies program and develop support services to increase access to STEM careers.
The grant is designed to increase enrollment and improve the graduation rates of Latinx and low-income students in STEM majors and help them continue with their studies instead of withdrawing from school. In addition, the grant will allow STCC to help reduce the time it takes male students of color, particularly Latinx, to complete studies. The grant falls under the federal Title V program, which was created to improve higher education of Hispanic students.
The second grant announced by Neal is titled “STEM Access and Retention Strategies.” The five-year grant, totaling $4,352,559, will allow STCC to create and enhance support services for Latinx and low-income students. Services and programs supported by the grant include creation of STEM-focused first-year experience courses; utilization of proactive STEM advisors, which would involves bringing services to students rather than waiting for them to ask; and implementation of additional mental-health services.
In recent years, STCC created a STEM Center that offers opportunities for tutoring and group study for all students. The college also provides mentoring and coaching. The new federal grant also will allow STCC to enhance professional development for faculty.
“We are thrilled to receive this funding from the U.S. Department of Education and extremely grateful for support from Congressman Neal,” Cook said. “I want to thank our local delegation for visiting STCC and for their support through the years. These grants will directly address challenges we face at the college. One of our top priorities is to close achievement gaps among students who have faced barriers, which includes many of our Latinx and low-income students. These grants will help support our students and give them a better chance at staying in college and earning their degree.”
STCC, the only technical community college in Massachusetts, is federally designated as a Hispanic Serving Institution, with 30% of the students identifying as Hispanic. The city of Springfield suffers high unemployment and poverty. Fifty-six percent of STCC students receive federal Pell grants, which are awarded to students who display exceptional financial need. Hispanic and low-income students enter college with greater developmental math needs and lower retention and graduation rates, on average, than non-Hispanic and higher-income students. Only 11.4% of Hispanic and 14% of low-income students major in STEM.
As part of the grant focusing on access and retention strategies, STCC will partner with UMass Amherst and Central Connecticut State University to expand transfer opportunities for students.
“These grants will directly impact the Springfield community around STCC by providing better access to support services for our students so they can succeed in science, technology, engineering, and math,” said Lara Sharp, dean of the School of STEM.
After the announcement, Neal toured the state-of-the-art laboratories and classrooms in the Smith & Wesson STCC Advanced Manufacturing Building in Springfield Technology Park. The facility includes computer numerical control machines and other tools and machines used in precision manufacturing.