A five-year, multimillion dollar federal “STEM Select” grant awarded this week to Allan Hancock College will enhance the college’s ability to provide a state-of-the-art science and math education.  It will create a model pathway from local high schools to Allan Hancock College to a university, especially Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo, with a focus on students choosing teaching as a career option.  STEM stands for Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics.

The $4.3 million “Title V STEM” grant was one of 97 awarded across the country to federally designated Hispanic Serving Institutions (HSI), of which there are about 300 community colleges and universities.  HSI grants are awarded to colleges to expand educational opportunities and improve the educational attainment of Hispanic and low-income students.  Hispanic student enrollment at Allan Hancock College is about 39 percent.

This is the fourth federal Title V grant Allan Hancock College has received.  In 2007, it was awarded a $2.3 million grant to establish a “Learning College” that has introduced innovative opportunities for learning in classes across the college.

“This grant, at this time, is one of the best things that could happen to Allan Hancock College, our students, and this region,” said Allan Hancock College Superintendent/President, José M. Ortiz, Ed.D.  “Creating clear pathways for students to move seamlessly from local high schools, to Hancock to Cal Poly and other universities in the pursuit of a STEM education is absolutely essential.  The global economy and California, in particular, needs more students pursuing science- and math-related careers, including teaching.  Overall, we need more underrepresented students succeeding in higher education.  This grant and the mechanisms it will put in place will support those goals.”  Ortiz pointed out that competition for Title V grants is fierce across the United States and that this award, the largest Hancock has ever received, “is tremendous” and will make a huge impact on student success.

Congresswoman Lois Capps, who notified the college of the award, echoed Ortiz’s enthusiasm.  “Making sure we educate our kids, particularly in science and math, is key to ensuring we succeed in a 21st century economy.  This federal funding will give Hancock College the resources it needs to make sure that Hispanic and low-income students on the Central Coast have the tools that they need to succeed,”

According to Paul Murphy, Ph.D., academic dean and one of the principal grant writers, the goal of the STEM Select project is “to enhance Hancock’s STEM resources to increase enrollment and transfer opportunities for students and to remove institutional barriers limiting the success of underrepresented students in STEM fields of study.”  The results of the efforts produced by Hancock through this grant will contribute to a national best practices model.  The grant has several key objectives:

  • Engage in community outreach activities, such as Science Night, a pre-college Summer of Science Camp, and Endeavor Center activities;
  • Establish a STEM Center on campus with a dedicated STEM counselor;
  • Create joint outreach materials with Cal Poly that identify curriculum pathways;
  • Provide internship, research and student teaching opportunities for students;
  • Establish a Transfer Team to improve and streamline the transfer process;
  • Establish an endowment fund to support scientific equipment needs.

The grant objectives call for increases of up to 25 percent in the number of STEM degree-seeking students at AHC; the number of high school students enrolling in STEM courses and the number of STEM majors who transfer to a university within three years.

“We want high school students to know that choosing Allan Hancock College to begin their postsecondary education will prepare them to transfer and succeed at universities such as Cal Poly,” Murphy added.

Although Hispanic student enrollment is relatively high at Hancock, enrollment does not always result in completion and transfer.  Nationally, 80 percent of Hispanic high school graduates go on to postsecondary education by age 26, but fewer than 25 percent finish a bachelor’s degree and 66 percent end up without a credential.  In California, only 2 percent of Hispanic adults have a bachelor’s degree.  In Santa Barbara County, because of the high immigrant farm worker presence, 86 percent of the Hispanic population does not have a high school diploma.  “Therefore, Ortiz explained, “it is especially important that Hancock play a leadership role in providing services and resources that students need to succeed. Hancock is in a unique position to increase the number of Hispanic students who major in science or math, transfer to university, and consider teaching as a career.  Our total focus is on their success.”