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When a Traditional Scholarship is Simply Not Enough: Addressing the Digital Divide to Recruit and Motivate Engineering Technology Students through Graduation

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2016 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


New Orleans, Louisiana

Publication Date

June 26, 2016

Start Date

June 26, 2016

End Date

June 29, 2016





Conference Session

Enhancing Student Success in Two-Year Colleges

Tagged Division

Two Year College Division

Tagged Topic


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Paper Authors


Elaine L. Craft Florence-Darlington Technical College

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Elaine L. Craft (Florence-Darlington Technical College, Florence, SC) holds a baccalaureate degree in chemical engineering from the University of Mississippi and a MBA from the University of South Carolina with additional graduate studies in mathematics. Her experience includes working as an engineer in industry as well as teaching and administration at community college and state levels. She has served as Director of the South Carolina Advanced Technological (SC ATE) Center of Excellence since 1994, leading initiatives and grant-funded projects to develop educational leadership and increase the quantity, quality and diversity of highly skilled technicians to support the American economy. Currently serving as Principal Investigator, Mentor-Connect: Leadership Development and Outreach for ATE; Co-Principal Investigator, SC ATE National Resource Center for Expanding Excellence in Technician Education; and Co-Principal Investigator, ATE Regional Center for Aviation and Automotive Technology Education Using Virtual E-Schools (CA2VES). The SC ATE Center is widely known for developing and broadly sharing successful educational models and practices in technician education, with a particular emphasis on faculty development in problem-based learning, the first year of study for success in engineering and technology majors, and mentoring educators nationally.

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Traditional scholarships provide tuition. Some extend support to books and supplies. For two-year college students, however, this is often not enough to overcome barriers to success for financially needy, academically talented students. An innovative scholarship program has achieved a 81.9% on-time graduation rate for students in engineering technology programs and other advanced technologies by addressing a barrier referred to as the “digital divide.” A technology support element was added to a National Science Foundation-funded S-STEM scholarship program in 2004 to address a well-documented need among prospective scholars. Many scholarship recipients did not have access to a personal computer with the software and capability to do assigned work when off campus. To be successful, students were making extra trips to the campus to work in an on-campus computer lab. Very often, this also created additional child-care needs and costs. To remove this barrier, a loan-to-own laptop computer with appropriate software was added to the scholarship award along with books, tuition, and supplies required by the student’s program of study. Students selected for S-STEM scholarships are assigned a powerful laptop computer that is pre-loaded with software specific to the student’s program of study. The laptop is inventoried by the college library but remains checked-out to the student throughout his or her semesters of study at the college. The student scholar has the computer to use through graduation as long as scholarship criteria are met. Upon graduation, laptop computer ownership is transferred from the college to the student to promote continued success either in the workplace or at the senior institution to which the student transfers. Students failing to maintain the required 3.0 GPA or who leave the college for more than one semester for any reason other than military service must return the computer to the college and forfeit their scholarship. Based on data about Internet access issues for scholarship recipients between 2004 and 2012, an additional barrier for S-STEM scholarship recipients was removed in 2012 by adding a free mobile wireless Internet device to the scholarship package. Every course offered by the college requires students to have access to the Internet, and this device enables students to connect to the Internet, study, and complete assignments wherever they are between classes. Scholars are also required to follow the curriculum outline for their chosen program of study. Following the curriculum layout helps ensure on-time graduation, whereas taking courses out of sequence is a major contributor to delayed graduation. The combination of the scholarship with technology support and adherence to the curriculum layout has made on-time graduation and success possible for students who otherwise would not have been able to complete associate degrees in engineering technology or related advanced technologies covered by the S-STEM scholarship program. The model has been documented and includes procedures used by the college for implementation, data pertaining to student success, and program costs.

Craft, E. L. (2016, June), When a Traditional Scholarship is Simply Not Enough: Addressing the Digital Divide to Recruit and Motivate Engineering Technology Students through Graduation Paper presented at 2016 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, New Orleans, Louisiana. 10.18260/p.27197

ASEE holds the copyright on this document. It may be read by the public free of charge. Authors may archive their work on personal websites or in institutional repositories with the following citation: © 2016 American Society for Engineering Education. Other scholars may excerpt or quote from these materials with the same citation. When excerpting or quoting from Conference Proceedings, authors should, in addition to noting the ASEE copyright, list all the original authors and their institutions and name the host city of the conference. - Last updated April 1, 2015