June 15, 2019
June 15, 2019
June 19, 2019
Work in Progress: A Path to Graduation: Helping First-Year Low Income, Rural STEM Students Succeed
This Work in Progress paper describes a program which was developed to help first-year low income engineering students from rural areas excel and succeed. The paper also provides initial program results and assessment available at submission time.
While the demand for engineers exceeds the supply, in many rural and economically struggling states, the gap between supply and demand is even greater. One way to help close that gap is to recruit often previously overlooked students – low income and rural students – showing them a path for attending college and succeeding. Many low-income, rural students have interest in the field, but lack an understanding of how to access higher education. Once in college, these students often struggle due to financial challenges; poor academic preparation by their small, financially-struggling schools; and little social support due to a lack of college-going culture in their communities. The Path to Graduation (PTG) program is designed to help these students by better addressing the financial, academic and social barriers to success, so that they can thrive and succeed in STEM. The PTG program will span the students’ entire undergraduate career from first-year to graduation. Currently, the program is finishing its first year, so only those activities will be discussed in this paper.
All eligible PTG students have demonstrated financial need, qualifying for Pell Grants and/or Subsidized Stafford Loans. PTG scholarships are provided by an NSF S-STEM grant to help remove remaining financial barriers for these students.
PTG students must have high school GPAs of at least 3.50 and composite ACT scores of 23 - 27 (SAT of 1290-1550). As these students are rarely prepared to take Calculus I, these PTG engineering students attend a residential summer bridge program the July after their high school graduation which includes an intensive 5-credit hour engineering mathematics course that will prepare them for Calculus I in their fall semester. The bridge program also includes a 1-credit hour ‘research lite’ course to help them understand research and spark interest early in their academic career. The bridge program also provides peer mentors, professional mentors, social opportunities, field trips and opportunities to learn about engineering careers.
Starting the fall semester, PTG students are integrally engaged with the Honors College (HC), despite not being academically HC-eligible as first-year students due to their ACT score. One objective of the PTG program is to help these students attain the level of academic achievement to become Honors students later in their academic program. PTG students live in the Honors residence hall during their first year and have access to all HC programming on-site. This allows them to be exposed to HC opportunities and culture, as well as providing them with social opportunities. PTG students also participate in the HC Path program which provides academic success advising with professional mentors, monthly meetings, peer mentoring and social opportunities. First-year monthly meetings include topics such as negotiating the college experience, diversity and inclusion, mentee training, how to interact with faculty, long-term planning, internships, research and study abroad.
Faculty mentors lead multi-disciplinary research clusters of PTG students to provide faculty guidance, creating an intellectual community and building their interest in research. Faculty mentors receive training in mentoring best practices, diversity and inclusion.
It is anticipated that the PTG program will help improve the persistence of STEM students from rural populations, as well as help researchers understand the barriers and persistence factors faced by rural students. A survey of PTG and non-PTG first-year students was recently conducted and will provide important information regarding barriers and persistence factors, including those faced by rural students; results will be provided. PTG students will also be surveyed to determine their experiences and needs in order to better understand barriers to success, while also assessing the PTG first-year program components.
Gattis, C. S., & Delgado Solorzano, X., & Nix, D., & Popp, J. S., & Cleary, M., & Lo, W., & Hill, B., & Adams, P. D. (2019, June), Work in Progress: A Path to Graduation: Helping First-Year Low Income, Rural STEM Students Succeed Paper presented at 2019 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition , Tampa, Florida. 10.18260/1-2--33585
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