$4.2 Million Hispanic-Serving Institutions Grant Will Aid Students in Sciences, Engineering and Agriculture

Date: 10-10-2016

Joe Wills, Public Affairs

California State University, Chico received word Sept. 27 that it had received a five-year, $4.2 million grant from the U.S. Department of Education that will support students pursuing studies in the Colleges of Agriculture, Natural Sciences, and Engineering, Computer Science and Construction Management.

CSU, Chico was able to apply for the funding due to becoming eligible for federal Hispanic-Serving Institution (HSI) grants in December 2015, approximately one year after the University’s Hispanic student enrollment surpassed 25 percent of the total student body.  

The U.S. Department of Education’s program is called Hispanic-Serving Institutions - Science, Technology, Engineering, or Mathematics, or HSI STEM. Its purpose, according to the education department, is “to increase the number of Hispanic and other low-income students attaining degrees in the fields of science, technology, engineering or mathematics.” 

“This grant is a game-changer,” said Paul Villegas, director of CSU, Chico’s Mathematics Engineering Science Achievement (MESA) Engineering Program. “It’s a significant amount of resources for the STEM community to assist our students with challenging disciplines. It will have a major impact on our students.”

Villegas, who helped lead the application process, said the implementation of the grant will mirror how CSU, Chico’s MESA Engineering Program operates. Services to students provided by the grant will include academic support, such as supplemental instruction, tutoring and academic advising; peer mentoring and coaching; tools to help students develop college and personal financial plans; undergraduate research experiences including faculty mentoring; and support for community college transfers.

“With the CSU’s mission of access to higher education, the HSI STEM grant will increase the opportunity for Hispanic students to enroll and be successful in earning bachelor’s degrees in engineering and agricultural and natural sciences,” said Ricardo Jacquez, dean of the College of Engineering, Computer Science and Construction Management (ECC).

He added that funding from the new University Foundation Special Endowment Awards, which Villegas received this summer, played a significant role in giving the MEP director the resources and time he needed to develop the pilot program that contributed to a successful application.

“This is a perfect example of how donors can support the success and future of Chico State,” Jacquez said. 

“The award of this grant to Chico State is very timely,” Jacquez said, noting that enrollments over the past four years in the three colleges have “skyrocketed.” The College of Agriculture reported an enrollment increase of 60 percent during that period, while Natural Sciences saw a 35 percent increase and ECC experienced a 33 percent rise.

“Chico State has emerged as one of the fastest growing STEM universities in Northern California,” Jacquez said, “and, thus, is well positioned to make strong contributions not only to the education of Hispanic students in STEM, but also to the economic development and growth of California.”

Teresita Curiel, CSU, Chico interim assistant director of HSI initiatives, emphasized that the University’s HSI designation gives the campus access to new funding sources. “The HSI designation is an important milestone, as it has opened the door for CSU, Chico to pursue large-scale, competitive grants designed to enhance the quality of academic programs, facilities and services, as well as expand educational opportunities for Hispanic and other low-income students,” she said. “The new HSI STEM grant is the first such grant received, and a major step forward.”

The HSI STEM program is one of three HSI grant programs sponsored by the U.S. Department of Education, Curiel said. CSU, Chico’s HSI status will also make accessible other federal funding, professional development, scholarship, networking and partnership opportunities, she said.

Beatriz Ceja-Williams, division director, U.S. Department of Education, said the department received and reviewed more than 200 applications for the HSI STEM grant competition. In a message to CSU, Chico announcing the grant award, she said, “I am confident that the work you do will have an amazing impact on the educational success of Hispanic students.”

Based on 2015 enrollment figures, approximately 24 percent of undergraduates are enrolled in STEM majors, and, of that group, approximately 13 percent are classified as Hispanic or low-income.