posted May 18, 2012

NSF Grant to Provide Scholarships for Students from Community Colleges

A major grant to Hope College from the National Science Foundation (NSF) will provide scholarship aid to community-college students who are interested in continuing their education in the sciences at Hope.

The $528,994 award is providing scholarships for a multi-year program for students who transfer to the college to complete four-year degrees in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) disciplines.  The program’s focus is on assisting students while also helping to address the national need for people prepared for STEM careers.

“Hope College STEM graduates have historically gone on to become national leaders in STEM research and education,” said Dr. Catherine Mader, professor of physics, who is one of three faculty co-principal investigators of the grant.  “This program provides opportunities for students with limited financial means to develop the skills needed to be successful STEM leaders without relying heavily on loans.”

It is the second time that Hope has received a major grant from the NSF to provide scholarship support for community-college students seeking to continue their STEM education beyond their two-year programs.  Hope received a similar grant in 2007.

The new Hope program will provide scholarships of up to $10,000 per year to seven or eight transferring students each year, with the scholarships renewable for a second year for each student who meets eligibility requirements.  The first set of students has already arrived on campus and is participating in summer collaborative research in advance of starting coursework in the fall, with additional groups to be supported through the program beginning in 2013 and 2014.

The scholarship awards will be based on financial need as based on the results of the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) and the Hope College Supplemental Application for Financial Aid (SAF).  The scholarship recipients will also have to demonstrate successful progress towards a STEM degree.

In addition to receiving scholarship support, each student will have the opportunity to participate in summer collaborative research full-time with a member of the Hope faculty, ideally during the summer before beginning coursework at the college.  Approximately 180 students engage in summer research in the sciences at Hope each year.

The students will also be aided in their transition to Hope through the FACES peer-mentoring program.  Established in 2010, FACES (Fostering A Community of Excellence in Science at Hope College) began as a resource for freshmen who are members of groups traditionally underrepresented in the sciences.  FACES pairs students with upperclassmen who share the benefit of their experience with Hope and also offers seminars, career counseling and other activities.  The program will expand to help meet the needs of transfer students.

“That’s a nice addition, that we’ve been able to take advantage of this new program to provide support for these students as they make the transition to Hope College,” said Mader, whose co-principal investigators are Anna Bonnema, who is the FACES at Hope mentoring program director, and Dr. Herbert Dershem, who is professor of computer science and director of institutional research, and was also principal investigator of the initial initiative for community-college transfer students.  “I think the connection to FACES is going to strengthen our program quite a lot.”

In addition to the new and prior scholarship programs, Hope also previously served as a resource for community-college students as a partner institution in a 2007-11 program of the City Colleges of Chicago, also funded by the NSF, which provided research experiences at select colleges, including Hope, for students attending several two-year Chicago-area institutions.

The new scholarships are available to any students transferring to Hope after completing work at a two-year college.  Hope is building in particular on relationships established with two-year institutions through the previous programs and other collaborative efforts, including Grand Rapids Community College, Henry Ford Community College, Kalamazoo Valley Community College, Kellogg Community College, Lansing Community College, Muskegon Community College, Northwestern Michigan College and the City Colleges of Chicago.