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National grants sustain Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math studies


Dick Van Hollebeke, Chair of the Edmonds College Board of Trustees, and Dr. Jean Hernandez, president of Edmonds College, write about opportunities in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math at Edmonds College in this guest editorial for The Herald.

By Dick Van Hollebeke and Jean Hernandez

Everyone’s feeling the financial pinch. Your community college has made $6 million in cuts in the past four years and we’re looking at having to cut our budget yet again.

But here’s some good news.

We’re not cutting back on opportunities for students — particularly in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) studies.

At Edmonds College this year, there are more opportunities for those students than ever.

Edmonds College has received a total of 18 National Science Foundation grants — and our three latest grants of more than $1.5 million over five years mean more support services and scholarships for students in STEM fields.

We’ve been aggressive about going after these resources because workers educated in STEM fields are critical for the nation’s economy. A recent report, STEM: Good Jobs Now and for the Future, from the U.S. Department of Commerce said STEM occupations are projected to grow by 17 percent from 2008 to 2018.

Preparing U.S. workers to fill these roles is our job. STEM grants will help prepare our students for jobs that are available today in our community such as at Boeing and other aerospace companies.

In addition, many of these grants specifically leverage resources to support low-income and first-generation college students. These are students who, without support, won’t enter college and won’t complete a degree. These are students who particularly, without support, won’t complete a math or science degree. We need them.

At Edmonds College, we welcome these students. We help them with pre-college courses that give them the knowledge and encouragement to succeed. Our instructors help students achieve their goals, as they prepare for new family-wage jobs.

Educating these students, and growing the base of available talent for STEM fields, is our job.

This year, students at Edmonds College can apply for these National Science Foundation funded programs:

  • EdSTEM$ Scholarships — Educationally talented, disadvantaged students will receive scholarships of up to $5,000 each year, as well as support services including mentoring and advising, while they complete their science, technology, engineering, or math degree.
  • MESA-Mathematics, Engineering, Science Achievement — The MESA center at the college provides academic resources for low-income, educationally disadvantaged students studying science and seeking to transfer to bachelor’s degree programs. The center aims to increase the numbers of women and underrepresented minorities studying science.
  • RISE-Relationships in STEM Education — This program establishes a cohort of students studying science, technology, engineering, and math and offers them a suite of support services. It aims to increase the number and diversity of STEM students graduating and transferring to universities.

In addition, our college has been encouraging our math and science students to go above and beyond in their studies. We offer undergraduate science research and service-learning projects. We also hold community events like our Haunted Science Lab, Oct. 28, aimed at increasing interest in science studies.

The college’s science, technology, engineering, and math programs help put students in touch with professional organizations and future employers. They also give students a chance to apply what they’ve learned.

Engineering students have built and raced submarines and racecars and digital forensics students have worked on actual cases and interned at the state attorney general’s high-tech crime unit.

STEM jobs are good for the U.S. economy and good for our student-workers. These jobs command higher wages — earning as much as 26 percent more than non-STEM jobs, according to that U.S. Commerce report.

We want students here in Snohomish County to be capable of filling those critical jobs, so we’re leveraging resources to serve our community. That’s also our job — and we’re working hard at it.

We encourage prospective students to come to campus and ask how Edmonds College can help them get started. Our small classes and dedicated faculty and staff want students to succeed, and will help them succeed. We change lives.

It’s true that relying on grants, which provide targeted resources for a limited duration, may not be the most efficient and sustainable model.

To maintain quality and services for all students, we’re counting on the state citizens and the state legislature to support and adequately fund community college education in our state.

Every hard worker needs the support of their employer, just as every committed student deserves the support of their college.

Dick Van Hollebeke is Chair of the Edmonds College Board of Trustees. Dr. Jean Hernandez is President of Edmonds College.