College students at Union County College and Kean University will receive a big boost, thanks to a just-announced five-year, $3.25 million federal Title V grant.
The award enables Union County College to partner with Kean University to develop a multi-faceted program focusing on increasing the success rates of students in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics) disciplines.
Title V funds are allocated through US Department of Education to strengthen institutions that serve a high proportion of Hispanic and low-income students. The grant funds institutional capacity to benefit all students, but especially colleges like Union, which has a long record of achievement as a federally designated Hispanic Serving Institution.
One of the key goals of this Cooperative Grant with Kean will be to develop a pathway from the associate degree at Union to a bachelor’s degree at Kean for Title V students in STEM disciplines.
Union’s President Margaret McMenamin says the program is in line with federal educational priorities. “President Obama is calling for a diverse 21st-century, STEM-trained workforce. To that end, our partnership with Kean University will develop a strong model of transfer and articulation to promote the success of Title V students in STEM education. Once these students earn an associate degree at Union and a bachelor’s degree at Kean, they will enter the workforce in a STEM-related career or as a teacher of STEM disciplines.”
The project has multiple components. One objective is to improve student retention, graduation, and transfer rates. To accomplish this goal, Kean and Union will create a joint-admissions agreement involving these Title V students.
“With Union County College’s designation as an HSI and Kean University’s selection as one of the top 5 most diverse colleges in the country, Kean and Union County College are natural partners for this Title V grant,” said Dr. Dawood Farahi, Kean University President. “Both colleges have a long history of serving our region’s diverse student population and providing our students with access and opportunity.”
One of the more innovative features of the project that Kean will provide is a ‘Possibility Zone’ which will afford Title V students with faculty mentors for STEM research activities. The project’s other major focus is on improving the way faculty teach STEM disciplines. Union’s Chief Academic Officer Maris Lown explains that the project funds “professional development that advances innovative pedagogy. This includes providing dedicated learning laboratories and equipment to offer students hands-on inquiry-based discovery in learning.”
Grant funding will continue through 2019. Dr. Farahi and Dr. McMenamin credit federal legislators (Senators Robert Menendez and Cory Booker, and Congressmen Albio Sires and Leonard Lance), State legislators (Senator Raymond Lesniak, Assemblyman Jerry Green), and the Union County Freeholder Chairman Christopher Hudak for supporting this grant.
“Our elected officials understand and appreciate the value of education in turning around the lives of the County students who are most at risk due to financial hardships,” said President McMenamin. “Title V is a pathway to a better life for hundreds of Union County College students each year.”