Department of Education

Sacramento State has been awarded a five-year, $895,326 grant from the U.S. Department of Education (DOE) to launch a project for student researchers called Pathways: Successful Transitions To and Through Higher Education.

Only four universities in the nation received funding from the DOE’s Institute of Education Sciences to create training programs that will develop a more diverse field of education researchers.

“As California’s Capital University, we are a hub for innovative ideas and practices to improve education outcomes in our region,” says President Robert S. Nelsen. “This grant will give us the funding to work toward becoming a national model for a pathways training program, providing Sacramento State the opportunity to build the next generation of researchers. Our proximity to the State Capitol provides our students with the unique opportunity to research and study policy issues impacting transitions to higher education.”

The University’s role as a minority-serving institution – 28 percent of Sac State students are Hispanic/Latino; 21 percent are Asian American/Pacific Islander – was instrumental in being selected for the grant, says Jana Noel, director of Educational and Community Research Partnerships at Sacramento State.

The upper-level undergraduate and master’s degree students chosen for Pathways, which will get underway in January, will spend a year researching the barriers faced by underrepresented students as they go from high school into community college and/or a four-year university.

The grant will allow for as many as 60 fellows, primarily drawn from organizations and programs that support minority populations at Sac State.

“This federal grant will unlock the potential for cutting-edge student research in our region,” Congresswoman Doris Matsui says. “Sacramento State is educating the next generation of leaders, innovators, and achievers, and I know that this Pathways program will help further those efforts for its diverse student body. When we empower young people through education and give them the tools to live out their potential, we make investments in a better future.”

The fellows will work closely with a group of faculty mentors for two semesters and apprentice at a policy-and-research center over the summer. The experience will prepare them to apply for doctoral programs in education research.

Students may pursue their own research interests or work alongside their mentors on current faculty projects.

“The most pressing issue in education today is the ‘achievement gap’ or the disparity in academic performance between different groups of students,” says Tim Fong, a professor of ethnic studies at Sac State. “The achievement gap shows up in grades, standardized-test scores, course selection, dropout rates, and college-completion rates, among other success measures.

“The Department of Education is focusing greater attention on gender and racial gaps in college enrollment, and on success rates. This is fundamental to the U.S. goal of leading the world in college graduates by 2020.”

Fong, Noel, and Su Jin Jez, a professor in the Public Policy and Administration Graduate Program, will serve as principal investigators for the project. – Dixie Reid