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Sac State receives $8 million in new funding to support Latinx students

The Department of Education grants will provide Sac State with more resources to expand educational opportunities and eliminate educational and economic barriers for Latinx and other underrepresented students. (Sacramento State/Bibiana Ortiz)

Sacramento State’s work to support Latinx and other underrepresented groups is getting a significant boost, thanks to $8 million in new funding from two five-year U.S. Department of Education grants.

The grants, announced today by the Department of Education, are available only to colleges and universities designated as Hispanic Serving Institutions (HSIs). They bring the total funding Sac State has received since earning the federal designation in 2015 to more tha $16 million.

Approximately 30% of Sac State students identify as Latinx.

“A key part of our work to become an antiracist and inclusive campus is to enact systemic changes that eliminate inequities and promote our students’ success, and the projects funded by these grants will do just that,” University President Robert S. Nelsen said.

“That Sacramento State has received not just one but two HSI grants is a testament to the work being done by our faculty and staff not only to help our students realize their dream of a college degree but prepare them to have successful and fulfilling careers after graduation.”

The first grant, a $3 million Developing Hispanic-Serving Institutions (DHSI) grant, will launch a new project called “Degree with a Purpose: Integration of Career Development and Financial Wellness into the College Experience.”

"These grants from the U.S. Department of Education are further proof that Sac State is on the rise and continues to put students first.” - Congresswoman Doris Matsui

The DHSI program provides HSIs funding to expand educational opportunities for Latinx students and help them persist to graduation. The Degree with a Purpose project aims to address educational and economic barriers for underrepresented and low-income students by prioritizing career development throughout their college experience.

The project will incorporate early-career preparedness, financial wellness, and work-based learning into programs, such as new-student orientation, for incoming students; help faculty integrate these topics into existing courses and programs; and provide students with dedicated counseling and individual career planning.

“Students, particularly first-generation and other underrepresented students, are often unaware of where help and career exploration opportunities are available,” said Viridiana Diaz, associate vice president of Strategic Student Support Programs and a co-director of the grant. “Degree with a Purpose will establish career development and readiness as the central priority of a college education by supporting students in making informed choices early on while building momentum towards a degree of value and a rewarding career.”

Melissa Repa, director of Sac State’s Career Center and the grant’s co-director, said research shows a disconnect between students’ classroom learning and employer and community needs.

“This DHSI grant provides resources not readily available to help students succeed throughout their academic journeys to help them achieve their career and financial goals,” Repa said.

The second grant, a $5 million HSI STEM grant, will fund a new program called “STEM4Equity,” which aims to increase the number of Latinx and low-income students graduating with science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) degrees.

The project will assist faculty in redesigning courses to be culturally responsive and to align with employer needs; expand the Peer Assisted Learning Program to serve students in four high-enrollment, high-fail-rate STEM courses; create a STEM transfer hub to support transfer students; and promote leadership activities, micro-internships, and traditional paid internships to develop STEM identity for Latinx and low-income students and prepare them for their careers.

The latter strategy, in particular, aligns with the DHSI grant, connecting the projects as student-support efforts.

“STEM4Equity aspires to transform STEM education at Sac State by creating equity and workplace relevance in courses, student peer programs, and degree programs,” said Lynn Tashiro, director of the Center for Teaching and Learning, and the principal investigator on the HSI STEM grant with Vice President for Student Affairs Ed Mills.

“The program brings resources to the University that will enable faculty to create equitable learning environments and expand the curriculum to give students real-world skills,” Tashiro said.

The DHSI and HSI STEM grants are the fifth and sixth awarded to Sac State as an HSI. In 2015, the University received $2.4 million from the U.S. Department of Education to launch Project INSPIRE, a program to improve the academic success of underrepresented students.

In 2017, the University was awarded an additional $2.6 million Department of Education grant for Comprometid@s, a project to increase the number of Hispanic and bilingual teachers and in 2018, Sac State received $1.5 million from the National Science Foundation for professional development for STEM faculty. The University in 2019 received an additional $1.8 million from NSF to launch a Peer-Assisted Learning program in the College of Engineering and Computer Science and create a leadership academy uniting science and engineering faculty and students.

“Sacramento State is a hub of intellectual and personal growth, propelling our region forward with innovative programs that remove barriers for first-generation, low-income, and minority students, while also providing vital support for the career development,” Congresswoman Doris Matsui said. “While we work to build back better and create the opportunities of tomorrow, it is essential that we provide the tools to foster our next generation of innovators and leaders, including in STEM fields.

“I thank President Nelsen and the entire University community for their dedication to providing these opportunities and making sure that our region’s students continue to thrive well into the future. These grants from the U.S. Department of Education are further proof that Sac State is on the rise and continues to put students first.”

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About Jonathan Morales

Jonathan Morales joined the Sac State communications team in 2017 as a writer and editor. He previously worked at San Francisco State University and as a newspaper reporter and editor. He enjoys local beer, Bay Area sports teams, and spending time outdoors with his family and dog.

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