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March 19, 2017

Select students interested in working in science, technology, engineering and math have a unique opportunity to get the financial, academic and social support they need to complete their degree.

The National Science Foundation (NSF) has awarded Johnson County Community College more than $600,000 for a program called STEM Scholars.

The NSF, a federal agency that supports science research and education, has a track record of working with four-year colleges and universities to provide scholarships for academic study and research. They are now beginning to work closely with community colleges to achieve the same goal.

Expanding to community colleges

If the NSF wanted to help the best and brightest candidates, especially those currently underrepresented in STEM such as women and minorities, it needed to expand its reach to community colleges, said Beth Edmonds, JCCC professor and chair of mathematics.

“What we saw were students eager to study in STEM fields but then running into difficulty along the way,” she said. “Some would persist, but many would switch to another field and drop STEM altogether, or they’d get dejected and leave school.”

With the help of JCCC Grants Leadership and Development, a group of JCCC faculty proposed a program that was part scholarship, part support system and part research. The NSF agreed, and the very first JCCC STEM Scholars began coursework in spring semester 2017.

Find out more information on the STEM Scholars program page.

Gender, racial gap in STEM fields

The U.S. News/Raytheon STEM Index for 2015 found that, while the number of STEM graduates is increasing nationwide, the number of STEM graduates who are women or of a non-Asian minority have not. In fact, the gender and racial gap has widened.

“We’re incredibly excited for the potential successes this program creates,” Edmonds said.

“We’re hoping that our model can be adopted by other community colleges across the country. The need for STEM graduates is greater than ever, and if we can help students – underserved populations at that – then we can change the landscape of STEM jobs.”

And not a moment too soon: in its research, the JCCC grants department estimated that employers in the Kansas City metro area will need to fill nearly 13,000 STEM jobs by 2020.

Students interested in the STEM scholarship for Fall should complete their Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), meet the priority deadline for completing the JCCC scholarship application (which is April 1), and complete the STEM scholarship application. See the Financial Aid Office, SC 253, for details.