Bakersfield College Receives $5 Million Grant Designed To Support The Hispanic Serving Institutions Stem Programs, With Focus On Program Expansion And Student Completion

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Tuesday, November 23, 2021

Bakersfield College has been awarded $5 million for the Step Up to STEM: Start Strong, Stay Strong, Finish Strong project from the United States Department of Education as part of their Hispanic Serving Institutions - Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics and Articulation program. The Kern Community College District Board of Trustees formally accepted the grant award on November 18, 2021.

The five-year funding agreement will support activities to enhance STEM student success, supporting Hispanic and Latinx students from lower-income backgrounds and those that have first generation college-student status.

President of Bakersfield College, Dr. Zav Dadabhoy says this funding helps to ensure support needed to help Hispanic and Latinx Renegades succeed in STEM. He says, “Bakersfield College is a leader in providing high quality education to traditionally underserved students and while we are supporting them with high-tech and high-touch support, we are simultaneously growing our programs because our students are engaging with their education at a younger age and these intentional support systems help them grow in confidence to know they are capable of achieving great things.”

“Supporting Renegades in STEM is a major priority. With programs like this we're able to better support STEM-interested students starting the path with lower math attainment from high school or are coming back to the classroom after many years in the workforce. Self-esteem is a major issue for these populations of students. This program will attempt to tackle that challenge head on,” said Associate Dean of Instruction of Physical Science and Engineering, James McGarrah. “It's a win-win because we're further fostering our commitment to an equity-centered learning environment, while preparing students to start strong, stay strong, and finish strong on a pathway which is so critical to our local economy.”

Bakersfield College's student body is diverse where 80% are first-generation and 78% receive financial aid. BC also holds federal designation as a Hispanic Serving Institution, where 70.6% of BC students are Hispanic/Latino/a/x. In the past few years, BC has achieved parity in enrollment and completion for this population with 70% of Associate Degree for Transfer earners identifying as Hispanic/Latino/a/x in 2019-20.

From 2016-17 to 2020-21, the college also saw sustained growth in the number of STEM students by over 1,000 Renegades enrolled in the pathway. McGarrah says this increase is good news for Kern County, especially if we can translate that into greater numbers of students completing STEM degrees. Kern County wants to continue growing its own STEM professionals.

Graph showing the number of STEM students at BC increasing from 2770 in 2016-17 to 3982 in 2020-21

Careers in STEM have grown at a faster pace than overall employment in the U.S. In 30 years, employment in STEM has grown by nearly 8 million - a 79% increase compared to a 34% increase for overall employment nationally. Notably, computer jobs have grown 338%. Growth in STEM fields presents a remarkable opportunity for economic mobility, as STEM workers earn approximately two-thirds more than those in non-STEM careers, with median earnings of around $71,000 in 2016. Despite overall growth of the Hispanic population coupled with growth in the STEM field, underrepresentation of Hispanic workers persists. Although Hispanic workers comprise 16% of the U.S. workforce, they represent only 7% of all STEM workers on average.

The project at Bakersfield College is composed of three distinct phases.

  1. Start Strong: addressing the student intake and orientation process
  2. Stay Strong: focusing on developing learning communities which are critical for STEM success
  3. Finish Strong: working to bridge the gaps in transfer, enabling students to maintain momentum on their path towards entering the skilled workforce efficiently and effectively, including internship and research opportunities.

The grant comes at a key moment for STEM focused Renegades at Bakersfield College. This funding, along with the soon-to-be-finished $65 Million Science and Engineering building, funded by the 2016 passing of Measure J, will put BC students on a solid path for success in STEM fields.

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