Colorado State-Run Program Increases Minority Students Obtaining Science and Engineering Degrees; Director of Nsf Minority Program to Visit Thursday

A statewide program designed to increase the number of minority students studying college science, technology, engineering and mathematics has had an 83 percent increase in graduation rates in the past nine years, according to the Louis Stokes Colorado Alliance for Minority Participation, or CO-AMP.

The alliance, based at Colorado State University, is a consortium of 14 four-year institutions and community colleges throughout Colorado and the Four Corners region. The program seeks to increase the number of underrepresented Native American, African-American, Hispanic and Pacific Islander students earning bachelor’s degrees in science, mathematics, engineering and technology.

"Colorado State has worked hard to strengthen partnerships with K-12 institutions, community colleges and others to increase the number of minority students pursuing science and engineering degrees," said Larry Edward Penley, chancellor of the Colorado State University System and chairman of the governing board of CO-AMP. "As Colorado and the United States move toward a knowledge-based economy, we must do a better job of preparing all our students to be competitive in that economy."

Penley noted that states like Colorado have a strong interest in growing their science, technology, engineering and mathematics workforces because these fields typically yield higher-quality, higher-income jobs and help drive economic vitality.

CO-AMP is one of 34 similar programs around the country funded by the National Science Foundation. Art James Hicks, the director of the National Science Foundation Louis Stokes Alliance for Minority Participation Program, will meet with Colorado CO-AMP’s leadership on Thursday, April 13.

"Our ultimate goal is to have more underrepresented minority graduates employed in the workforce and working as teachers and role models in the classroom," said Omnia El-Hakim, assistant dean for diversity in Colorado State’s College of Engineering and director of CO-AMP. "We want to increase the number of highly qualified students trained in technical areas while we also increase diversity in institutions of higher education – then we increase the pool of faculty that buy into the importance of diversity. This is a sound investment in the economy and in our human capital."

Colorado CO-AMP began in 1996 with a $5 million, five-year grant from the NSF and matching funds from participating institutions. The program was renewed with another five-year grant in 2001 and has applied for additional funding.

CO-AMP reaches out to K-12 students to provide enrichment activities in science, math and engineering. During the undergraduate years, CO-AMP supports students through professional development, research opportunities and internships in private industry. The project then recruits students to continue their studies at the graduate level.

"We are creating a pathway from elementary school through graduate school, all built upon the foundation that has been provided by CO-AMP," El-Hakim said.

Enrollment by minorities in science and engineering courses has grown 44.5 percent since CO-AMP was created in 1996.

"The Colorado AMP was one of our case study sites and was a fine example of this very successful program," said Beatriz Clewell, director of the Program for Evaluation and Equity Research at The Urban Institute, a nonpartisan policy think-tank hired to evaluate the programs. "We certainly saw a lot of wonderful things happening there."

Clewell said she is using CO-AMP practices in a new training manual for similar programs around the country.

Other achievements of CO-AMP since 1996:

– The rate of increase of science and engineering degrees awarded to minorities in the past nine years – 83 percent – is greater than the rate of increase of all science and engineering degrees awarded – 58 percent.

– The overall increase in the number of students obtaining degrees rose 83 percent (394 from 215).

– The majority of the degrees awarded were in life science (139) and engineering (114).

– The number of African-American students graduating with science and engineering degrees has increased 125 percent (81 from 36).

– The number of Hispanic students graduating in those fields has increased 41 percent (256 from 181).

– The number of Native-American and multi-race students graduating in those fields has increased 68 percent (57 from 34).

– CO-AMP works with the Jicarilla Apache, Navajo Nation, Southern Ute and Ute Mountain Ute tribes.