, Volume 21, Issue 5, pp 581-587,
Open Access This content is freely available online to anyone, anywhere at any time.
Date: 17 Nov 2011

Increasing Access for Economically Disadvantaged Students: The NSF/CSEM & S-STEM Programs at Louisiana State University

Abstract

Increasing college degree attainment for students from disadvantaged backgrounds is a prominent component of numerous state and federal legislation focused on higher education. In 1999, the National Science Foundation (NSF) instituted the “Computer Science, Engineering, and Mathematics Scholarships” (CSEMS) program; this initiative was designed to provide greater access and support to academically talented students from economically disadvantaged backgrounds. Originally intended to provide financial support to lower income students, this NSF program also advocated that additional professional development and advising would be strategies to increase undergraduate persistence to graduation. This innovative program for economically disadvantaged students was extended in 2004 to include students from other disciplines including the physical and life sciences as well as the technology fields, and the new name of the program was Scholarships for Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (S-STEM). The implementation of these two programs in Louisiana State University (LSU) has shown significant and measurable success since 2000, making LSU a Model University in providing support to economically disadvantaged students within the STEM disciplines. The achievement of these programs is evidenced by the graduation rates of its participants. This report provides details on the educational model employed through the CSEMS/S-STEM projects at LSU and provides a path to success for increasing student retention rates in STEM disciplines. While the LSU’s experience is presented as a case study, the potential relevance of this innovative mentoring program in conjunction with the financial support system is discussed in detail.