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NSF Identifies Best Minority SMET Programs

September 13, 2004

The need for programs to encourage science, math and technology education (SMET) among most minority groups becomes evident when one consider the nation’s need for a high skilled workforce, the growing portion of the total population divided among minority groups, and the low percentage most minorities represent of science and engineering professionals. The Louis Stokes Alliances for Minority Participation (LSAMP) program in the National Science Foundation (NSF) is one of three federal programs attempting to address the issue.

Different in its approach from the NASA and NIH efforts, the NSF program strives to increase the number of minority students completing a baccalaureate degree in a SMET-related field and enrolling in related graduate program by financially supporting partnerships among academic institutions, industry, government agencies, laboratories and professional organizations. Twenty-eight LSAMPs have been funded in 24 states since the program was created in 1991.

A new report from the NSF program reviews the performance of a selected group of the oldest LSAMPs and identifies best practices that could be replicated outside the program. Increases in graduation rates among the seven LSAMPs profiled in the report ranged from 68 percent to 140 percent. The select group shared several keys to success:

  • Summer bridge programs between high school and the first year of college, which were found to be the most successful feature;
  • Research experience, throughout college career;
  • Mentors, both peer and research;
  • Drop-in center for assistance and social structure;
  • Caring staff; and,
  • Alliance structure nurturing community of peers.

The report, A Description and Analysis of Best Practice Finding of Programs promoting participation of underrepresented undergraduate student in Science, Mathematics, Engineering and Technology, is available at: http://www.nsf.gov/pubs/2001/nsf0131/nsf0131.pdf