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San Juan College to expand student support services with STEM grant

Joshua Kellogg
The Daily Times

FARMINGTON — San Juan College has plans to expand its student support services after being awarded a new federal grant worth $220,000 to include new programs for Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics students.

San Juan College was one of 13 New Mexico colleges awarded a total of about $3.3 million in grants from the U.S. Department of Education on July 17 as part of the Student Support Services program.

About $270 million was awarded nationally to 968 programs, according to a U.S. Department of Education press release.

San Juan College received $231,103 in funding for its established EDGE student support services program and a new grant worth $220,000 to expand services to provide support for STEM students for a total of $451,103.

The additional funding will help expand the number of students the EDGE program can provide services to, said Shanna Sasser, director of the EDGE program.

"For our first time submitting a grant for the SSS-STEM (funding) and to be awarded, is pretty amazing," Sasser said. "We're really excited because we can open the doors a little wider for more students on campus."

Sasser said she believes the college was awarded the additional funding due to the program exceeding all the goals set in the federal reporting requirements for the last five years.

Students who qualify as low-income, first generation of a family to attend college, or have a documented disability, can apply for a spot in the program.

Some of the services provided by the program include academic advising, individual tutoring, degree planning, financial aid counseling and a variety of workshops on personal, financial and academic topics.

The program can support a maximum of 160 students according to federal guidelines but the new grant allows them to add support for 120 new students who are taking STEM courses.

San Juan College was the only state college to be awarded STEM funding and one of 79 colleges nationwide selected.

Sasser said she hopes to launch the STEM portion in the Spring 2016 semester but the date may change as the program is implemented.

The grant will help pay for high-level tutors and advisors to assist students in the program who are taking difficult and technical courses.

"STEM students struggle to find those high-level tutors and to engage in conversations with engineering professionals and other high-level medical professionals for career guidance," Sasser said. "With this program, we can do that."

Another goal of the STEM grant is to increase retention and graduation rates and help students transfer to a four-year institute to pursue a Bachelor's Degree.

Laurie Gruel, senior director of strategic planning and grants, said the grant will help San Juan College develop partnerships with other colleges for STEM students to transfer and continue their education.

Joshua Kellogg covers education for The Daily Times. He can be reached at 505-564-4627 and jkellogg@daily-times.com. Follow him @jkelloggdt on Twitter.