The Alamo Colleges District received more than $19 million in federal grants.
The Alamo Colleges District received more than $19 million in federal grants. Credit: Bonnie Arbittier / San Antonio Report

The Alamo Colleges District received more than $19 million in federal grants, with about $10 million going toward increasing the number of students who pursue degrees in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) fields, the community college district announced last week.

Northwest Vista College and San Antonio College secured the largest grants. Each community college received about $5 million to bolster enrollment in STEM courses and provide support to Latino and low-income students, who are underrepresented in those degree programs. The grants will be used over the next five years.

Alamo Colleges also received grants to provide child care services on campus, enhance cybersecurity education, and reduce sexual assault and domestic violence.

“These funds will help us to enhance our existing work and create more opportunities for our students,” Chancellor Mike Flores said in a prepared statement. “The careers in our area that previously required only a high school diploma are increasingly scarce. These awards will set our students on the right path to high-demand and high-wage careers.”

The $5 million grant is the largest Northwest Vista College (NVC) has received, said Judy Camargo, college grants development director. The funds come from the U.S. Education Department’s Hispanic-Serving Institutions-Science, Technology, Engineering, or Mathematics and Articulation Programs, which aims to boost the number of Hispanic and low-income students earning degrees in STEM fields and develop transfer agreements between two-year and four-year colleges. San Antonio College (SAC) secured a $4.9 million grant through the same federal program.

Over the next five years, NVC plans to spend the $5 million on tutoring and other academic supports for roughly 500 STEM students, including a mentorship program that would match successful students with students new to those courses who may be struggling, Camargo said. The grant also will fund professional development for about 100 faculty and staff members, counseling for 2,000 students, and outreach for 120 high school students to encourage them to enroll in STEM programs.

Additionally, NVC’s grant will fund 125 internships and 125 research opportunities, Camargo said. About 40 students per semester will be able to participate in research internships and earn up to $4,200 in a stipend, which will allow students who usually must work to pay for college to gain experience in their career fields.

“We have a diverse group of students, and a lot of them find themselves having to work and they’re unable to participate in a lot of college activities,” Camargo said. “The stipend is going to allow them to be able to participate in this critical and valuable learning experience.”

NVC also will use the grant to form partnerships with local four-year colleges to create transfer transition programs so students can more easily transfer and earn higher-level degrees beyond associate and bachelor’s degrees, Camargo said. This will lead students to high-paying positions in the STEM field.

“It’s a good opportunity for our students to go beyond the poverty levels that they’re currently in,” she said.

Prakash Nair, an NVC chemistry professor, said the college doesn’t see many students pursue STEM degrees because they feel intimidated by the coursework or lack the necessary resources to succeed, such as mental health care or additional instruction outside the class.

“There are students who need that extra push, and that’s where the grant support comes in, where we can actually identify students and give them that help,” he said. ‘The STEM field is lacking good representation. We need to make sure that the field has a diverse population.”

A report by the Hispanic Heritage Foundation, Student Research Foundation, and Google found that Latino students make up 25% of U.S. students and 17% of the workforce overall, but they represent only 8% of the STEM workforce. Latino students reported low confidence in taking STEM courses. This was especially true of Latinas, who make up about 7% of the workforce but less than 2% of STEM jobs.

Other Alamo Colleges grants include:

  • St. Philip’s College: $1.4 million to strengthen the historically Black college’s academics and operations; $1.3 million to boost student research and internship experiences in STEM fields and facilitate student transfers to four-year colleges; $143,370 to provide summer cybersecurity camps for K-12 students and teachers
  • Palo Alto College: $2.8 million to help steer high school students in Somerset, South San Antonio, and Southwest ISDs toward obtaining a higher education; $620,860 to help low-income students with children up to 4 years old pay for child care; $200,000 to launch virtual career services and student support activities aimed at part-time students
  • San Antonio College: $1.3 million to help low-income students with children up to 4 years old pay for child care
  • Alamo Colleges District: $1.2 million to increase the number of adults who enroll in higher education institutions through financial and college admissions counseling; $300,000 to support services geared toward preventing and responding to sexual assault, domestic violence, dating violence, and stalking

Brooke Crum

Brooke Crum is the San Antonio Report's education reporter.