Sacramento State has been awarded a five-year, $895,326 grant from the U.S. Department of Education to launch a project for student researchers.
The project is called Pathways: Successful Transitions To and Through Higher Education. Only four universities nationwide received funding from the Department of Education’s Institute of Education Sciences to create training programs intended to develop a more diverse field of education researchers, according to a university news release.
“As California’s Capital University, we are a hub for innovative ideas and practices to improve education outcomes in our region,” President Robert Nelsen said in a written statement. “This grant will give us the funding to work toward becoming a national model for a pathways training program, providing Sacramento State the opportunity to build the next generation of researchers. Our proximity to the state Capitol provides our students with the unique opportunity to research and study policy issues impacting transitions to higher education.”
Upper-level undergraduate and master’s degree students chosen for the Pathways program, scheduled to begin in January, will spend a year researching the barriers faced by underrepresented students as they go from high school into community college or a four-year university, officials said.
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The university’s role in serving minority students was instrumental in its selection for the grant, said Jana Noel, director of educational and community research partnerships at Sacramento State. Twenty-eight percent of Sacramento State students are Hispanic/Latino, and 21 percent are Asian American/Pacific Islander.
The grant will allow for as many as 60 fellows, primarily drawn from organizations and programs that support minority populations at Sacramento State. The fellows will work closely with a group of faculty mentors for two semesters and apprentice at a policy-and-research center over the summer. The experience will prepare them to apply for doctoral programs in education research.
Students may pursue their own research interests or work alongside their mentors on current faculty projects.
“The most pressing issue in education today is the ‘achievement gap’ or the disparity in academic performance between different groups of students,” Tim Fong, a professor of ethnic studies at Sacramento State, said in a written statement. “The achievement gap shows up in grades, standardized-test scores, course selection, dropout rates and college-completion rates, among other success measures.”
The Department of Education is focusing greater attention on gender and racial gaps in college enrollment, and on success rates, Fong said.
Fong, Noel and Su Jin Jez, a professor in the public policy and administration graduate program, will serve as principal investigators for the project.