Math, Science Majors to Receive Money for School

El Vaquero News Editor

Money is now available for math, science and engineering majors who excel academically and have a financial need. Qualified students can receive up to $1,500 from the school each semester.
A prestigious five-year grant of $500,000 from the National Science Foundation will help financially challenged students majoring in math, science, technology and engineering beginning with the 2007-2008 academic year.

Called the Math and Science Transfer, Excellence and Retention (MASTER) scholarship program, it aims to encourage better academic performance and increase students’ chances of transferring to a four-year university.

Sid Kolpas, the math professor who initiated the grant proposal and now chairs the MASTER program at the college, said that the grant is “extremely prestigious” and “pretty rare.”

“Usually these grants only go to major universities,” said Kolpas.
Kolpas explained that prior to receiving the MASTER grant, the college’s math and science programs were already receiving financial support from the NSF through the Alliance for Minority Participation (AMP) program, which helped math and science majors from minority groups through scholarships, mentoring and paid internships from 1993 to 2004.

“The [AMP] scholarship recipients received $300 for every A, $200 for every B and $100 for every C,” Kolpas said. The program provided up to $60,000 per academic year for grade stipends in math and science transfer-level courses, working closely as a joint grant with Cal State Northridge.

“But then the partnership with CSUN changed dramatically,” Kolpas said. “We received no more money for stipends or calculators. Really, they didn’t support us much anymore, and I don’t want to go into why.”

Elana Edelstein, the Assistant Director of the Public Information Office who helped Kolpas write the MASTER grant proposal, added, “The AMP program shifted focus from four-year schools to graduate programs. We were not getting the same level of support.”

The lack of support from the AMP program prompted Kolpas to apply for the MASTER program with the help of a committee composed of math and science faculty members.

“There was a committee that helped me with ideas,” he said. “I wrote a draft and Elana Edelstein actually put the grant together. She’s an amazing grant writer.”

Edelstein said that she thought the MASTER grant was “a great match” for GCC’s math and science programs.

According to Kolpas, the MASTER program’s goal is “to create opportunities for new and current students with an interest in science, math and engineering.” It will award 70 students per year with a scholarship of up to $1500 depending on financial need.
Kolpas added that it is similar to the AMP program in that it will also provide for mentoring and scholarship, except that MASTER is based on financial need instead of on ethnicity.

In order to qualify for MASTER, students must first apply and be approved for Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). Any amount granted to them by financial aid will be supplemented by MASTER for a total of $1,500; for instance, if a student receives $1,000 in financial aid, MASTER will fill in the remaining $500.

Students who wish to apply for the program must be at least intermediate algebra ready and able to maintain a 2.5 GPA.

The MASTER program will also pay for the students’ transfer applications and pay for 17 students to lead supplemental instruction (SI) sessions. Students will also be supported by faculty mentors from their respective majors who will monitor their academic progress. Some mentors include professors Kathy Flynn, Rob Mauk, Peter Stathis and John Leland.

Physics professor John Lecuyer, who co-chairs the program alongside Kolpas, said that the grant is “wonderful.”
“We are now going to have more funding for students,” said Lecuyer. “It’s not just for minorities, but more for the financially needy. We’ll now be able to bring more students to the fields of math and science.”

Lecuyer said that he is confident that MASTER will “make a difference for a lot of students.”