UC Santa Barbara was awarded a $2.6 million grant on Thursday by the U.S. Department of Education for Opening New Doors to Accelerating Success (ONDAS) after meeting the qualifications of a Hispanic-Serving Institution (HSI).
UCSB was named a U.S. Department of Education’s Developing HSI in January by the Hispanic Association of Colleges and Universities because at least 25 percent of its total enrollment is comprised of Hispanic students. The grant for Opening New Doors to Accelerating Success (ONDAS), a Title V program, will be distributed over five years and will focus on improving student success and graduation rates by expanding educational opportunities.
Director of Research Development for the Social Sciences, Humanities and Fine Arts in the UCSB Office of Research Barbara Endemaño Walker said the grant will provide access to summer “enrichment” resources such as intelligent tutoring systems (ITS) and the ONDAS Success Center which provide support from community scholars, peer tutoring and a designated study space.
“The ITS we plan to use is ALEKS, which was originally developed at UC Irvine,” Walker said in an email. “It is used at several UC’s, and the UCSB Chemistry Department already uses it.”
According to Walker, 10 majors and 41 courses were found to put students at risk of probation and impeded graduation.
“Undergraduate students are placed on probation when their cumulative GPA drops below 2.0,” Walker said in an email. “We determined which first year courses (for both freshmen and transfer students) … have a combination of both high enrollment and the lowest final average GPA.”
Associated Students External Vice President for Local Affairs and third-year history of public policy major Paola Dela Cruz said the grant will focus on first-year experiences and faculty professional development.
“[It aims] to address the challenges of underrepresented and low-income students in certain majors and to help with the first-year retention rates,” Dela Cruz said. “That, to me, is very important because I come from a low-income community that is certainly underrepresented — I come from Compton.”
Walker said the ONDAS Success Center will remain active after the five-year grant program ends through financial funding sources such as grants, gifts and campus resources.
“The grant will begin this fall,” Walker said in an email. “We will be piloting and ramping up the programs over the next year, and plan to have ONDAS fully operating by fall 2017.”
A.S. External Vice President of Statewide Affairs and fourth-year black studies and sociology double-major Mohsin Mirza said the grant will improve student life and student representation in “more competitive” majors.
“I ultimately hope this grant is going to help students of all backgrounds excel in majors where they traditionally have not,” Mirza said.
Dela Cruz said she notices her friends struggling in STEM majors such as chemical engineering and biology.
“A lot of them actually changed their majors,” Dela Cruz said “One of my best friends was on academic probation because she was not excelling in those classes.”
According to Dela Cruz, the grant will address issues impacting minority and marginalized groups.
“By looking specifically at these issues, you are allowing a diverse group of individuals to feel comfortable on this campus,” Dela Cruz said. “You are trying to find alternative ways, creative ways, to make this group of students feel comfortable and make them successful individuals.”
Mirza said he hopes students as well as administrators will play active roles in deciding how the grant money should best be allocated to aid minority students.
“Hopefully, there is a maximum amount of student consultation and outreach in regards to where this money is going to be sent, in particular, with the communities with whom these grants have been issued,” Mirza said.