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Great Lakes' Commitment to Producing More Undergraduate STEM Degrees Now Reaches $10.7 Million

Support for Scholarships and CIRTL Network Helps Underrepresented Students Succeed

—For the fourth year in a row, Great Lakes Educational Loan Services, Inc., a nationwide servicer of federal loans, recently selected 750 qualified recipients to be awarded $2,500 each through the Great Lakes National Scholarship Program.

As part of an ongoing commitment to help change lives for the better though higher education, the Great Lakes National Scholarship Program makes awards to full-time students majoring in a science, technology, engineering, or mathematics (STEM) discipline with a minimum cumulative grade point average of 2.75 and a demonstrated financial need.

"At a time when STEM occupations are growing twice as fast as other industries, fewer than 40 percent of students who enter college intending to major in a STEM field actually complete a STEM degree," said Richard D. George, Great Lakes Chairman. "Through the Great Lakes National Scholarship Program, we're providing $1.875 million for the fourth consecutive year to keep STEM majors enrolled in their programs. We're pleased to help another 750 students advance their careers and help meet critical workforce needs."

Applications were accepted from February 13, 2015, through April 6, 2015, for the scholarship, which is administered by Scholarship Management Services®, a division of Scholarship America®. From a pool of 19,891 applicants, 750 recipients were selected, and notified in early July. This year to encourage more students to apply, Great Lakes directed students toward other scholarship resources and increased the use of social media.

Tackling Another Barrier to STEM Degree Completion

Addressing financial need is just one aspect of the Great Lakes approach to increasing the number of STEM graduates. Another obstacle to student achievement and persistence in STEM disciplines is an uneven quality of teaching. Students who don't engage with the material because they are bored or confused by it often feel disconnected from the instructor and are more likely to drop the class. The loss is particularly acute among women, students from low-income backgrounds, students of color, and first-generation college students.

To tackle this issue, Great Lakes Higher Education Guaranty Corporation made a three-year, $3.2 million commitment in 2014 to the Center for the Integration of Research, Teaching, and Learning (CIRTL). A network of 21 research universities across 15 states and the District of Columbia, CIRTL is dedicated to improving the quality of undergraduate education by preparing STEM graduate students and post-doctoral fellows to become great researchers and great teachers. Each university trains its future STEM faculty in proven teaching and mentoring practices that will help diverse learners stay enrolled in their programs, graduate with STEM degrees, and transition to rewarding careers.

Supported by Great Lakes funding, CIRTL is progressing toward its goal of growing to 50+ universities in 2016.

George said, "Great Lakes is proud to support the expansion of the CIRTL Network to more than double its current size. At that point, the network will graduate over half of the nation's new STEM faculty each year and can truly transform undergraduate education—with more STEM degrees earned by women and underrepresented populations."

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