AVC and educational partners awarded $2 million; potential for $10 million

Ambitious initiatives designed to encourage young people to pursue science and engineering careers have secured more than $2 million in grant funding, education officials announced today.

Antelope Valley College and its higher education partners have been awarded two federal grants to develop a multi-pronged approach to promote science, math and engineering education with the goal of creating more homegrown workers for the local aerospace industry.

“It provides us opportunities to strengthen our programs, particularly in science, engineering and math,” said AVC President Dr. Jackie L. Fisher Sr. 

The money is especially welcome at a time when the state has slashed millions of dollars from the budget of AVC and other state community colleges, according to Fisher.

“It reinforces our commitment to the engineering program and to the local aerospace industry,” said Fisher.

“The federal Department of Education recognized the important work that Antelope Valley College has been doing in STEM (science, technology, engineering, mathematics) education in Aerospace Valley,” said physics and astronomy Associate Professor Christos Valiotis, who was integral in writing the two grant requests.

“We’re among only a handful of colleges and universities nationally awarded money for two projects through that program,” Valiotis said. 

Both grants are renewable annually through fall 2016 meaning AVC and its partner institutions could receive as much as $10 million. Funding is dependent on congressional budget allocations in successive years.

The grants were awarded by the federal Department of Education under the  Hispanic-Serving Institutions Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) and Articulation Programs. Though both grants are designed to better serve the college’s growing Hispanic population, grant money will benefit all students.

One grant for $869,986 will develop a STEM “Center of Excellence” at AVC’s Palmdale Center. 

The college cited 2009 statistics that show feeder high schools in the college’s service area have a Hispanic enrollment of 52 percent and a graduation rate of 94 percent. Yet only slightly more than half of those students (55 percent) enter college.

Of those entering college, only 14 percent are prepared to transfer to a California State University or University of California campus. The majority who enroll at AVC are assessed as not being able to perform college-level math and must take basic skills courses.

AVC will use grant money to:

  • Develop an Early STEM Academy to work with existing pre-engineering academies at four local high schools so high school students can simultaneously earn high school and college credit.
  • Train instructors in STEM pedagogy and methods that have proven to be effective with at-risk and non-traditional learners.
  • Create classrooms dedicated to STEM instruction, including development of a “wet” laboratory for science instruction.
  • Target high school students to increase visibility, awareness, preparation and enrollment in college-level STEM.

“This grant will allow us to develop the necessary courses at the Palmdale Center so that students will be able to complete an AA/AS degree without having to take any courses at the Lancaster campus,” said Valiotis. “Palmdale Center will be completely self-reliant and self-sustaining.”

The largest grant for $1.19 million will increase participation in STEM degree completion through a local engineering degree program pathway involving AVC, Cerro Coso College in Ridgecrest and California State University, Long Beach (CSULB), which this fall launched a local Bachelor of Science degree program in electrical and mechanical engineering.

The grant calls for the three education institutions to improve their articulation efforts to create a “seamless pathway” for students to attain engineering degrees; enhance facilities at the Lancaster University Center for offering upper degree engineering courses; purchase equipment for AVC’s new Health and Science Building; and sets a goal of adding 50 students a year to the engineering program through CSULB.