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Funding STEM Intervention Programs: Money Speaks Louder than Words

Publication Type:

Conference Paper


Association for the Study of Higher Education (2010)



This paper examines the relationship between higher education institutions and Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) intervention programs that promote diversity within STEM fields. Specifically, this paper aims to explore institutional commitment to diversity by focusing on funding priorities of colleges, universities, and departments, particularly during periods of economic downturn. To investigate institutional funding of STEM Intervention Programs (SIPs), funding sources and long-term financial sustainability are investigated through forty-seven semi-structured interviews conducted with program directors and administrators at ten large, public, research universities. The findings reveal that without institutional funding, many SIPs struggle to secure corporate and private funding, which in turn threatens the existence of some programs. The findings also suggest that as institutions are forced to tighten their budgets, funding priorities do not usually include STEM-related interventions that seek to serve underrepresented students, including women, minorities, first generation, and low-income students. As a result, intervention programs are forced to reduce or eliminate services provided to underrepresented students. Reduced funding not only affects the scope and nature of services provided by SIPs, but may indirectly result in fewer underrepresented STEM students entering such majors or persisting in STEM to graduation, potentially impacting the diversity of STEM graduate degree programs and the STEM workforce. These findings have great implications given the nation’s need for an increase in the number of STEM degrees awarded to domestic students in order to ensure economic and global competitiveness.