$1.4 million NSF grant awarded to Pee Dee Region researchers to support low-income students in science

    $1.4 million NSF grant awarded to Pee Dee Region students in science


    Coker University in partnership with Florence Darlington Technical College has recently received a $1.4 million grant to elevate the retention and graduation of high-achieving, low-income students with demonstrated financial need at Coker University (CU), a four-year private liberal arts institution, and Florence Darlington Technical College (FDTC), a two-year technical college. 

    Throughout its 6-year duration, this project will fund scholarships to 48 unique full-time students who are pursuing bachelor’s degree in biology or general sciences at CU or an associate’s degree in science at FDTC. The project will feature collaborative, cross-institutional activities to boost science identity, community, STEM career awareness, and overall student success. The investigators seek to further develop scholars’ scientific identity and belonging, promote career and research experiences, and prepare scholars for careers or graduate school in STEM. 

    “We hypothesize that the combination of enhanced financial support coupled with evidence-based practices and rich cross-institutional engagement will increase student success including persistence in STEM majors and overall retention in college, and lead to greater rates of matriculation into four-year and/or graduate and professional programs followed by employment in a STEM career.” said Joseph Flaherty, Professor of Biology at CU and principal investigator of the project. “This partnership aims to improve the education of future STEM workers, and to generate knowledge about academic success, retention, transfer, graduation, and academic/career pathways of low-income students.”

    This project builds on prior NSF-funded projects at both CU and FDTC and will advance understanding of the main factors that influence students’ self-efficacy and agency to complete a four-year degree in STEM. “Support of this initiative by the National Science Foundation is critical to our ability to best serve our students as well as the broader community as we work to promote greater access to higher education and to create a pipeline of well-prepared graduates for the emerging science-based industries in our region,” said Coker University Provost Susan Henderson. “In addition, our faculty researchers will generate new knowledge for educators to help all students to reach their goals.”

    “The collaborative pipeline being developed between Florence Darlington Technical College and Coker University was in response to growing evidence suggesting that students from low-income backgrounds and studying science have lower graduation rates and are less likely to find jobs in their respective fields than their peers from higher-income families. The Pee Dee Scholars project will assist in providing educational opportunities to students with strong potential for careers in STEM, enhancing the likelihood that they will persevere and succeed in their chosen fields,” said Co PI Rick Roberts, Managing Director of the South Carolina Advanced Technological Education Center at FDTC.