The U.S. Department of Education recently awarded Southern
Oregon University and Rogue Community College over $500,000 combined to help
underrepresented students receive a higher education.
U.S. Sens. Jeff Merkley and Ron Wyden jointly announced RCC
will get $277,375 toward its Talent Search Program, while SOU will get $274,983
toward the?Ronald E. McNair Post-Baccalaureate Achievement Program.
“This incredibly important funding will provide crucial
support for our rural students and students with disadvantaged backgrounds to
achieve opportunities and pathways to higher education that may not have been
accessible without these awards,” Merkley said in a statement.
Wyden added, “I’m gratified (that) these federal
investments in Oregon recognize those difficult challenges for students in both
rural and urban settings.”
Both Talent Search and McNair are considered programs under
TRiO – not an acronym, but rather, the name of a small number of programs
funded under Title IV of the Higher Education Act. Talent Search assists
underrepresented students in grades 6-12 in completing a high school education
and enrolling in post-secondary education. McNair aims to prepare
underrepresented undergraduate students for a doctoral program, in hopes of
increasing the number of people holding such degrees.
The McNair Scholars Program is named after Ronald McNair,
the astronaut who was killed aboard the Challenger space shuttle when it
exploded in 1986. After his death, Congress and his family set aside funds for
the nationwide program. SOU was named a McNair Scholars Program institution in
SOU serves 28 McNair Scholars Program recipients a year,
according to Naomi McCreary, program coordinator.
In a written statement to the newspaper, McCreary explained
that the U.S. Department of Education grant responsible for funding McNair
Scholars runs on a 5-year cycle. With the previous cycle up, SOU now enters its
fifth, which will run until 2027. With an allotment of $274,983 for each
academic year, SOU is awarded funds totaling $1,374,915 over the 5-year grant
“I am ecstatic that the Department of Education has
recognized the amazing work the Southern Oregon University McNair Program has
done since 2003 and felt it should continue being funded,” McCreary wrote
in an email. “This funding/program is so important to our rural community
in helping students to recognize and reach their potential.
Katie Minich, an SOU senior majoring in sociology and
anthropology, hopes to be one of them. A 35-year-old mother of three who runs
her own business, she is proud to say she is a first-generation student, as
Applying to be a McNair Scholar was a lot of work, she said,
but it was well worth the effort. Being a scholar involves conducting research
that is published in the “McNair Journal” every year.
“It gives you a lot of edge over maybe some other folks
doing undergraduate work,” Minich said.
Quinn Reynolds, an SOU undergraduate majoring in biology,
said he hopes to go to University of Washington in Seattle, focusing on
bio-medical research. Reynolds wasn’t always interested in graduate school, but
his mentors convinced him otherwise.
“I realized there are other paths, one of which was
graduate school, and McNair actually allowed me to explore applications to
graduate school,” said Reynolds, who was not even sure he’d be accepted
into the McNair Scholars Program. “Well, I got in and it’s been a
wonderful, wonderful program.”
RCC has received the Talent Search grant since the 2006-07
academic year, supporting students at a few “target schools in Jackson
County,” including North Medford High School, Crater High, Prospect
Charter School, Hedrick Middle School and Scenic Middle School.
This new round of grant funding – totaling $605,788, taking
into account last year’s funding and this year’s — gives RCC the ability to serve
1,092 Talent Search students, an increase of 500 from last academic year. The
money will also go toward a variety of costs associated with Talent Search,
including hiring additional staff and being able to provide free educational
activities such as field trips to tour college campuses
“RCC is thrilled at the opportunity to expand our
Talent Search Programs in Jackson County to serve more youth,” said Hollie
Adair, director, TRiO and Talent Search equal opportunity centers.