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Summer Programs Help Prepare Minority Students For College STEM

Despite the strong emphasis in recent years on encouraging students to pursue science and technology fields, little progress has been made to change the makeup of those receiving college and graduate degrees in those fields.

Minority and low-income students face a number of hurdles in completing such degrees, including the quality of high school instruction, limited access to advanced science, math and technology courses, a lack of guidance on how to navigate college and social stigma, said Kevin Eagan, director of the Higher Education Research Institute.

Now, across the country, academic programs are working to expand access and improve success. The South Central Scholars Summer Academy is one of a handful of programs in Southern California focused specifically on helping underrepresented minority students graduate in STEM majors. 

The seven-week summer program targets promising high school seniors and college freshman with instruction in precalculus or calculus as well as English, in addition to professional development and mentoring. Freshman can also opt for chemistry, computer science and quantitative reasoning. The courses — a mix of interactive lectures and small-group workshops — are taught by USC faculty on campus and mirror the curriculum and rigor of freshmen classes, but with more support.