SOU program for under-represented and disadvantaged scholars receives funding

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(Ashland, Ore.) — Southern Oregon University’s McNair Scholars Program, which has prepared under-represented students for post-graduate education since 2003, has been selected for another five years of funding despite talk at the national level of reducing support for the McNair program.
“The decision to continue to fund the nation’s McNair Scholars programs at this point in time illustrates a continuing commitment from our elected federal officials and the U.S. Department of Education to support undergraduate students who are from disadvantaged backgrounds and who have demonstrated strong academic potential,” said Dee Southard, an associate professor and director of SOU’s McNair program.
A letter of notification from the U.S. Department of Education indicated that SOU’s funding proposal received 108 out of 110 possible points from evaluators. The SOU program was approved for a grant of $243,878 per year for the five-year grant cycle – a total of just over $1.2 million.
Ongoing support for the nationwide program – which is offered on more than 200 college and university campuses – has been in doubt because of the Trump administration’s proposed cuts to the U.S. Department of Education. The funding notification guarantees the status of SOU’s McNair program through 2022.
“The vast majority of the student scholars who participate in the SOU McNair program graduate with their bachelor’s degrees from SOU and then continue directly on, entering into and successfully completing highly competitive graduate level programs of study,” Southard said.
The McNair program was initiated in 1989 by the U.S. Department of Education to increase doctoral studies by students from underrepresented and disadvantaged segments of society. It honors physicist and astronaut Ronald E. McNair, who was the second African-American to fly in space. He died in 1986, when the space shuttle Challenger disintegrated shortly after launch.
SOU’s McNair program – formally known as the Ronald E. McNair Post-baccalaureate Achievement Program – serves 28 undergraduate scholars each year. The application period for the 2018 cohort is Oct. 2 through Nov. 1 of this year.
The SOU program – which offers one-to-one guidance from faculty mentors – is intended to help promising scholars complete their undergraduate degrees, enroll in graduate school and prepare for doctoral studies. Six SOU McNair alumni have completed their doctoral programs since the program began 14 years ago.
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