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The Louis Stokes Alliances for Minority Participation (LSAMP) Program was established in 1991 by the National Science Foundation (NSF) to develop strategies to increase the quality and quantity of minority students who successfully complete baccalaureate degrees in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM), and who continue on to graduate studies in these fields. The Urban Institute was commissioned to conduct an evaluation of the LSAMP Program, an evaluation that would answer questions about the structure and implementation of LSAMP and its impact on students, participating institutions of higher education (IHEs), and the diversity of the STEM workforce. The information presented here comes from the Urban Institute's multiyear evaluation of the LSAMP Program.
The LSAMP Program began with grants to six multi-institution Alliances across the country. Today, 34 Alliances with more than 450 participating institutions have produced thousands of STEM bachelor's degrees. LSAMP provides financial assistance to many of its participants. Distinguishing it from traditional scholarship programs, LSAMP takes a multidisciplinary approach to student development and retention, creating partnerships among colleges, universities, national research laboratories, business and industry, and other federal agencies in order to accomplish its goals. Hands-on research experiences and mentoring to build student interest in STEM are LSAMP's other key characteristics.
The Urban Institute's evaluation of this program included both process and summative components,
seeking to understand both the program's implementation and its success in meeting stated goals. The process component of the evaluation utilized qualitative methods to identify aspects of the LSAMP projects that promoted or inhibited the achievement of program goals. The analyses indicate that, at the institutional level, a supportive environment that includes adequate provision of resources and support of faculty and high-level administrators facilitated the achievement of program goals; at the Alliance level, collaborative activities among partner institutions that result in the leveraging and sharing of both tangible and intangible resources were similarly important. Lack of financial resources and an adverse national, state, or institutional political climate were the most common challenges to program success. The process evaluation also revealed that, despite expected variation in practices among Alliances, a recognizable LSAMP model does emerge. That model can be understood as a merging of two prominent streams of research and theory: a model of student retention (the Tinto model), which emphasizes integration of students into the academic institution, and the notion of "disciplinary socialization," which is the process through which students become socialized into science as a profession.
In order to answer questions about the program's impact on participating institutions and to examine educational and career outcomes for participating students, the summative component of the evaluation utilized a combination of quantitative and qualitative methods. Institutional impacts were measured using interviews with program staff and Alliance site visits, while student outcomes were explored through a retrospective survey of funded LSAMP participants who graduated from the program between 1992 and 1997.
Institutional outcomes. Project staff members who were interviewed at participating IHEs believe that involvement in the program enables institutions to retain and graduate more STEM students by substantially expanding these institutions' capacity to develop and support STEM student talent. Staff members also believe that LSAMP had an impact on participating institutions by changing the institutional culture, policies, and practices to encourage the recruitment, retention, and graduation of underrepresented minorities (URMs)1 in STEM majors.
Student outcomes. Analyses of survey data revealed that the vast majority of program graduates (close to 80 percent) sought additional education after obtaining a bachelor's degree, and two-thirds of participants later enrolled in graduate school, working towards a master's, doctoral, or professional degree. One in four LSAMP graduates had completed a STEM graduate degree by the time of the survey. Finally, the majority of LSAMP graduates reported that the program had been helpful as they pursued bachelor's degrees in STEM and had influenced their decisions to attend graduate school. More than 90 percent reported that they either had recommended or would recommend LSAMP to others.
National comparison. In order to examine the difference between LSAMP student outcomes and those of STEM graduates nationally, LSAMP graduates' progress in the STEM pipeline was compared with that of nationally representative samples of underrepresented minorities and white and Asian students (using longitudinal data from NSF's National Survey of Recent College Graduates). Analyses revealed that LSAMP participants pursued post-bachelor's coursework, enrolled in graduate programs, and completed advanced degrees at greater rates than did national comparison groups. The difference in graduate school enrollment and completion is largely due to the significantly higher percentage of LSAMP students pursuing and completing degrees in STEM fields. In terms of the final phase in the STEM pipeline, LSAMP participants were observed joining the STEM workforce in proportions similar to those of national samples.
The information learned about the LSAMP program through the process and summative evaluations resulted in three main conclusions and five recommendations.
- LSAMP met its stated goal of increasing the quality and quantity of students who successfully complete LSAMP-supported STEM baccalaureate programs. As the program expanded, the share of national URM undergraduate STEM degrees earned by LSAMP participants increased, coinciding with an increase nationally in the number of URM bachelor's degrees earned in STEM. On measures of undergraduate academic performance, LSAMP students were found to outperform national comparison samples.
- LSAMP exceeded its stated goal of increasing the number of students matriculating in programs of graduate study in STEM. The LSAMP Program produced underrepresented minority students who enroll in and attain graduate degrees in STEM at a rate higher than that of both a national sample of underrepresented minority (URM) students and a national sample of white and Asian STEM baccalaureate degree recipients.
- LSAMP's strategies and approaches constitute a discrete and identifiable program model, grounded in research and theory, that can be tested and replicated. The identification and description of this successful model signifies a critical advance in the knowledge base of intervention program models.
- Increase data collection efforts. Areas of attention should include undergraduate retention/attrition information and up-to-date tracking and contact information for program graduates. Such information would allow for continued analyses of the program's impact.
- Strengthen the focus on community college students. Community colleges enroll over half of all underrepresented minority students in postsecondary education, and thus provide a promising source of potential STEM students. In light of the program's success in retaining URM students who begin their degrees in community colleges, increased attention to this component is recommended.
- Expand the program to offer graduate school tuition and support to LSAMP graduates. LSAMP graduates who did not continue taking courses after attaining a bachelor's degree were significantly more likely to cite financial reasons for not doing so than were URMs or white and Asian students in the comparison samples. Given LSAMP's success in preparing students to enter and complete graduate degrees, extending the program's offering to include financial incentives for these students to enter graduate STEM programs seems a worthwhile investment.2
- Emphasize successful factors in selecting sites to receive LSAMP awards. In awarding LSAMP grants, the program should continue to consider three criteria: (1) evidence of institutional and faculty support, (2) history of, or plans for, a strong collaborative relationship among partners, and (3) well-defined plan and the capacity to provide the integrated services that
comprise the LSAMP model.
- Replicate and expand the LSAMP program. The LSAMP model, unlike most intervention efforts for increasing URM participation in STEM, encourages and supports the synergistic efforts of institutional partners, laying the foundation for systemic institutional change. Given LSAMP's demonstrated success, it is important that efforts to replicate and disseminate the model be increased.
Notes from this section of the report
1. The term "underrepresented minorities," or URMs, is used to describe racial/ethnic groups that are not represented in the pool of STEM professionals commensurate with their representation in the general U.S. population — namely, African Americans, Hispanic Americans, and American Indians.
2. NSF recently initiated a program, Bridge to the Doctorate, to provide
graduate school tuition and support to LSAMP graduates.
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