A teacher demonstrates a science project over Zoom
A teacher demonstrates a science project over Zoom.
(Al Seib / Los Angeles Times)
Higher Ed

Cabrillo College receives $5 million grant to assist Latino and low-income STEM majors

Cabrillo College officials announced Tuesday that it has received a five-year, $5 million federal grant to boost its STEM programs as well as its outreach to Latinos and low-income students. The money will be used to encourage PVUSD students to enter STEM fields, create a new biotechnology degree and improve transfer rates to four-year universities.

Cabrillo College announced Tuesday that the U.S. Department of Education awarded it a five-year, $5 million grant designed to increase access to STEM fields among Latino and low-income students.

The federal grant is specifically designed for Hispanic-Serving Institutions, which Cabrillo qualifies for with its 46% Latino student population. Additionally, 44% of Cabrillo’s STEM students identify as Latino. With the funding, officials said the college will be able to continue its work on increasing diversity in these disciplines through outreach efforts, program investments and transfer partnerships.

Cabrillo has been building up its STEM offerings for years: two similar federal grants funded student scholarships, a STEM Center and a high-tech greenhouse. The college also used the funding to help smooth the transfer process for STEM majors seeking to get into several California universities.

“As an Hispanic Serving Institution and educators we need to acknowledge and be reminded of the remnants of the historical coloniality of power in higher education, and the historical exclusion of minoritized groups from higher education,” Marina Ramon, the college’s STEM project director, wrote via email. “California’s current institutional system was not created for its current student population so as a college we need to continue to work on ensuring that we are not creating barriers for our students.”

The grant will fund three overarching goals: First, towards increasing access to STEM education by reaching out to high school students in the Pajaro Valley Unified School District. By doing this, the college aims to increase the number of PVUSD students in the college’s dual enrollment programs and close equity gaps through contextualized math courses, which allow students to apply new knowledge in real-life situations. It will also remodel the college’s science lab in Watsonville so that our South County high school students have access to dual enrollment.

Second, the grant will fund a new Associate of Science Degree in Biotechnology, with updated and expanded courses as well as renovated labs. The grant will also match students with jobs and internships in the field.

And third, the funding will go towards increasing STEM student transfer rates through curricula alignments and agreements with four-year universities, such as UC Santa Cruz, San Jose State University and UC Davis. This builds upon a 2019 grant which funded a partnership between Cabrillo and California State University Monterey Bay to improve transfer rates for low-income and Latino students.

By 2026, the college hopes to increase STEM enrollment by at least 8% among Latino and low-income students. It also aims to increase the persistence rate — indicating the number of students who enroll in consecutive terms — of Latino students in STEM disciplines by 10%, and increase the transfer-ready rate from this group and low-income STEM majors by 12%.