Colleges adopt UMBC’s model for STEM student success

University of Maryland, Baltimore County (UMBC), has gained renown for propelling students of color through college and into STEM fields. Now, a new study in Science suggests that UMBC’s model for educating underrepresented students is replicable and has been successful at The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, which calls it the Chancellor’s Science Scholars Program, and Pennsylvania State University, which created a Millennium Scholars Program, writes The Hechinger Report.

Since 1989, UMBC’s Meyerhoff Scholars Program has worked to increase the diversity of students pursuing college degrees in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. More than three-quarters of Meyerhoff scholars have gone on to earn a graduate or professional degree, and UMBC now graduates more Black M.D.-Ph.D.s than any other U.S. school.

Hallmarks of the Meyerhoff program include its cohort model, which creates groups of 20-60 students who move together through their undergraduate years, and a six-week summer program that bridges high school and college. Students admitted to the program also live together freshman year and receive four years of scholarships and other financial support, research opportunities and internships, mentoring, and counseling. It’s the combination of these elements that is so crucial to the program’s success, Amy Freeman, director of the Millennium Scholars Program at Penn State, told The Hechinger Report. “No one single element is enough to produce the outcome that you’re seeking.”


Schools eye University of Maryland, Baltimore County, as a model for educating diverse student bodies

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Extending the program’s reach

In 2013, UMBC partnered with UNC-Chapel Hill and Penn State to bring the Meyerhoff model to those campuses. Whereas UMBC’s first class of Meyerhoff scholarship had just a 31 percent four-year graduation rate, the programs at UNC-Chapel Hill and Penn State have had an even stronger start. Within four years, 67 percent of UNC-Chapel Hill’s first cohort of scholars had graduated, as had 80 percent of participants from Penn State. In addition, 48 percent of UMBC Meyerhoff scholars currently move on to advanced degree programs; in their first cohorts, UNC-Chapel Hill and Penn State saw 21 percent and 50 percent of program participants, respectively, pursue Ph.D. or M.D.-Ph.D. programs.

While acknowledging that these programs are still relatively new, administrators say they are encouraged by the early results.

“These findings confirm that Meyerhoff-like programs and student outcomes can be achieved elsewhere, even at institutions very different from UMBC,” says Michael Summers, the chair for excellence in research and mentoring at UMBC. Unlike UMBC, which has always been racially diverse, “UNC and Penn State have historically struggled to produce more underrepresented minorities who graduate from STEM fields,” according to The Hechinger Report.


Regents STEM Scholars Program

This Georgetown University program addresses the critical shortage of underserved and first-generation college students who successfully complete degrees in the sciences. Learn More

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