Merced College's Los Banos Campus students will benefit from an $863,219 grant given to the college to bolster underrepresented students and majors.
The U.S. Department of Education Hispanic-Serving Institutions grant is a way to increase the number of Hispanic and low-income students who pursue biology, chemistry, computer science, math, physics and geology.
Brenda Latham, the campus' dean, said U.S. schools need to produce more graduates in the science, technology, engineering and math fields, and particularly those from Hispanic and low-income students.
"Completion in those areas is not great for underrepresented minorities," Latham said.
Merced College's fall 2010 enrolled student population of 10,800 was about 46 percent Hispanic, and 61 percent of the Los Banos Campus' 1,700 students were Hispanic.
Professors at the local campus, Latham said, will be involved in a mentoring program as well as a process to smooth out students' transfers from the community college to a four-year college.
"Students at Los Banos will get a chance to get more attention from faculty," Latham said.
California State University, Stanislaus will act as the lead institution in the process. The total amount for the three colleges -- San Joaquin Delta College is the third -- is $1.1 million, which can be renewed in 2015-16 for a maximum total award of $3.3 million over five years.
About 12 percent of the students who transfer to CSU Stanislaus from feeder schools, which includes Merced College, are science, technology, engineering or math majors. About 3 percent of the total transfer population are Hispanic science, technology, engineering or math majors.
"The grant will make a huge impact on our ability to prepare our students for careers in the sciences," Ben Duran, Merced College's president, said in a news release. "Not only will we be able to recruit more Hispanic and low-income students in these fields, we'll be able to provide the necessary support they'll need to succeed."
Cherie Davis, Merced College's director of grants and institutional research, said the grant will also be used to improve the tracking of Hispanic student statistics.
Community colleges have seen $400 million in cuts this year because of the state's budget shortfall.
"This is coming at a time when we really, really need it," Davis said.
Hispanic-Serving Institutions are defined by the Higher Education Act of 1965 as schools with a full-time equivalent undergraduate enrollment of at least 25 percent Hispanic. Merced College received a Hispanic-Serving Institution development grant in 2000 and collaborated with CSU Stanislaus in 2003 on a separate grant.
Enterprise reporter Thaddeus Miller can be reached at (209) 388-6562 or by email at tmiller@losbanos