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Arkansas State Minority Program Canceled


Arkansas State University has shut down a program to help minority students excel academically and go on to graduate school.

ASU had one of five Ronald E. McNair Achievement Programs in the state, but had to shut it down when the federal government decided not to renew its grant, a university official said.

“I’m upset. I have a relationship with staff and other scholars and their guidance,” says Alan Hickerson, an electrical engineer major who was a McNair scholar. “Because I’m friends with other majors, we saw each other’s points of view. We’ve developed a network system with each other.”

Loretta Neal McGregor, who directed the program, says the program had been in place for four years and its grant application was up for review. She says government reviewers base their decision partly on past performance, and she noted that ASU had only eight students in the first year of the program when 20 slots were available.

McGregor, who also chairs the department of psychology and counseling, says the minority program did not meet “prior experience” guidelines.

Schools who participate in the program are given points for various features of their program and application, and ASU didn’t make the cut, she says.

The McNair program was launched by the U.S. Department of Education in honor of Ronald McNair, one of the seven shuttle astronauts who died in the 1986 Challenger explosion. It helps first-generation minority college students maintain a 3.0 grade point average.

Twenty-two students and three instructors at ASU were affected by the government’s decision not to renew the grant. The students were enrolled in science, technology, engineering and mathematics. All were minority or disadvantaged students.

In addition, they worked closely with 13 faculty mentors, and received stipends supporting their research. Students say when they lost their stipends, the faculty members also lost that research work.

Through the program, McNair scholars application fees and partial tuition were waived and health benefits were provided in some cases.

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