UCSB Receives $2.6 Million U.S. Dept. of Education Grant


Gwendolyn Wu
AS Beat Reporter

The University of California, Santa Barbara received a $2.6 million grant from Opening New Doors to Accelerating Success (ONDAS), a new Title V program under the U.S. Department of Education. The grant will be disbursed over five years, aiming to provide underserved students and faculty with better resources.

According to a press release from the Office of Public Affairs, the grant will establish an ONDAS Success Center on campus aimed at establishing workshops for faculty to learn more about developing better teaching skills and understanding of diversity issues. Additionally, the grant will be used to establish summer enrichment programs and better tutoring services for first year students, employing both undergraduate and graduate students. The center will continue to exist following the end of the five-year grant.

However, no specific plans have been written or laid out by the faculty working with the grant. It is currently unclear if a physical center will be established as a standalone building or designated location on campus. It is also unclear if any additional services will be established or provided for current or returning students, as it seems designed to focus on first year students.

It’s possible that the grant will also be used to fund student organizations on campus that enhance and enable underrepresented communities to perform well in school. The AS Student-Initiated Recruitment and Retention Committee (SIRRC) would be one such place that could use developmental funds, according to Joshua Hudson, a third-year global studies and sociology double major and one of the SIRRC co-chairs.

“The grant should be used to fund organizations that outreach to high achieving students who come from underrepresented communities and fund resources on campus that provide stability for students (i.e. Food Bank, Book Bank, etc.) because students will more than likely stay in college because they have less to worry about,” Hudson said. “The grant should be used to fund programs that help transition incoming freshmen on our campus (i.e. STEP, GUIDES, RCD, etc.) because bridge programs have shown high effects on underrepresented students who come through them.”

As of the 2014-2015 school year, 25 percent of the undergraduate population identifies as Latino. In January, UCSB was recognized as a Hispanic-Serving Institution (HSI) by the Hispanic Association of Colleges & Universities, and in the New York Times in September, for its efforts to promote socioeconomic diversity on campus. With this recognition, UCSB is now eligible to apply for a number of prestigious grants within the Department of Education to better fund programs on campus. ONDAS is one of those programs.

“With 44 percent of its incoming students being the first in their families to go to college, UCSB is providing a pathway for upward mobility that is world class,” said Carl Gutiérrez-Jones, acting dean of undergraduate education at UCSB and the grant’s principal investigator, in the press release. “This grant recognizes UCSB’s commitment to rewarding academic achievement, and sets us on a path to do even more.”

The Department of Education’s Title V program is designed to promote innovative and creative choices in education. The website lists its purposes as “to meet the educational needs of all students, including at-risk youth,” and “provide a continuing source of innovation and educational improvement, including support programs to provide library services, and instructional and media materials.”

Prior to the establishment of Title V, the Department of Education investigated how schools were working on programs to increase the rate of retention of Hispanic students in higher education. Congressional research stated that Hispanic Americans were at higher risk of not graduating from higher education and that HSIs are succeeding at providing quality education, despite a severe lack of resources.

This news comes as UCSB announces that the 2015 fiscal year has been a record-breaking year for fundraising, despite only beginning in July. Recently, philanthropist and entrepreneur Charlie Munger donated $65.4 million to UCSB, with the intention of improving the housing facilities at the UCSB-based Kavli Institute for Theoretical Physics (KITP). This goes hand-in-hand with the Campaign for UC Santa Barbara, spearheaded by Chancellor Henry Yang. So far, the Campaign for UC Santa Barbara has raised $999 million of its $1 billion goal, with donations recorded on the campaign’s website dating back to 2000.

“It is important that outreach programs to underrepresented communities and retention programs geared toward underrepresented students should be fully funded and supported by the university and other organizations because there is work that still needs to be done for them,” Hudson said. “There is still a low number of students of color in higher education and it is important to provide the support and guidance for students in these communities to pursue higher education.”