FSU receives $2.6M in federal funding to support underrepresented students

Florida State University’s Center for Academic Retention and Enhancement (CARE) will receive $2.6 million over the next five years to continue funding two programs that support traditionally underrepresented students in higher education.

The two competitive grants are part of the Federal TRIO Programs sponsored by the U.S. Department of Education. CARE received a total of $2,618,880, an increase over the original $2.2 million in TRIO funding awarded five years ago.

We’re delighted to be able to continue providing additional support and services to students who may otherwise be underserved,” said Lisa Jackson, interim director of CARE.

The funding will continue to support FSU’s SSS-STEM and SSS-SCOPE programs. The almost identical programs are both designed to improve retention, graduation, financial literacy and overall academic success rates for Pell-eligible students, with SSS-STEM focusing on students majoring in science, technology, engineering and math.

“SSS-STEM ensures that students have a certain STEM skill set and are prepared for the workforce while also helping them to build their confidence,” said Roxanne Simpson, the SSS-STEM program coordinator. “We put a lot of effort into making sure that our students are successful and know what the options are on campus, while also providing additional resources with this funding.”

The five pillars of SSS-SCOPE are scholarship, community, opportunity, programming and engagement.

“Students’ majors are the main distinguishing factor between the students that are in SCOPE and the students that are in STEM,” said SSS-SCOPE Academic Coordinator Wisley Dorce. “Both programs are need-based, and students who submit applications must display a need prior to joining the rosters.”

The programs offer free academic services to help participants remain at FSU, graduate on time and prepare students for post-graduation life. Some of these services include lectures, workshops, visiting different industries, professional mentorship opportunities and academic services, such as tutoring.

Each competitive program maintains a roster of 140 students. There is normally a waiting list, but applicants on the waiting list can participate in some aspects of the program, like workshops.

“Early participation implies that the student is willing to gain everything that they can from the program,” Simpson said. “It makes the transition easier for the student once they are accepted.”

Following the application process, students must undergo a rigorous interview process with the program coordinators, as well as with students already in the program.

“The whole point of the interview is to mentor and show the student that they’re not alone in this process,” Simpson said. “From day one, they will receive services and be empowered to be their best self.”

Moving forward, both programs plan to build on a strong foundation, while also navigating the new elements of social distancing and remote engagement.

“We’re revisiting the last five years, and we want to evaluate the successful initiatives  and figure out how to improve them. We’re also looking into the unsuccessful parts and exploring how to overcome those challenges,” Dorce said. “We’re figuring out how to be as impactful, if not more impactful, and we’re super excited about what the next five years will present.”

The programs will help CARE continue to support first-generation and other students traditionally underrepresented in higher education as they work toward their dream of a college education from FSU.

“This funding allows us to carry the vision that we have a little bit further and make those connections last a little bit longer,” Simpson said. “It’s only going to get better and better.”

To participate in SSS-STEM or SSS-SCOPE, students must be a citizen or permanent resident of the United States, accepted or enrolled at FSU, a first-generation college student, Pell grant eligible and have an academic need for services. Students who wish to enroll in SSS-STEM must also be enrolled in one of the STEM majors outlined in the FSU Academic Guide.

For more information about CARE and the SSS-STEM and SSS-SCOPE programs, visit care.fsu.edu.