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THE NATIONAL SCHOLARS PROGRAM: EXCELLENCE WITH DIVERSITY FOR THE FUTURE: PROGRAM DESIGN 5 ADMINISTRATIVE ELEMENTS Two elements of a National Scholars Program are largely administrative in character but prominent in its design: student financial support and program evaluation. All undergraduate National Scholars should be awarded a merit scholarship in recognition of academic achievement. Additional grants to scholars should be based on financial need, although financial need should not be a condition of eligibility for admission into the program. The need award—a last dollar approach—is intended to fill the gap between determined financial need and the total amount of grant assistance a National Scholar receives, including the National Scholars merit award and all federal, institutional, and other grants. Doctoral-level National Scholars will receive two years of fellowship support from the National Scholars Program, with institutions agreeing to provide full financial support for the remainder of the scholar's tenure. Program evaluation should be built into the program from its inception. Both formative and summative evaluations will be undertaken. Each consortium will be required to collect a common core set of data elements. The National Scholars Coordinating Council will maintain a national data base and monitor performance of the individual consortium sites. STUDENT FINANCIAL SUPPORT Undergraduate Scholarships National Scholars will require a variety of forms of financial support at all stages of the program, but it will be most critical at the undergraduate level. A National Scholars Award is intended to recognize merit and will send a signal that the program applauds the student 's academic accomplishments. Entry into the National Scholars Program is an honor, and all students, irrespective of their family's financial circumstance, should be distinguished by a merit scholarship. Determining the size of this merit award involves several considerations. Ideally, we would prefer a GI Bill approach—full scholarship support to all regardless of financial circumstance. However, in order to be cost effective, the National Scholars Program should not provide full scholarship assistance to students who do not demonstrate financial need. On the other hand, participation in the program should not require a financial sacrifice for students. Potential National Scholars will be talented and well-prepared students who, most assuredly, will be accepted by other colleges or universities to which they apply, with many institutions offering scholarships to attract
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THE NATIONAL SCHOLARS PROGRAM: EXCELLENCE WITH DIVERSITY FOR THE FUTURE: PROGRAM DESIGN high achieving students to their campuses. For example, a prestigious private liberal arts college might offer admission and scholarship support, or the student might have an opportunity to attend an institution that has a Minority Access to Research Careers (MARC) program that provides full financial support. In addition, a number of states award scholarships to promising minority students. Moreover, because the National Scholars Program will be new, and talented students may not have considered a particular institution in the past absent the program, some financial incentive may be necessary to attract students to participating institutions. A scholarship award, therefore, might be an added inducement for the student to apply to the program, although evidence on the effectiveness of financial inducements is mixed. Ehrenberg and Sherman have suggested that minority students with high ability and other attractive options may need generous aid packages to make a specific institution desirable to attend (Ehrenberg and Sherman 1984). Another argument is that higher income students are unlikely to be persuaded to change their choice of college by small price differentials, while low income students are more inclined to be affected by differences in tuition and/or aid differences (Leslie and Brinkman 1987). Prior to the inception of the Meyerhoff Program at the University of Maryland Baltimore County, it is not clear how many of the outstanding Meyerhoff scholars would have decided to enroll at that institution. There should be no financial barriers for students who qualify for the program. However, we also want to ensure that a student will not be unduly influenced by other scholarship offers to the extent that he or she is deterred from choosing the institution and program that is best suited to his or her educational needs. Therefore, we recommend that each of the National Scholars receive a merit scholarship of $6,000 to be applied to tuition, room and board, and fees. In addition, needy students should receive an additional grant based on financial need and intended to fill in the gap between parental support and grant aid from all sources, including the National Scholars Merit Award, on the one hand, and the cost of attendance (tuition and fees, books and supplies, transportation, miscellaneous personal expenses, and room and board), on the other hand, so that National Scholars are not required to borrow or to work in non-science jobs that would take time away from their academic program. We feel it is important to distinguish between loans and grant aid. In 1994, the Government Accounting Office reported that graduation rates for minorities improved with additional grant aid but not with increased loans. Financial need is determined through an established system of need analysis. Federal methodology determines eligibility for federal funds that primarily include Pell grants, student loans, and college work-study. Most public colleges and universities and many state grant programs use the same formula to distribute their available funds, although private institutions may use a different formula to allocate their funds. For example, federal methodology gives relatively little weight to a family's assets in calculating ability to pay for college, whereas private colleges tend to use formulas that consider assets in calculating financial need. In other words, if two families have equal incomes, the family with significant assets will be regarded as able to afford to pay more than the family without assets. In all cases, the basic principle is to use a formula that analyzes family financial resources, or, in the case of independent students, student financial resources, and then calculates an expected family contribution. Need, then, is the
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THE NATIONAL SCHOLARS PROGRAM: EXCELLENCE WITH DIVERSITY FOR THE FUTURE: PROGRAM DESIGN difference between this expected contribution and the total cost of attendance. The size of a National Scholar's need-based award should be calculated by subtracting all the student 's financial resources from the cost-of-attendance at the institution. Those resources include the expected family contribution, the Pell Grant (if eligible), the National Scholars merit award, and other grant aid, including any institutional money the student receives. Colleges and universities, in effect, "package" a combination of Pell and other government grants, as well as any other grant a student may receive from the institution or other source. The package also indicates eligibility for loans and work-study participation to meet a student's demonstrated financial need. Typically, institutions do not assemble packages that consist solely of grants; loans and work-study are usually included. The remaining gap would be provided by an additional grant from the National Scholars Program. No scholar would be required to borrow to cover college costs or work at a job that is unrelated to his or her academic program. Furthermore, no student should receive financial support—need-based and/or merit—that exceeds the total cost of attendance at the institution. Both students and parents should be required to certify that they are not receiving financial support in excess of the cost of attendance. Individual consortiums may choose to adjust the amount of the merit component. After a consortium program has become established and develops a strong reputation, there may be an abundance of well-qualified applicants who wish to participate as long as their full financial need is met. A consortium might elect to reduce the amount of the merit award in order to accommodate additional students with a fixed resource base. Conversely, in certain circumstances, a consortium might propose to increase the merit award. However, the principle should remain: as in all highly prestigious and competitive national programs, all National Scholars should receive a merit scholarship in recognition of their academic excellence, irrespective of financial need. It is useful to illustrate how National Scholars scholarship awards may be determined. Two examples of students attending public universities follow: Example 1: Public University COST OF ATTENDANCE $11,000 LESS RESOURCES Expected Family Contribution ($2,000) Pell Grant (1,300) National Scholars Merit Award (6,000) ($9,300) NATIONAL SCHOLARS NEED-BASED AWARD $1,700 Example 2: State College COST OF ATTENDANCE $9,500 LESS RESOURCES Expected Family Contribution ($9,500) Pell Grant -0- National Scholars Merit Award (6,000) ($15,500) NATIONAL SCHOLARS NEED-BASED AWARD -0- In Example 1, the scholar would receive the $6,000 merit award and a $1,700 need-based award. In Example 2, the scholar receives a $6,000 merit award only. For students attending private colleges or universities, calculating the National
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THE NATIONAL SCHOLARS PROGRAM: EXCELLENCE WITH DIVERSITY FOR THE FUTURE: PROGRAM DESIGN Scholars grant is more complicated. Most private institutions use alternative formulas to determine family ability to pay and the allocation of institutional grant dollars. In most cases, need, as determined by the institutional formula, is lower than need as determined by federal methodology. Some schools meet all of the need of accepted students with a combination of grants, loans, and work. Other schools “gap,” leaving some part of the measured need unmet for some or all students. Two examples of students attending private institutions follow. Example 3: Private University COST OF ATTENDANCE $27,000 LESS RESOURCES Expected Family Contribution ($15,000) Pell Grant -0- Institutional Grant (12,000) National Scholars Merit Award (6,000) ($33,000) NATIONAL SCHOLARS NEED-BASED AWARD -0- Example 4: Private College COST OF ATTENDANCE $15,000 LESS RESOURCES Expected Family Contribution ($2,000) Pell Grant (1,200) Institutional Grant (2,000) National Scholars Merit Award (6,000) ($11,200) NATIONAL SCHOLARS NEED-BASED AWARD $3,800 Example 3 assumes that the college has adequate scholarship funds to provide a large institutional grant. In fact that may not be the case for a substantial number of private institutions. In such cases the National Scholars need-based award would be increased (see Example 4), although we would expect that high tuition private colleges would, as a measure of institutional commitment, allocate institutional funds for student support. One potential complication is that many private colleges and universities take all other available grant aid into consideration before determining how much of their own money to give a student. A student with outside grant aid is considered to have less need than a similar student without such a grant. Schools tend to package loan and work aid first and then use grant aid to cover unmet need. The National Scholars award should not be used to reduce the amount of institutional grant aid a student receives, and the National Scholars Program would stipulate that the award grant is a last dollar grant and should not be taken into consideration in determining institutional grant aid. We believe institutions will likely agree to this provision in order to permit their participation in the National Scholars Program. A further consideration is that National Scholars will do research or obtain internships during the summer and normally be paid as research assistants or interns. These monies would be included in calculating financial need and, subsequently, in determining the size of the student's Pell grant. The first $1,750 of earnings are excluded from the federal needs assessment, but 50 percent of any earnings above this amount will be considered the same as those subtracted from the amount of the Pell. In other words, the student's available income is equal to the student's gross income less federal and state income taxes, Social Security
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THE NATIONAL SCHOLARS PROGRAM: EXCELLENCE WITH DIVERSITY FOR THE FUTURE: PROGRAM DESIGN deductions, and an income protection allowance of $1,750. Determining the amount of each individual award is less complicated than it may first appear. Students would apply for need-based assistance through the established procedures used for all students, and then the college or university financial aid office (not the National Scholars Program) would determine the appropriate financial aid package. It is difficult to estimate the National Scholars Program scholarship funds that will be needed for new scholars in a consortium since scholars will come from different financial circumstances. As the program becomes more experienced, it will probably be able to anticipate the mix of students who enter and thus refine its estimate of scholarship costs. Graduate Student Support Graduate student support is structured differently from undergraduate support. The federal government has declared all graduate students to be independent of their families for financial aid purposes. Therefore, graduate students all have similarly limited abilities to pay for their own graduate educations. The federal government provides a significant number of fellowships and traineeships to the most academically talented students without regard to financial circumstance. Science and engineering doctoral students are also likely to receive stipends for their services as research or teaching assistants, activities which, in turn, are integral to their education. We propose that a doctoral-level National Scholar receive two years of support through the program. A National Scholars fellowship should be provided for one of the first two years the scholar is in graduate school. This will permit the student to become established in his or her graduate studies without having to assume teaching or work responsibilities. We would anticipate that most students would use the fellowship for the first year of graduate study. However, in some departments, the customary pattern is for first-year students to serve as teaching assistants, during which time they also participate in teacher training. Since we encourage National Scholars to be a part of the normal activities of the graduate department, the scholar 's grant might be deferred until the second year. The graduate department(s) participating in the National Scholars Program must agree to support the student for the remainder of the student's tenure in the department. This would normally include support in the form of a research or teaching assistantship. Each student would receive a second year of National Scholars support during the dissertation phase of the graduate program. This award is intended to enable the student to write his or her research findings and complete the dissertation without having to take on additional teaching or incongruent research responsibilities. We recognize that the dissertation award might result in the replacement of institutional funds, for example, research assistantships, otherwise available for these students' support. However, trying to determine when funds were available and when not for each student would create a severe administrative burden on the program and increase its administrative costs. Such an approach could also lead to the perception of unfair or unequal treatment among the National Scholars. There are two possible approaches for determining the amount of a National Scholars graduate fellowship. One approach is to tie the award to the dollar amount of an existing fellowship or traineeship program
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THE NATIONAL SCHOLARS PROGRAM: EXCELLENCE WITH DIVERSITY FOR THE FUTURE: PROGRAM DESIGN such as the NASA Graduate Student Researchers Award. Stipend levels vary among programs as do monies awarded for tuition and fees or the cost of education allowances. In 1995-96, for example, the NSF Predoctoral Fellowship Program awarded a $14,400 stipend plus $8,600 institutional cost-of-education allowance in lieu of tuition and fees. The Howard Hughes Predoctoral Fellowships offered a student stipend of $14,500 plus a $14,000 cost of education allowance. An alternative approach is for the institution to set a level comparable to prevailing stipends for its departmental research or teaching assistants or for graduate fellowships in the pertinent departments. This approach has the advantage of providing support at a level comparable to what other students in the department receive. A common practice is to make the stipend level higher in the dissertation year because the doctoral student will be older (perhaps with family responsibilities) and more experienced. The Ford Foundation Predoctoral Fellowships for Minorities provides an annual stipend of $12,000. For dissertation fellowships the stipend is $18,000. We propose that the financial support for graduate students in the National Scholars Program be $23,000 per year, consisting of a stipend and an allowance for tuition and fees. The Coordinating Council should determine how that sum will be divided, with consideration being given to permitting individual consortiums to propose appropriate amounts as long as they do not exceed $23,000. We are not recommending a higher stipend at this time for the dissertation year, but as the program gets under way and students near the dissertation phase, serious thought should be given to a differential amount. PROGRAM EVALUATION Program evaluation must be an integral part of the design of a National Scholars Program. Evaluation can take several forms and serve various purposes. Simply put, insights gleaned from formative evaluation can be used to improve the operation of a program. Assessment can determine if a program is reaching its desired goals, and evaluation can shed light on correlates of successful strategies and outcomes. A percentage of total program funding should be allocated to evaluation activities. Five percent of total project funding is a percentage commonly allocated to program evaluation. In addition, each consortium should designate an individual who would be responsible for data collection in the context of the evaluation plan. Program evaluation is not optional. It is required. The Government Performance and Results Act of 1993 states that each federal agency will be required to specify performance goals for each program and to evaluate the extent to which a program achieves its intended objectives. Specific to science and engineering education, the Federal Coordinating Council for Science, Engineering, and Technology (FCCSET) reported that "evaluation is the cornerstone of effective program management. It ensures accountability and strengthens programs by identifying areas that need improvement, by identifying successful models, or by providing suggestions for new directions" (FCCSET 1993a, 40-41). In another study the FCCSET emphasizes the need to coordinate evaluation efforts across programs and agencies and recommends that "evaluation designs across agencies should include a minimum core set of indicators to be collected and synthesized (in conjunction with other information) by
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THE NATIONAL SCHOLARS PROGRAM: EXCELLENCE WITH DIVERSITY FOR THE FUTURE: PROGRAM DESIGN program managers for similar types of programs" (FCCSET 1993b, 33). In this context NASA, which offers more than 300 education programs, is also concerned about how to manage its portfolio of educational programs. At present, NASA is developing an agency-wide, on-line education program evaluation and tracking system. As the first stage in the process, NASA asked the NRC for assistance in defining program goals and developing indicators that could be used in determining the effectiveness of programs in meeting those goals. The NRC recommended a series of outcome indicators, several of which are pertinent for a National Scholars Program, including student achievement and persistence in mathematics and science, degree attainment, participation in research, and career outcomes (NRC 1994b, 9-13). NASA's tracking and evaluation process has two levels. The on-line segment will collect a wide range of basic demographic information on programs and participants and on participant feedback data aligned with agency and program goals. This information will be available to program managers for use in examining the operation of their programs and permit them to decide what modifications in their strategies might be appropriate. The on-line evaluation will be complemented by in-depth, longitudinal analyses of selected programs. Program evaluation is not an easy task. The Seattle MESA program, for example, reports that resource constraints hamper the evaluation of many programs, particularly those which are small scale and operate with a large degree of good will, in-kind services, and volunteer staff. For people in the field who grapple with the day-to-day demands of delivering services, evaluation is often a low priority or viewed as a luxury, the perception being that a dollar earmarked for evaluation activities may be a dollar taken from direct program services. Evaluation done "after-the-fact" necessarily limits the kinds of information that can be collected as well as its usefulness. It may be difficult to locate and obtain information from former program participants. Even when follow-up data may be available, there is an unavoidable time lag in examining the impact of a program on educational and career outcomes. This will be particularly acute for the National Scholars Program because participants will enter as college freshmen and, several years later, attain a Ph.D. For example, an NRC study of 1979-1981 recipients of National Science Foundation Minority Graduate Fellowships examined the characteristics of applicants and awardees of the program and their graduate education experiences, analyzing information on educational progress through 1988 from pertinent data that were available in 1989 (NRC 1995a, 25). In this case, information about degree completion and time-to-degree could not be analyzed until 8 to 10 years after the first cohort was awarded fellowships. Moreover, even this time period did not capture all degree attainment since some fellows may not have completed their degrees. Lack of comparable data also precludes examination of the relative effectiveness of programs. Furthermore, even within the same agency, it is difficult to assure comparable data collection and evaluation activities. Currently, NASA's SHARP program provides substantial administrative documentation but only fragmentary information about the academic progress of participants, whereas the SHARP PLUS program collects detailed follow-up student data. The 1995 National Institute for General Medical Sciences' "A Study of the Minority Access to Research Careers
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THE NATIONAL SCHOLARS PROGRAM: EXCELLENCE WITH DIVERSITY FOR THE FUTURE: PROGRAM DESIGN (MARC) Honors Undergraduate Research Training (HURT) Program" found that guidelines for implementing training programs supported through MARC required each program to track the educational progress of its trainees. They did not, however, specify what data should be collected and because each of the 60 undergraduate programs collected data in individual formats, it was necessary to survey past trainees in order to obtain pertinent information about the outcomes of the program. On March 1, 1996, the "MARC Undergraduate Student Training in Academic Research (U*STAR) Program" replaced the HURT program (NIGMS 1996, 1). The program now requires a progress report "at the end of each fiscal year" and a final report "within 90 days after the termination date of the award." The data to be collected is specified: "All progress reports must include information on each student participant delineating the student's progress and all benefits the student derived from the program, as well as the training plan for the coming year. This progress report must also contain information on MARC graduates, their subsequent schooling and/or their careers" (NIGMS 1996, 4). A different and ambitious approach taken by the NSF's Alliances for Minority Participation (AMP) and Urban Systemic Initiatives programs involves the development of software packages that every program site must use to report extensive information on the status of students, services provided, faculty, financial support, and budgets. In principle, such data should be extremely useful, although meaningful analysis to assess program impacts will present a challenge. Formative and summative evaluations should be built into a National Scholars Program from its inception. First, the program (and the individual sites) should document the academic progress of the scholars, making careful records of those who eventually complete the Ph.D. and of those who leave the program to pursue other study or career goals. All consortiums should be required to collect certain core data in a format that is comparable among the consortiums. Information on courses taken and completed, grades, test scores, and academic progress should be obtained as well as basic socioeconomic and educational background information on the scholars. Information on what happens to National Scholars after they receive their Ph.D.s may be the most critical of all, in terms of justifying the long-term value of the program. Each consortium should track its graduates for at least five years after degree completion, to determine not just where they are working but salary levels, research or other scholarly productivity, and contributions to the growth of other minority scholars. In addition, employers could be asked through a separate questionnaire for their assessment of the knowledge and skills of the Scholars they employ, as well as other training which would have made them even more valuable to the organization. In addition to collecting information on student outcomes, program sites should develop information that will enable them to determine what seems to be working, what does not work and why, what needs to be strengthened, and what should be dropped. These on-going opportunities for mid-course correction will increase the likelihood of successful outcomes. The formative evaluation would include the documentation of implementing the intervention strategies at the student and institutional levels and the preparation of annual questionnaires for students, faculty, and other key personnel. An exit interview would be useful for gaining insight into which parts of the program
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THE NATIONAL SCHOLARS PROGRAM: EXCELLENCE WITH DIVERSITY FOR THE FUTURE: PROGRAM DESIGN students found to be most helpful. Attention should be directed to examining institutional impacts, such as increasing the number of tenure-track minority faculty in the science departments as well as increasing the percentages of minorities succeeding in and achieving at a high level in certain gatekeeper courses, e.g., introductory chemistry and calculus. Information about institutional environments and plans and evidence of institutionalizing program strategies that are most effective are also important. Beyond the core quantitative and qualitative data that would be collected annually on student outcomes, program outcomes, and institutional impacts, case studies could be developed over the course of the project that would include the evolving quantitative and qualitative data. A goal of each site and the overall evaluation effort would be to share lessons learned about effective strategies and institutional changes with other colleges and universities which are not participating in the National Scholars Program. In that regard, there is no reason that evaluation should be conducted in a vacuum. Although there exists no other program exactly like the National Scholars Program, there are several which have similar purposes and similar program elements. Private programs like the Meyerhoff Program and the National Physical Sciences Consortium, as well as undergraduate and graduate programs at NSF, NIH, and other federal agencies, can all shed light on what works and doesn't work. Information gleaned from these programs on recruitment strategies, persistence rates, industrial experience, and student outcomes can enrich the Scholars Program and, to the extent that data are comparable, serve as a benchmark against which to measure individual components. It would be useful for the consortiums that are funded in a pilot phase to meet to discuss and agree on a set of uniform core data to be collected by all. Developing a software package that specifies the data to be collected and then entered into a database for analysis would be desirable. The NSF Alliances for Minority Participation (AMP) program, for example, requires, as an annual report, that each Alliance enter extensive data into a specially designed database—Monitoring and Reporting System (MARS)— and then forward the diskettes to NSF. The core data collected at the individual sites should be made available to the National Scholars Coordinating Council which would then establish and maintain a national data base. Given the scope and nature of NASA's agency-wide evaluation activities, the proposed evaluation plan should be coordinated with the basic data collection requirements for NASA's On-line Evaluation Program. Three kinds of information should be included: (1) basic demographic and educational information on new student entrants; (2) a minimum set of data points (student profile, grades, test scores, academic progress) that would provide data that could subsequently be used to examine the predictive validity of these indicators; and (3) information on components of the program (summer participation, mentoring, National Scholars lecture series, research participation). Some of the student and program data could be analyzed by the individual consortiums, while data required by the council would be analyzed at that level to assess the relative effectiveness of individual consortiums and to evaluate long-term impacts. Monitoring of the performance of sites (with occasional site visits) is essential to assure effective use of program resources. Finally, the information compiled by the council will be used to determine the overall success of the National Scholars Program in achieving its stated goals.
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