Big Bend Community College continues to show strong gains in the number of students enrolling in math and technology fields. The gains are especially striking among Hispanic students.
In just six years, Big Bend Community College has increased the number of Hispanic students taking math and technology classes by 187 percent.
The Moses Lake school has boosted the number of classes it offers in pre-calculus I from 3 to 11. Pre-calculus II has gone from one class to five. And statistics classes increased from four to 12.
Those are some of the numbers the school released last week to show that a $4.4 million grant from the U.S. Department of Education, now in its fifth and final year, is paying off.
“It is cool to witness the emergence of a new campus culture,” said Big Bend spokesman Doug Sly in an email.
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Big Bend received the federal grant in part because it is designated by the education department as a Hispanic Serving Institution; about 42 percent of the college’s 2014-15 enrollment is Hispanic. It used the money for a variety of initiatives, including redesigning college-level math to include emporium-style math courses that allow students to progress at their own pace, using a computer.
The number of Hispanic students enrolled in science, technology, engineering and math courses has grown from 24 in 2008-09 to 473 in 2014-15.
The school’s STEM Center building — an older structure that was remodeled in 2013 with money from the grant — is staffed with tutors helping students with math, biology, chemistry, physics, environmental science and engineering. It’s equipped with glass walls that students can use as a kind of chalkboard, writing out equations to solve as a group, then erasing them. The center offers tutoring and supplemental instruction, and is open 62 hours a week, including Sundays.
Sly noted that this is the last year of the five-year grant. “Now we have to sustain it,” he said.