USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) announced the availability of $8.8 million in funding to support agricultural science education at Hispanic-Serving Institutions (HSI). The HSI Education Grants Program promotes and strengthens programs that attract, retain, and graduate outstanding students capable of enhancing the nation’s food, agricultural, natural resource, and human sciences work force.
“Hispanic students earn only 8% of the degrees awarded in science, technology, engineering, and math,” said NIFA Director Sonny Ramaswamy. “These investments help Hispanic-Serving Institutions promote STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) education and agricultural industry careers to all their students, including Hispanic students.”
While research and Extension activities may be included in a funded HSI Education project, the primary focus must be to improve teaching, enrollment, and graduation rates within a degree-granting program. One five-year project with Texas State University helped boost its completion rate to 92%. A NIFA grant to New Mexico Highlands University designed to increase the number of Hispanic students earning a Bachelor of Science degree has helped more than 1,100 students since 2009.
Eligible applicants are certified HSIs, which are public colleges and universities that have an enrollment that includes at least 25% Hispanic students. Currently, more than 400 HSIs are located in 21 states and Puerto Rico, serving more than 2 million students.
Past projects have included a Texas State University project that encourages female and Hispanic military Veterans to earn bachelor’s degrees in agriculture and other STEM degree programs. A project at Texas A&M University-Kingsville encourages students from underrepresented groups to pursue STEM degrees and careers as leaders in agriculture through training and internships at USDA agencies.