The Florida A&M University’s Ronald E. McNair Program, which was established to prepare undergraduate students for graduate study at the doctorate level, was canceled on Sept. 30 because of a lack of funding.
Named after the NASA astronaut killed in the Space Shuttle Challenger mission in 1986, the Ronald E. McNair Post-Baccalaureate Achievement Program was founded in 1990 to assist minority and first-generation college students in obtaining doctoral degrees and helping students pursue teaching careers on the college level.
During the summer, program scholars conduct research while under the supervision of a faculty member in their major. The 10-week summer research gives scholars exposure to the type of work that would be required in graduate school.
The program provides graduate-school related seminars such as the Graduate Record Exam tutorials, GRE waivers, assistance with graduate school admissions, graduate school fairs, research conferences and graduate school visits.
For Lisa McClelland, FAMU McNair Program director since 1996, the termination of the program left her and three other staff members jobless.
“I didn’t receive enough notice before the program was canceled…it wasn’t proper notification,” McClelland said. “It is extremely disheartening that the program wasn’t funded.”
Dorothy Henderson, Ph.D., dean of the School of General Studies, said she received notice of cancellation a week before its termination date.
“This [cancellation] will have a tremendous impact on students that are presently enrolled in the program,” Henderson said. “We were not able to inform students the right way because we found out too late.”
Henderson said the university did not score high enough on its renewal proposal that was presented to the U.S. Department of Education in order for the program to receive future funding.
“The federal department of education scores the proposal and we have to get a 98.67 on it to receive the grant…we received a 96.3,” Henderson said. “That score ultimately decided if we were funded or not.”
According to McClelland, their grant-request proposal received 15 “prior experience points,” which are credited for prior grant recipients when their program thoroughly utilized the funds.
Jane Glickman, a spokesperson for the U.S. Department of Education, said the McNair grant program has limited funds with lots of applicants.
“The grant program is very competitive, especially during a new grant cycle,” Glickman said. “Applications are scored by a panel of three objective people and they review the applicant, then the scores are averaged.”
Glickman said the funds for the FAMU McNair Program were never cut. However, its renewal application was not approved.
For FAMU alumna and former McNair Program scholar Valencia Edochie, the McNair program’s cancellation was totally unexpected.
“I am very disappointed because the program is very imperative for undergrads heading to graduate school,” said the 24-year-old University of Wisconsin graduate student. “The program did so much for me and helped me become more comfortable with going to grad school,” Edochie said. “Because of the program, I had a home when I went to grad school and I was able to utilize its resources.”
For students currently enrolled in the program, the university is seeking funding alternatives.
“We are asking the university to sponsor the three students that are presently in the program,” Henderson said. “We want those students to be able to finish the program.”
McClelland said students that need letters of recommendation from the program can contact her at anytime.
“I am here for the students…it is still rewarding to see students achieve their goals,” McClelland said.