JONESBORO, AR (KAIT) - The McNair program at Arkansas State University could have less than a year of operation left after budget cuts from the Department of Education put their program on the chopping block. Now, McNair students are fighting to keep the program that preps them for grad school.
"I never would've thought I would come to grad school if it hadn't been for here. It was never even a thought," Star Loerch told Region 8 News. Loerch is a junior at ASU, majoring in biological sciences with an emphasis in zoology and minoring in marine biology.
Loerch and 24 other STEM and Psychology majors who are in the program at ASU are now rallying to keep McNair going. The Department of Education cut $10,000,000 from their budget and reallocated it to the Upward Bound Program.
"As a result of doing that they ended up cutting 75 programs from the original amount that was funded. I believe had that not happened, ASU wouldn't be in the situation it is in currently," program coordinator Laura Kuizin explained.
Kuizin said when they submitted their proposal for funding this year, they came in points shy of getting that funding. Kuizin said since they learned of this at the beginning of this semester, students in the program have been working to get the Board of Education to reevaluate their proposal.
"I've written a letter to the congressman and the Board of Education. Congressman Rick Crawford apparently liked what I had to say and has been very supportive of us," Loerch said.
The McNair program is hoping they can have their proposal score reevaluated, as they were just six points shy of getting funding. Kuizin said this program is very beneficial to students who didn't think grad school or a doctorate were in their future.
"It's unfortunate, a significant number of our students come in here not thinking they can achieve that," Kuizin said.
McNair is a very selective program at ASU, accepting low income, first generation or under represented undergrads who wish to go on to grad school or get a doctorate. Through scholarships, research, conferences and workshops, they're able to get these students on track for grad school. Kuizin said she believes the reason they were points shy of funding is because the objectives in their proposal were viewed as "too ambitious."
"As far as whether we could actually do what we say we're going to do, I believe we can. And I don't think we would've put it in our proposal if we weren't 100% committed to pushing these students," she said.
Loerch said she wants McNair to continue so other students can do what she's done.
"I want them to walk through these doors thinking that it's gotta be something off the wall crazy because there's no way I'm going to grad school, then wake up one day and say 'I'm looking at grad schools.'"
Since the McNair program was reinstated at ASU in 2010, 68% of those who graduated the program went onto grad school. They also just had their first student accepted into a PhD program at Princeton.