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New Grant Offers Debt Relief to Promising Math and Science Students to Encourage Retention

Reed College receives $356,388 from the National Science Foundation for scholarships, evaluation.

PORTLAND, OR (October 20, 2006) – Reed College has been awarded a five-year grant of $356,388 by the National Science Foundation (NSF) to support promising math and science students with financial need. The Scholarships for Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics—or S-STEM—will be awarded in place of loans beginning in a student’s sophomore year, allowing Reed to offer debt relief to selected, declared majors in biology, chemistry, mathematics and physics. The program will support two successive cohorts (totaling 17 students) until graduation.

The scholarships will also allow Reed to evaluate whether or not debt relief improves retention rates among this group of students.

While Reed's retention rates continue to improve—the six-year graduation rate has improved by 10 percentage points since the entering class of 1993—approximately 10 percent of recent Reed freshmen do not return for their sophomore year. The NSF S-STEM funding takes aim at one reason for that attrition—debt burden.

A typical student’s financial aid package at Reed includes institutional aid, family contribution, work-study, and federally guaranteed student loans. A first-year student in the Class of 2010 with financial need who is weighing whether or not to return to Reed next fall will face an average projected 3-year debt burden of $18,138.

Ron McClard, Arthur F. Scott Professor of Chemistry, is leading the project. He is working with Leslie Limper, director of financial aid, and a group of faculty members to select student recipients in spring 2007 and spring 2008. McClard will work closely with Jon Rivenburg, director of institutional research, to assess the extent to which debt relief increases retention at Reed.

“This grant from the NSF will provide a great number of gifted math and science majors at Reed the opportunity to focus more on their studies and less on their finances,” says McClard. “This is particularly important for those who might otherwise feel compelled to consider interrupting their progress by transferring to another college.”

The National Science Foundation promotes and advances scientific progress in the United States by competitively awarding grants and cooperative agreements for research and education in the sciences, mathematics, and engineering.

The grant to Reed College is part of an NSF program of grants to higher education institutions to support scholarships for academically talented, financially needy students, enabling them to enter the workforce following completion of an associate, baccalaureate, or graduate level degree in science and engineering disciplines. Grantee institutions are responsible for selecting scholarship recipients, reporting demographic information about student scholars, and managing the S-STEM project at the institution.