Since Fall 2008, the MESA Program at Rio Hondo College has enabled disadvantaged students to prepare for and graduate from a four-year college or university with a calculus-based degree in STEM. MESA students must declare a major in STEM, intend to graduate with an AA/AS degree and transfer to a four-year institution, and establish an educational plan that includes calculus, physics, chemistry, and/or biology courses. In 2010, the TRiO Student Support Services-STEM Program was implemented in conjunction with the MESA Program since most MESA students are eligible for TRiO services. Program services include: enrichment in mathematics, physics, and chemistry; academic advising by a dedicated counselor; peer group support; priority registration; MESA tutors; help with applications for financial aid, scholarships, four-year schools, and internships; access to the MESA Center, a place to gather, study, and get information; networking opportunities through field trips, conferences and industry mentors; and “Scholarships to Aid Rio Hondo STEM Students” (STARSS)--21 competitive scholarships awarded annually to RHC STEM students ($4000 to $6000).
MESA’s goal is to provide the support for historically underrepresented students to develop academic and leadership skills, increase educational performance, and gain confidence in their ability to compete professionally in the STEM fields.
Of the 171 students participating, 81% are Hispanic or Latino and 30% are female. In the 2011-12 academic year 44 MESA students earned AA/AS degrees, and 39 transferred in STEM majors to four-year colleges. Further, in that same year, 70%, 88%, and 70% of MESA students passed transfer level mathematics, physics, and chemistry courses compared to 59%, 79%, and 67% of non-program participants, respectively. MESA/TRiO students who participated in AEWs had even higher success rates, e.g. 76% in Math. MESA students lose priority registration if they drop without speaking to program staff first. An early warning system ensures that students with low grades are advised early in the semester. Only 10% of MESA students who attended AEWs dropped out of general chemistry as opposed 39% of students who did not. Lastly, of the 2012 cohort, 28 will transfer in Fall 2013, 42 in Fall 2014.
From Fall 2011 to the Spring 2014 the program transferred 111 students to 4–year institutions in STEM fields, 76 graduated with an AA/AS before transfer. Of 310 students served during 2010 – 2014, 47% are still enrolled and being served in Fall 14, 38% have graduated and or transferred and 15% are no longer enrolled or transferred to other community colleges.