Wash. colleges debut 5-year engineering program for low-income students

uwlogoYou typically hear the term “redshirt” for collegiate athletics. It’s a title given to athletes who receive an extra year of eligibility on the field because of injury or other reasons.

But now it’s coming to the classroom, as the University of Washington and Washington State University are developing an “academic redshirt” program that will bring 32 low-income high school graduates to each school this fall for a five-year bachelor’s engineering program.

wsulogoThe first year of the program, called the Washington State Academic RedShirt in Engineering Program (STARS), will be used as a bridge of sorts to help the students get accustomed to the college environment before diving into the rigorous university workload.

Then, they will receive extra advising and start in a regular four-year engineering program the following year.

“Engineering education needs to adapt to the tortoises, not just the hares,” Eve Riskin, UW associate dean of engineering and program lead for the UW, said in a press release. “We’re talking about investing an extra year in what will hopefully be a 30-year engineering career.”

The program is made possible by a five-year grant from National Science Foundation and targets low-income high school students that are eligible for federal Pell Grants.

“Pell Grant students receive engineering degrees at significantly lower rates than non-Pell Grant students,” Riskin said. “This is unfortunate, because low-income students could most benefit from a lucrative engineering career.”

The UW, which will model its program after the Engineering GoldShirt Program at University of Colorado-Boulder, will receive $970,000 per year for five years, while WSU will get $700,000. Eight other colleges and universities will also receive similar grants to help support engineering or computer science undergraduates.

Previously on GeekWire: Washington passes bill to count computer science for math, science credit

  • Scott

    Hmm. I wonder if they’re aware that calling someone a “redshirt” means something different in geeky/techie circles than it does in athletic circles?