PROPEL center working to keep itself running before funding ends

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Like many programs and resources on the CSU-Pueblo campus, the PROPEL center is looking at how to keep itself alive once grant funding for the program ends in October.

The five year, $4.3 million grant from the Department of Education has funded science, technology, engineering and mathematics education initiatives since the fall of 2012.

PROPEL, short for Providing Opportunities to Excel, is located in room 122 of the Life Sciences building.

The program has offered student tutoring support through its main center and two satellite centers on campus, as well as a sustainability minor, PROPEL’s STEM Speakers Series, career symposiums and aiding in hosting the Science Olympiad, among other activities.

All of the activities have been offered at what PROPEL center coordinator Abby Davidson reports as 98 percent satisfaction rate.

On what impact PROPEL has had so far, Davidson pointed out that the roughly one dozen students working in the main center at the morning of the interview was a quiet moment, saying that the resources dedicated to PROPEL – including student tutors, technology and equipment – were “not an easy thing to be shuffled back” into other programs or efforts.

Davidson explained that the one of most important costs of maintaining the program is paying student tutors, who often work long hours on their own time. Presently, tutors are paid out of the original grant funds.

Though work is underway to acquire additional funding, Davidson is still unsure about the program’s future.

“It makes me nervous thinking about the fall semester,” she said, “and opening for a month just to close again.” She said they don’t expect to hear a final answer on potential additional grand funding until roughly two weeks before the current grant runs out.

Davidson says the entirety of the university’s STEM related colleges are scrambling to find additional funding. She helped write a National Science Foundation grant request over the winter, while others work on proposals to renew the original Department of Education grant.

The effort might not be enough, though.

“With writing grants, there’s no guarantee you’re going to get it,” Davidson said.

With that possibility in mind, STEM related members of the Associated Student Government proposed and obtained an ASG resolution in support of institutionalizing PROPEL via student enrolment fees, which would pay for student tutors. “We hope that the administration is taking notice,” she said.

“I haven’t noticed any sort of push back to the idea,” Davidson said when asked about student reaction to the potential for a higher cost of education. The program logged over 4,300 visits to the center last fall.