EFFECTIVE OUTREACH TO ACHIEVE COLLEGE SUCCESS IN STEM FIELDS: GEOFORCE TEXAS
GeoFORCE targets students in the 8th grade with an interest and talent in math and science, and takes them every summer for four years on spectacular geologic field trips all over the country. The students are mostly minority (83%); many are first generation college students (53%).
We have tracked students through college using email and social media, but program growth (over 500 GeoFORCE graduates) has made that method inefficient. This year, we contracted with the National Student Clearinghouse Outreach Portal to supply information about college enrollment and graduation. The data are more reliable than self reporting by students, and another significant advantage is that we can track also a matched cohort of students by following kids who applied and qualified for GeoFORCE, but did not participate in the program. These students were nearly identical to our program participants at the 8th grade level and therefore represent a control group we can use to compare outcomes in college participation and graduation. There is a striking difference. In the control group (258 students) 62% went to college, 57% returned for the second year; 9% have college degrees and 43% are still in college, so they may reach a 6-year college graduation rate of >50%, well above state and national averages. They were bright, ambitious 8th graders and they are doing well. But GeoFORCE students are doing better. Of the 471 students who participated in 3-4 GeoFORCE field trips, 98% went to college, 95% returned for their second year, 5% hold degrees and 89% are still in college. Over 60% are studying in STEM fields; there are 71 geology majors among them.
The GeoFORCE model of sustained engagement over four years, and mentoring and support through college, is a powerful tool for producing geology majors.