You are here

Gaston College Receives National Science Foundation Funding for Scholarships

Dallas, NC - Gaston College has been awarded over $600,000 from the National Science Foundation for scholarships and supplemental services, beginning in the fall 2014 semester. Scholarships, up to $5,600 per year per student, will be awarded to select Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) students enrolled full-time in the Associate of Science program at Gaston College. Gaston College is the only community college in western North Carolina and only one of five in the state to offer such scholarships.
In response to a growing need for a well-trained STEM talent pool, Gaston College has developed an initiative called SPARC3 (STEM Persistence and Retention through Curriculum, Cohort, and Centralization) to promote persistence and graduation of these students at the college. The mission of SPARC3 is to ignite student curiosity and to prepare future STEM professionals for success in an evolving work environment.  The SPARC3 Scholars scholarships are one element of the larger SPARC3 initiative. 
The success of SPARC3 Scholars will be fostered by financial support, academic learning communities, mentoring, undergraduate research experiences, and supplemental group activities in order to aid in student learning and prepare students for future achievement. Successful SPARC3 Scholars will complete the Associate of Science degree and be provided assistance in applying for acceptance to four-year colleges and universities for further study in STEM fields.
The SPARC3 program is an initiative of the Division of Arts and Sciences at Gaston College. Heather Woodson, Dean of Arts and Sciences, commented on the projected impact of these scholarships and supplemental services on students.
“Many of our students have obligations and must work while attending school to support themselves and sometimes their families. These scholarships can provide a significant financial boost for students; as a result, they can reduce outside work hours and devote more time to their education,” said Mrs. Woodson.
“The supplemental services such as mentoring, tutoring, and learning communities have been shown to increase retention and graduation rates. Therefore, we expect to see additional Associate of Science students finishing their degree and transferring to a four-year institution as a result of this grant. The impact on the College will be very positive; however, the impact on our students and community will be even greater,” she said.
The Associate in Science degree is a program of study consisting of a minimum of 60 semester hours of college transfer courses. This degree is intended for students planning to transfer from a North Carolina community college to a four-year institution to pursue further study in a STEM discipline.
Courses are approved for transfer through the North Carolina Comprehensive Articulation Agreement (CAA). The CAA enables North Carolina Community College graduates of two-year associate in science programs who are admitted to constituent institutions of The University of North Carolina to transfer with junior status. Coursework with the degree includes disciplines such as biology, chemistry, geology, physics, math, and computer science.
Gaston College is an open-door admissions institution.  Applicants must be at least 18 years of age and possess a high school diploma or equivalent to enroll.  SPARC3 Scholars will be expected to meet additional eligibility requirements including:
·         U.S. citizenship, nationality, or lawful U.S. permanent residence
·         Full-time enrollment in the Associate of Science program at Gaston College
·         Demonstrated financial need based upon federal guidelines
·         Overall unweighted GPA of 2.75 or higher
·         Submission of a letter of intent to complete the Associate of Science degree at Gaston College, and a
·         Brief interview with SPARC3 Program Staff
To apply for general college admission, apply online at or visit the admissions office at any campus location.  For specific information on the SPARC3 Scholars program, contact Ashley Hagler at  Please put “SPARC3 Scholar” in the subject line when applying.
Gaston College enrolls over 5,000 students in curriculum programs each term, and 16,000 in continuing education programs each year. Over 100 programs of study are offered to obtain an associate degree, certificate or diploma.

Teaching & Learning