Penn College Wins $1.5M Grant to Support Transportation Students

The grant will fund scholarships for academically talented low-income students majoring in a transportation-related field.

The Transportation Scholars program will provide up to $10,000 annually for eligible students seeking an associate degree in automotive, collision repair, aviation or diesel.

Pennsylvania College of Technology received a nearly $1.5 million federal grant to support students majoring in a transportation-related field, including collision repair.

The National Science Foundation awarded $1,498,465 as part of its S-STEM program, which funds scholarships for academically talented low-income students.

Dubbed Transportation Scholars, the program will provide up to $10,000 annually for eligible students. To meet the criteria of high achieving and low income, students must have a high school GPA of at least 3.0 and be eligible for Pell Grant aid.

Scholarship recipients are required to be seeking an associate degree in aviation, automotive, collision repair or diesel.

“In a nutshell, jobs in these transportation fields are plentiful and command high salaries,” said Bradley M. Webb, dean of engineering technologies. “We are grateful to the NSF for recognizing Penn College’s long history of success in preparing students for careers in the transportation industry. With the support of this grant, we hope to offer such opportunities to students who might otherwise not have the means to pursue such enriching careers.”

Automotive technicians inspect, maintain, diagnose and repair complex systems on vehicles. Aviation maintenance technicians repair and maintain everything from gliders to helicopters to jets. Collision repair technicians repair damaged vehicles to their pre-accident condition. And diesel technicians fix and maintain diesel-powered highway, industrial and marine vehicles and equipment.

“All of these fields require proficiency in math,” Webb said. “That’s why mathematics and transportation faculty at the college are working together to contextualize math concepts using practical examples from the transportation industry. Linking mathematics to careers that are of interest to students can be an effective way to improve learning.”

The Transportation Scholars will be part of a cohort that will meet monthly through the college’s Career Seminars program, featuring personal development activities and field trips to local employers. Individually, the students will be assigned a faculty adviser who will serve as a mentor and career coach.

“We’re confident the various components of the Transportation Scholars program will have the cumulative effect of increasing and diversifying the students eyeing a career in transportation. Eventually, that will pay dividends for the industry as a whole,” Webb said.

The college’s goal is to have 45 scholarship recipients throughout the funding period, which ends in 2028.

The grant’s principal investigator is Robert K. Vlacich, associate professor of automotive technology and department head. Co-principal investigators are Webb and Brad R. Conklin, faculty in diesel equipment technology.

Visit the Transportation Scholars program webpage to apply.

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