Pushing for Equitable Futures in Higher Ed Admissions: STEM PUSH Partners Earn Accreditation

Pittsburgh, PA (April 30, 2024) – The STEM PUSH Network has reached a major milestone in its goal of increasing equity in higher education admissions, as the first cohort of STEM PUSH Pre-College STEM Programs (PCSPs) has earned first-of its kind accreditation from Middle States Association Commissions on Elementary and Secondary Schools (MSA-CESS). The accreditation elevates the critical learning and skills development provided by PCSPs, promoting equity by increasing the value of these experiences in the higher education admissions process.

A research project of the National Science Foundation Eddie Bernice Johnson INCLUDES Alliance, The STEM PUSH Network is a partnership of community-based educators working with researchers to use improvement science to develop and test best practices for nurturing STEM competencies in Black, Latina/o/e and Indigenous students. 

One overarching goal of the project is to affect systems change in Higher Education by helping to ensure that the important skills students gain from network PCSPs is factored into higher education admissions decisions. The certification from MSA-CESS is an important step in achieving this goal.


“This accreditation credential recognizes a diverse array of intensive STEM experiences that each engage Black, Latina/o/e, and Indigenous youth through equity-centered practices in ways that collectively increase their visibility and value through the college admissions and enrollment process,” said Disan Davis, Research Associate and Accreditation lead for the STEM PUSH Network.

STEM PUSH  PCSPs are established, intensive, STEM-focused, out-of-school-time programs intentionally serving underrepresented high schoolers through practices that center equity and prepare students for undergraduate STEM. These programs provide more than 100 hours of programming using curricula that are rigorous and reflective of advances in their various STEM fields.

Preliminary data from the STEM PUSH Network show that across programs with enough data, 80 percent of Black, Latina/o/e, and Indigenous STEM PUSH PCSP students enroll and persist in STEM for more than a year at four year colleges and universities.

Alison Slinskey Legg, Principal Investigator and Director of The BE STEM Center at University of Pittsburgh, the project’s supporting organization, said the accreditation, and the supporting data are important validations of the power of partnerships and community in providing students with opportunity. 

“This work is challenging, and the conversation around access, admissions, and equity is shifting, but we have a constant in the dedication and talent of educators across the country working together to affect real systems change,” she said.

The initial programs that made up the first STEM PUSH accreditation cohort worked through a rigorous continuous improvement process that included a self-study and documentation of program improvements, evidence, and plans for future improvement. The first cohort of programs are: Arthur Ashe Institute for Urban Health’s Health Science Academy, California State University East Bay MESA, Gene Team at University of Pittsburgh, Joaquin Bustoz Math-Science Honors Program at Arizona State University, New York Hall of Science’s Science Career Ladder, and Teenagers Exploring and Explaining Nature and Science (TEENS)/ Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum.

Slinskey Legg said the accreditation evidences the power of leveraging partner strengths through the national network of PCSPs that is STEM PUSH.  “This accreditation–and the results that we’re seeing– prove the collective can accomplish what no one program can, and we’re thrilled for our PCSP and admission partners, but most of all for the students who will ultimately benefit from this effort,” she added.

The STEM PUSH Network is always looking for allies in ensuring equitable STEM futures for all students, and the project provides resources for educators and admissions professionals on its website such as evidence-based change ideas for programs, as well as findings and publications from the project.

STEM PUSH also welcomes admissions offices to join the STEM PUSH Admissions Network and revise current systems to recognize the STEM learning experiences of these students in the admissions and enrollment process. Together, we aim to systematically elevate intensive out-of-school STEM learning experiences in admissions decisions. Learn more and connect here.

The STEM PUSH Network is operated by The Broadening Equity in STEM Center (BE STEM) at the University of Pittsburgh, and originally funded by the Eddie Bernice Johnson INCLUDES program. STEM PUSH is a comprehensive national effort to enhance U.S. leadership in discoveries and innovations by focusing on diversity, inclusion and broadening participation in STEM at scale. STEM PUSH is also co-funded by the NSF Innovative Technology Experiences for Students and Teachers (ITEST) program and the Advancing Informal STEM Learning (AISL) program.; Twitter: @STEMPUSHNetwork; LinkedIn: STEM-PUSH-Network; Facebook: STEM PUSH Network


For additional information contact Tim Francisco, 


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