TSGC has established graduate student fellowship and undergraduate student scholarship programs that are designed to recognize high-quality students at TSGC institutions and encourage then to remain in the educational pipeline in further pursuit of space-related careers. Between 1998 and 2002 TSGC awarded over $590,000 in fellowships and scholarships to 173 students - more than 25% of the TSGC NSGC&FP budget. The students' disciplines range from Aerospace Engineering to Neuroscience to Biomedical Engineering.
The National and Texas Space Grant Programs have established 6 major Fellowship and Scholarship goals.
- Provide undergraduate training through the mechanism of fellowship and scholarship awards
- Emphasize awards with effective student research and mentoring components
- Recognize high achieving students who have strong interests in careers in space related fields
- Encourage high achieving students to pursue graduate studies in space related fields
- Encourage high achieving women and underrepresented ethnic groups to pursue careers in space related fields
- Maintain a balance of awards across academic member institutions
Each year, TSGC's fellowship program awards about 20 competitively selected $5,000 supplemental fellowship award to graduate students who are receiving half-time support from their local institution. The fellowships stress excellence in academics, participation in space related research projects, exhibited leadership qualities, and faculty recommendations. With the large number of affiliates and limited fellowship funds, TSGC has chosen to award supplemental fellowships in order to keep good students in the educational pipeline at TSGC institutions. Recipients may apply to renew the fellowship for up to three years.
TSGC's Scholarship program consists of a competitively selected $1,000 award to encourage undergraduate students at each of its Academic Institutions to pursue graduate studies in space related disciplines. Selections are made based upon excellence in academics, participation in space education projects, participation in research projects, and exhibited leadership qualities.
The TSGC Fellowship and Scholarship selection committees also evaluate the effectiveness of the advertising of the program by evaluating the number of applicants and the quality of the applications. This information is presented to the general membership at the spring membership meetings. As part of these assessments, committee members recommend ways to improve the program.
As a way to alleviate the challenges presented by the 1996 Hopwood vs. Texas ruling by the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals which prohibited public institutions from considering ethnicity in their selection process, TSGC began to allow minority serving institutions to compete for additional undergraduate scholarships. This competition, while not restricted to minority students, has increased the number of minority recipients of TSGC scholarships.
The NSGC&FP has set an ethnic diversity objective of matching the percentage of Fellowships and Scholarships awarded underrepresented groups to their enrollment in higher education in the state. According to the National Science Foundation 30.0% of students enrolled in Texas four year schools were from underrepresented ethnic backgrounds in the fall of 1998. Between 1998 and 2002 TSGC awarded 173 fellowships and scholarships, 40 [23%] of which were to students from underrepresented ethnic backgrounds. During this period, enforcement of the Hopwood ruling severely impaired TSGC ability to meet its ethnic percentage goals. With the program modifications previously mentioned in 2002 TSGC was able to meet this objective by awarding 10 of its 36 awards to minorities.
Each fall TSGC announces and distributes information about the Fellowship program for the following academic year. Graduate students can either receive an application from their TSGC representative or download it from the TSGC web site. Applications are submitted to the affiliate's representative who is responsible for the initial pre-selection process. Each affiliate may submit up to three applicants to a Consortium-wide selection committee. The selection committee is made up of faculty from the Academic Affiliates, excluding the Space Grant Colleges. This committee ranks the applicants considering their difficulty of class work, personal statement, grade point average, Graduate Record Examination score, and letters of recommendation. These rankings are sent to the Director who, based on budgetary constraints, determines how many fellowships to award each year. TSGC typically awards 20 fellowships each year. In an average year, this includes students at 12 affiliates.
Each fall TSGC announces and distributes information about the Undergraduate Scholarship program for the following year. Students at affiliate institutions can either receive an application from their local TSGC representative or download it from the TSGC web site. Applications are submitted to the affiliate representative who is responsible for the local selection process. Selections are made based upon excellence in academics, participation in space education projects, participation in research projects, and exhibited leadership qualities. TSGC typically awards 15 undergraduate scholarships each year at 12 affiliate institutions.
TSGC continuously monitors the effectiveness of its scholarship and fellowship program through data analysis conducted by its Fellowship and Scholarship committee. This evaluation mechanism has proven to be extremely effective in maintaining a high quality program.
No single affiliate or group of affiliates have dominated the program. All active academic affiliates have received at least one award during the review period and 15 affiliates have averaged one award per year.
Another major strength of the programs is TSGC's its responsiveness to its affiliates. This is demonstrated below by the modifications to the program that were implemented at the direction of its affiliates.
In 1999 the F&S committee noted that there was a 60% drop in applications by minority students. This occurred without any changes in the way that the programs were advertised, administered, or awards were given. Since then, TSGC has implemented efforts to increase the number of applications submitted by minority students. These efforts have included  special advertising to student groups that cater to minorities,  emphasis on the program at minority serving institutions, and  special efforts on behalf of its affiliates to recruit minority students. The result of these efforts has been a 650% increase in the number of minority applicants for TSGC fellowships and scholarships.
A second example of TSGC's responsiveness to its affiliates occurred in 2002. The Scholarship committee noted that the number of total scholarship applicants had leveled off at a level that was determined to be insufficient. In response to this problem, an on-line version of the scholarship application was developed and electronic advertising of the program was increased. In its first year of operation, the new procedure resulted in a 100% increase in the total number of applications and a 140% increase in the number of female applicants. A similar system is under development for the fellowship program.
Some comments by recipients of TSGC's scholarships and fellowships are provided below:
Receiving this fellowship is for me, the culmination of a life-long interest in space science.
This has given me the opportunity to pursue my research desires.
Awards such as these help students to fulfill their careers without worrying about financial problems.
Some people say dreaming of being an astronaut is childish and unattainable, but you have helped me to prove 'dreams do come true!' and 'dreams will come true'.