Students at Cal State Long Beach who are among the first in their families to go to college are getting a leg up on the steep climb toward doctoral degrees.

The university has received a $775,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Education to help undergraduates from low-income and underrepresented groups pursue doctorates.

The goal of the Ronald E. McNair Post-Baccalaureate Program--named after the scientist-astronaut who died in the 1986 Challenger explosion--is to increase the number of African American, Native American and Latino faculty in U.S. colleges.

Twenty students with at least a 3.0 grade-point average have already been selected to participate, and by the end of the month an additional 10 will be chosen.

Two-thirds must be from first-generation college students with low incomes. The last third may include students from underrepresented groups, including gender, regardless of financial status, said Cherryl Arnold-Moore of the campus Educational Equity Services.

The program nurtures promising students with research opportunities, advanced writing seminars, tutoring, financial aid counseling and preparation for graduate school entrance exams. It also pairs students with faculty mentors who oversee a six-week summer research internship paying $2,000. The students' research will be published in the newly established McNair Journal.

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