SIOUX CENTER, Iowa (KCAU) — The National Science Foundation has given Dordt University a grant totaling more than $1 million.

According to a release from Dordt, the $1,199,997 grant will be given to STEM students through scholarships over the next five years. STEM programs include the fields of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics.

This grant comes from the Robert Noyce Scholarship program which is a renewal of a grant the university received from the National Science Foundation six years ago, the release said.

The scholarships provided are available to juniors and seniors and total $14,500 per year.

“The scholarships are $14,500 per year, eligible for juniors and seniors,” said Dr. Valorie Zonnefeld, professor of mathematics and the principal investigator for the grant. “There is a two-year requirement to teach in a high needs school for each year that the scholarship is received.”

The goal of the grant is to address a shortage of STEM teachers nationwide, primarily in rural schools. The release said that approximately 54% of these fields are unfilled.

“A unique challenge for STEM teachers in rural districts is that they are often the only STEM expert in the district,” wrote Zonnefeld and her co-principal investigator team in their proposal. “This requires teachers to not only teach all the high school math and science courses but to also lead STEM education initiatives for the district.”

The release said that due to Dordt’s rural location, they can help address this need.

Dordt’s professor of education, Dr. David Mulder, said that one of the reasons Dordt was founded was to prepare teachers.

“Removing a financial barrier is a huge benefit for getting more folks interested in STEM to join the teaching profession. I have the privilege of serving as academic adviser for many of our Noyce Scholars, and these scholarships are a big deal for them achieving their goals of becoming math, science, or engineering teachers.”