Pre-college engineering program may be gutted by Whitmer cuts

For more than 40 years there's been a program in Detroit giving kids an educational boost towards a career in science and engineering.

But Gov. Gretchen Whitmer's latest budget plan is putting the future of that successful program in jeopardy.

"I saw my first women engineers teaching classes at DAPCEP, so I knew it was more than possible," said one woman. "No one had to tell me it was more than possible. even though I didn't see my face in my STEM classes in college, I always had that core group of DAPCEP alumni to come back to."

Those stories are a dime a dozen among DAPCEP alumni. But there could be fewer of them.

The Detroit area pre-college engineering program, which spent more than 40 years getting kids involved in the Science, Technology Engineering and Math fields, is bracing for a major hit.

It is being cut from Whitmer's proposed budget and could lose nearly a half million dollars in funding.

"Without that funding 1600 students will not be served in some way, shape or form," said Michelle Reaves, the organization's executive director. 

Reaves says the state funding helps them lower costs allowing the non-profit to expose thousands of Detroit kids to careers in science, tech, engineering and math. 

"We know that cost is always a barrier for programs such as these," Reaves said. "We try to remove all the barriers that we can to help as many students as possible."

"Parents are actually devastated. our parents, our alum. They understand the importance of the program."

FOX 2 met with three DAPCEP alumni at Cobo Thursday. that's where the national society of black engineers is holding its annual convention.

"I wouldn't be an engineer without DAPCEP," said one woman. "They introduced me to engineering in the 4th grade and they put me on the campus at U of M in the 7th grade I fell in love and I ended up going to U-M for my engineering degree."

Luree Brown now is a launch engineer at Ford Motor Company. Tiffani Dickerson is with the Department of Defense.

Renee Hudson a quality assurance engineer at Stock X.

"DAPCEP means a lot, especially for my family because of DAPCEP both my older sister and myself are now engineers and just giving us confidence knowing that we could go into this field," Hudson said.

And according to some studies women of color comprise less than two percent of engineers in the workforce. And speaking of the workforce, experts say metro Detroit doesn't have the highly educated, tech-savvy kind that meshes well with the jobs and companies of the 21st century. Think Amazon passing on Detroit in its now dead H2Q campaign.

FOX 2: "It seems like if there's any time to invest in stem programs, it's now. it is now."

"It is now," Reaves said. "For instance the top 50 jobs in the state through 2026, 25 of those require a technical degree. We are hoping that our students fill that gap. we are trying to prepare them for those technical careers that are coming in the future. 

"That's what we've been doing for 42 years and we want to continue to be that driving force for students who may not ever understand what a STEM career could offer." 

The governor's press secretary says DAPCEP has ended up in the budget for the past 3 to 4 years despite not being in the executive budget.

Even so the non-profit is urging parents to contact their lawmakers so they don't lose funding. DAPCEP will plead its case with a senate committee in Lansing in a few weeks.