Vanguard University in Costa Mesa has been awarded a five-year, $3.75 million grant through the U.S. Department of Education’s Developing Hispanic-serving institutions program.

Vanguard said it’s the largest grant it’s received in its nearly 100-year history. It said it will use this grant to increase retention and graduation rates among Hispanic and low-income transfer students and develop partnerships with local community colleges to enhance transfer rates. Vanguard is a federally-designated Hispanic-serving institution, one of three in Orange County.

Students benefiting from this grant will be able to earn their single-subject teaching credentials while completing their bachelor’s degrees in science, technology, engineering and mathematics, known as STEM fields, according to the university.

Vanguard said it plans to launch an Integrated STEM Teach Achievement program in 2019, pending approval by the California Commission on Teaching Credentialing and Western Association of Schools & Colleges. This program is designed to decrease the number of science teaching vacancies by training prospective educators in chemistry and biology to receive bachelor degrees and teaching credentials in four years. The university will also introduce, beginning in fall 2018, an intensive pedagogical and research experiences program designed as a postdoctoral training program.

Vanguard said it will also use grant proceeds to partner with Orange Coast College, also in Costa Mesa, on a four-year program for teacher preparation. The university’s planned STEM transfer with excellence program will provide access to teacher preparation for community college students and support them through that transition, according to Vanguard.