SALT LAKE CITY — Westminster College's McNair Scholars Program has been renewed for another five years by a $1.15 million U.S. Department of Education grant, the college announced Tuesday.

Westminster's program, the only McNair Scholars Program in Utah, serves students at Westminster, the University of Utah and Salt Lake Community College. It is a federally funded effort to increase diversity in higher education by helping students from underrepresented groups attain a college education.

The Westminster renewal comes during a time when funding for McNair Scholars Programs nationwide was cut by $10 million, according to Westminster officials. The program began in Utah in January 2004.

"Thankfully, our program was refunded, but nationally the loss is devastating," said Mary Jo Hinsdale, director of the program at Westminster. "If funding is not restored, the nation stands to lose the vital talents of hundreds of low-income, first-generation and underrepresented students who would become our next generation of researchers and professors."

This fall, the Westminster program welcomed six new students. The program will also institute a science, technology, engineering and mathematics — or STEM — component that will serve students from the SLCC School of Science, Mathematics and Engineering.