The House and Senate have advanced bills that propose steady or increased funding for most major STEM education programs across the federal government in fiscal year 2022, meeting or exceeding many of the Biden administration’s requested increases.
The appropriations bills are accompanied by explanatory reports from the House and Senate Appropriations Committees that contain policy direction for selected education programs. These are summarized below.
Department of Education
Among the Department of Education’s diversity efforts, the House proposes to nearly double the $13 million budget for the Minority Science and Engineering Improvement program, which aims to increase the participation of underrepresented groups in STEM fields and improve STEM education capacity at minority-serving institutions (MSIs). The Biden administration requested a $5 million increase, and the Senate’s proposal would nearly match that amount.
Through its Education Innovation and Research program, the department supports efforts to scale up evidence-based education reforms, and in recent years it has targeted a portion of the funds to STEM initiatives. The House proposes to increase that amount from $67 million to $82 million and states that funds should be used to “expand opportunities for underrepresented students such as minorities, girls, and youth from families living at or below the poverty line.” The Senate does not specify an amount but states generally that it supports STEM remaining a priority of the program.
For Career and Technical Education (CTE) programs, the House proposes to increase overall funding by 12% to $1.5 billion, slightly exceeding the request, while the Senate proposes a 5% increase. Within that amount, the House matches the request for $100 million in new funds for “competitive awards for middle and high school CTE innovation projects aimed at advancing equity, building the evidence base for what works in CTE, especially for underserved students, and scaling those effective practices,” while the Senate only allocates up to $15 million for that purpose.
The department also supports a variety of formula-based grant programs that support both STEM and non-STEM education activities. The House and Senate both propose to increase funding for Student Support and Academic Enrichment Grants from $1.22 billion to just over $1.3 billion, exceeding the request for flat funding, and the House states it expects a portion of the funds would go toward reducing “computer science enrollment and achievement gaps.” The House also proposes a $100 million increase for the $1.26 billion budget of the 21st Century Community Learning Centers program and a $150 million increase for the $2.14 billion budget of the Supporting Effective Instruction State Grants program, while the Senate proposes increases of around $50 million for each.
National Science Foundation
The Senate report explicitly endorses NSF’s request to increase the budget for its flagship Graduate Research Fellowship Program by 12% to $319 million. NSF has stated the increase would permit the program to increase its annual number of fellowship awards from 2,000 to 2,500.
Outside the regular appropriations process, the latest version of Democrats’ Build Back Better Act includes $668 million over five years for NSF to “fund or extend new and existing research awards, traineeships, scholarships, and fellowships,” as well as $25 million over seven years specifically for “activities and research to ensure broad demographic participation in the activities of the foundation.”
The House and Senate match the administration’s request to increase funding for NASA’s Office of STEM Engagement from $127 million to $147 million. Within that, both propose increasing the budget of the Minority University Research Education Program by $10 million to $48 million, and Senate appropriators encourage it to support efforts that “integrate Indigenous practices in science through educational programs for K–12 students and college students and the general public.” The Senate bill would also increase the Space Grant program budget by $6 million to $57 million, while the House proposes an increase to $60 million.
The Senate explicitly matches the administration’s request to increase the Science Mission Directorate’s STEM outreach budget by $10 million to $56 million. NASA stated in its budget request that the additional funding would support efforts to “combat social inequities” through “competitive selections, and augmented collaborations for rural, Indigenous, and other underserved areas; citizen science projects; and plans to use lessons-learned from past celestial and other milestone events to engage underserved communities.”
Department of Defense
The Department of Defense supports a variety of STEM education and outreach activities through the National Defense Education Program, including the SMART scholarships-for-service program. DOD requested to increase funding for SMART scholarships from $77 million to $89 million, to raise the annual number of awards from about 300 to 400, while seeking an overall NDEP budget of $112 million, which is $25 million less than its current level. The House proposes $116 million for NDEP, with $2 million of the increase over the request allocated to SMART scholarships, while the Senate proposes $147 million for the program, specifying that $20 million above the request go to STEM activities generally.
National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
The House matches the agency’s request to increase funding for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Office of Education by $8 million to $41 million, while the Senate proposes $39 million. Both proposals allocate $2 million of the increase to a program that supports MSIs. House appropriators also encourage NOAA to “prioritize improving Americans’ understanding of climate change, including providing formal and informal learning opportunities to individuals of all ages, including individuals of diverse cultural and linguistic backgrounds, emphasizing actionable information to help people understand and promote the implementation of new technologies, programs, and incentives related to climate change, climate adaptation and mitigation, and climate resilience.”