Washington Watch: Recent federal STEM grant opportunities


To promote STEM education (science, technology, engineering and math), several federal agencies — including the U.S. Education Department — recently announced a few STEM-related funding opportunities. 

In April, ED released two notices for fiscal year 2021 awards: one was for the Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness for Undergraduates Program (GEAR UP) partnership grants and the other for the Hispanic-Serving Institutions (HSIs) STEM and Articulation Program

One of the activities that GEAR UP funds, which aim to help low-income high school students obtain a diploma and prepare for higher education, can be used is for dual or concurrent enrollment in STEM programs. Generally, GEAR UP is a priority for the American Association of Community Colleges. Applications are due June 28. 

The HSI-STEM and Articulation Program is a competitive grant program whose twofold purpose also constitutes an absolute priority. It aims to increase the number of Hispanic and low-income students who earn degrees in STEM fields and to develop mechanisms, such as transfer and articulation agreements, which promote two-year HSI students to pursue STEM fields at four-year institutions. (Two-year public institutions represent about 40% of all HSIs.) 

Applications that fail to address the absolute priority will not be considered. Applicants may earn up to 10 additional points for addressing two competitive preference priorities. These include offering work-based learning, such as internships and apprenticeships, aligning learning objectives with employer demands, and providing student supports to enhance retention. An additional “invitational priority” that doesn’t bring additional points involves providing wraparound services for Covid-affected students. June 14 is the deadline for these applications. 

Funds for women, teachers and racial equity

Several departments and agencies also have funding resources for STEM education and training. The U.S. Department of Labor recently announced the Women in Apprenticeship and Nontraditional Occupations (WANTO) Technical Assistance Grant Program, which will fund up to 10 grants totaling $3.5 million. The grants aim to increase and retain the number of women through training and mentorship in registered apprenticeships and other employment opportunities in nontraditional occupations, such as cybersecurity and healthcare. While women comprise half of workers, only about 12% of registered apprentices are women. Apply by June 4.

The National Science Foundation (NSF) has issued a request for applications (RFA) for the Robert Noyce Teacher Scholarship Program, which will provide about $67 million for 55 to 70 awards from two to five years. Postsecondary institutions, including community colleges, that offer teacher preparation programs can apply. There are five award tracks: stipends, scholarships, fellowships, research and capacity building. The RFA calls for plans to “recruit, prepare, and retain highly effective K-12 STEM teachers in high-need school districts.” Full proposals are due August 31. 

The goal of the NSF’s solicitation for proposals for racial equity in STEM education is to fund projects that can change systemic racism in STEM. Partnerships that include a wide array of organizations, including community colleges, may submit full proposals by July 13, October 12 and March 22, 2022. 

Other opportunities

The Office of Naval Research released a funding opportunity announcement for grants ranging from $50,000 and $600,000 for a total of $12 million to higher education institutions and other groups. The office seeks proposals that help to “establish, build, and/or maintain STEM educational pathways of U.S. citizens directly relevant to the needs of Department of Navy’s (DON) current and future workforce.” Applications are due October 8.

Myriad organizations, including postsecondary institutions, can apply for the 2021 NASA Teams Engaging Affiliated Museums and Informal Institutions (TEAM II) grants. The notice of funding opportunity is for two types of proposals: Community Anchor Awards, ranging from $20,000 to $25,000 for one to two years, due June 17, and Standard Awards, ranging from $500,000 to $800,000 for two to four years, due July 19.

STEM funding resources and other STEM-related information, such as webinars, reports and announcements, are available in ED’s STEM newsletter.  

About the Author

Jolanta Juszkiewicz
is director of policy analysis at the American Association of Community Colleges.