NSF Seeks New Approach to Helping Minority Students in Science

March 17, 2010 at 9:58 am Leave a comment

Yesterday, at Betsy diSalvo’s proposal defense, I got to talk to Willie Pearson (another member of Betsy’s committee, and an expert on the sociology of science, including science education) about this development — that several minority-serving programs are being merged into one larger, umbrella program at NSF.  He seemed to think it’s a good idea.  There is a risk that one group might get more funding while another group gets less (or even ignored) in this new umbrella model.  However, it also brings new players to the table.  For example, Georgia Tech was unable to apply for some of the earlier funding (e.g., since it’s not an HBCU), but would be able to apply now to fund the variety of efforts that we have going on in supporting minorities pursuing STEM education (e.g., Georgia Tech is top in the country in producing African American and Hispanic engineering doctorates).

In place of those programs, the science foundation would get $103-million to run a program called Comprehensive Broadening Participation of Undergraduates in STEM, in which “STEM” refers to science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. The budget for the new program, part of the $6-billion that the NSF spends each year to support academic research, would be 14 percent greater than the amount now spent on the three programs proposed for elimination.

The director of the National Science Foundation, Arden L. Bement Jr., described the plans on Wednesday…”Linear growth is no longer acceptable,” Mr. Bement told lawmakers, “so we have to go into geometric growth.”

via NSF Seeks New Approach to Helping Minority Students in Science – Government – The Chronicle of Higher Education.

Just to place some context here: This new program (in the Education and Human Resources (EHR) Directorate in NSF) will be funded at just over $100 million.  The sum total of all funding for computing education in the Computing and Information Sciences and Engineering (CISE) Directorate at NSF (i.e., the sum of BPC and CPATH programs) is around $20 million.  If we want to build large programs that have dramatic impact in computing education, the funding is in EHR.  CISE can start up programs, can build prototypes and models, and can point the way.  We can start things in CISE, but if we really want to build large interventions, we need to go after EHR funding.

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