Crowley, Luján, Serrano Lead Letter Urging White House to Implement Grant Program for Minority STEM Education

March 31, 2014
Press Release

(Washington, D.C.)  – Today, Reps. Joe Crowley (D-NY), Ben Ray Luján (D-NM) and José E. Serrano (D-NY), along with over 20 Democratic colleagues, announced they sent a letter to President Barack Obama urging him to direct the administration to move forward with the implementation of the Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) education grant program for Hispanic-Serving Institutions (HSIs) at the National Science Foundation (NSF), as authorized by Congress. This program would support designated Hispanic-Serving Institutions – where Hispanic students constitute at least a quarter of full-time enrollment – in faculty development, stipends for undergraduate research, and curriculum-improvement initiatives in these critical fields. Encouraging underrepresented minorities, such as Hispanic students, to enter STEM fields is crucial for our country to remain competitive in today’s global economy.

“…[W]e are concerned that the lack of a dedicated program for HSIs sends a negative message to the very students we need to reach. These students need to feel welcome in the science fields – particularly as the Hispanic population has been traditionally underrepresented…” write the lawmakers in the letter.

The letter continues: “Together, we can help Hispanic students reach their rightful place in the STEM fields, and we firmly believe that the implementation of a dedicated grant program for HSIs at the National Science Foundation is a critical first step.”

In 2007, Congress enacted language in the America COMPETES Act to create a dedicated NSF grant program for STEM education at HSIs, similar to programs that exist for other minority-serving institutions, such as those associated with historically black colleges and universities, and tribal colleges and universities. The language for the grant program was originally championed by Rep. Crowley as an amendment to the National Science Foundation Authorization Act of 2007. However, to date the NSF has not implemented this program. Without a specific program at the NSF to obtain grants for curriculum and infrastructure development, HSIs have been at a disadvantage in terms of recruiting and training students to enter STEM fields.

The full text of the letter to President Obama is below: