STEM education

Fixing America’s STEM Problem: Funding Opportunities

America is way behind in the STEM disciplines and if this is not reversed now, the U.S. will lose its economic strength. Fifty-one nations are more effectively teaching their students to compete in a technological society than the U.S. This makes educating America’s youth a national security priority. Given the urgency to educate U.S. students in math and science, numerous donors are making funding available. Grant opportunities for STEM education are more abundant than ever. Some of these initiatives are:


The multi-agency Committee on STEM Education (CoSTEM) has generated four new grants for 2015 that shift the focus to the teachers. These four funding opportunities will facilitate and encourage teachers and education administrators to develop additional high-quality STEM programs and lessons by sponsoring the following:

  • STEM Innovation Proposal – This $170 million grant program will be divided among those who can demonstrate fresh ideas and new techniques to teach the next generation of innovators.
  • STEM Innovation Networks – School district and college partnerships are the target of this $110 million program. The goal is to increase the number of students in STEM field career tracks.
  • STEM Teacher Pathways – Recruitment and training of STEM teachers is the primary directive of this $40 million program.
  • National STEM Master Teacher Corps – $20 million has been dedicated to recognition and assistance for outstanding STEM teachers who are having a real impact in their communities.


The National Science Foundation (NSF) offers ten STEM-focused grant programs, each with numerous possible directions for proposals. Primarily, the NSF focuses on undergraduate and higher levels of education; however, the agency does partner with organizations and other agencies to augment secondary STEM education. Also, the Broader Impacts section of each NSF proposal must include an outreach component in order to strengthen STEM education. Typical NSF STEM grant programs are:

  • Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics Talent Expansion Program (STEP) – The goal of STEP is to increase the number of students earning undergraduate degrees in STEM disciplines, with awards between $50,000 and $1.5 million.
  • Improving Undergraduate STEM Education (IUSE: EHR) – This program seeks to make STEM undergraduate education a better-supported set of disciplines, whether by improving student learning experiences or institutional program reform. Awards range from $94,000 to $2 million.

Department of Education

More than thirty-four programs at the U.S. Department of Education focus on or give priority to STEM education. With the recent movement toward STEM-oriented disciplines, even more programs will be developed. The Department of Education supports all levels of education, and many K-12 school systems depend on this funding. Two examples of STEM grant programs are:

  • Mathematics and Science Partnerships – The goal of this program is to improve math and science education via partnerships between K-12 school systems or education programs and STEM professionals, and between teachers and institutions of higher education for training purposes.
  • Minority Science and Engineering Improvement Program – This initiative solicits long-term projects to increase the number of people from underrepresented groups, especially women.

Private Foundations

An increasing number of private foundations are taking the initiative to solve the STEM education problem in America. Support for teacher training, innovation in the classroom, or undergraduate research is available from many organizations, from local community nonprofits to globally recognized foundations. Some examples are:

  • Gates Foundation – A technology component and teacher support are required for the CollegeReady program, which seeks to improve personalized learning in the classroom.
  • Alfred P. Sloan Foundation – The Leadership Diversity program seeks to sponsor faculty positions and professional development for underrepresented groups.
  • Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers Foundation – The Noche de Ciencias program sponsors a series of informative and interactive student activities throughout the community to generate an interest of the STEM disciplines in Hispanic students.
  • Burroughs Wellcome Fund – Promoting Innovation in Science and Mathematics (PrISM) awards are granted to exceptional K-12 teachers for classroom support in STEM education.

The call to action from these organizations has broadened the horizons for those who have been seeking to make a difference in their classrooms or institutions. Innovative, creative, and outcome- and student-centered approaches are what will drive the changes toward correcting America’s STEM education problem.

Mathilda Harris

Over the past 18 years, she has written grants, conducted capital campaigns, developed strategic plans for grant procurement, and assisted individuals and institutions to write winning proposals for various donors.

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