Comments on NSF Draft Concept Paper - July 29, 2010
by Dr. Robert Barnhill on Tuesday, Jan 18, 2011
Comments on the proposed changes by NSF in its Broadening Participation Programs: the Louis Stokes Alliances for Minority Participation (LSAMP), the Historically Black Colleges and Universities Undergraduate Program (HBCU-UP) and the Tribal Colleges and Universities Program (TCUP).
From: SACNAS (Society for Advancement of Chicanos and Native Americans in Science)
Named by the National Science Board as the "premier organization promoting diversity in science careers” and winner of the 2004 Presidential Award for Excellence in Science, Mathematics, and Engineering Mentoring, SACNAS is a society of scientists dedicated to fostering the success of Hispanic/Chicano and Native American scientists—from college students to professionals—to attain advanced degrees, careers, and positions of leadership. The organization serves over 23,000 people year-round and has 4,000 undergraduate, graduate, postdoctoral, and professional paid members representing all scientific disciplines.
The National Science Foundation (NSF) has proposed to consolidate its Broadening Participation Programs into one overarching program, which includes a modest increase in the current budget of approximately $100 million annually. A significant change in this consolidation would include opening the competition for funding to all universities and non- profits versus allocating meager, but effective budgets to current programs.
Given the vast resources and infrastructure of research intensive universities and their lack of commitment to serve underrepresented minority (URM) students, compared to HBCUs, many Hispanic-serving institutions (HSIs) and TCUs, it is imperative that any grants awarded to research intensive institutions lead to deeper collaborations between majority and minority- serving institutions.
The NSF has not presented evidence that shows how the proposed changes would increase participation of underrepresented minorities in science and engineering. In fact, it may have the exact opposite result. The past track record of majority institutions with respect to providing access to and educating URM science students would need considerable improvement, a commitment thus far not demonstrated.
It is not clear whether this particular proposal by the NSF affects newly proposed programs for Hispanic-serving Institutions (HSIs). There is a proposed authorization for science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) funding for HSIs elsewhere in this legislation. HSIs are a diverse group of research intensive and predominantly teaching institutions with varying capacities for sponsored research, but all with a shared commitment to increase the full participation of Hispanics in science. We strongly endorse a new program for funding STEM initiatives at HSIs.
SACNAS recommends the following actions:
Additional funding for the LSAMP, HBCU-UP and TCUP programs.
Funding for an analogous program for the HSIs; funding a HSI program should not reduce funding from the three existing programs.
The lead institution in collaborations between majority and minority serving institutions must be a minority serving institution.
We also raise concerns specific to the potential dismantling of the Tribal College and University Program. Tribal colleges, which are also land grant institutions, address the needs of the smallest underrepresented minority population in the United States. While there are relatively few Tribal Colleges, they uniquely serve reservation based Indians in a way that creates an educated workforce for capacity building on their own lands where unemployment is rampant. Tribal colleges have benefited greatly with funding from the TCUP program in the past, and dismantling the program will be a blow from which the colleges may not recover. Continued investment in their human resources will maintain and expand opportunities for a better educated science workforce prepared to meet the needs of Indian Nations and the country as a whole.
Regarding the three existing programs, SACNAS endorses the recent statement from the Senate Appropriations Committee, “These three programs each have different purposes and engage students and colleges and universities in a different manner. One size will not fit all. The Committee directs NSF to maintain HBCU-UP at $32,000,000; LSAMP at $44,750,000; and T-CUP at $14,000,000. Any remaining funding available for undergraduate/graduate student support may be used for an integrated broadening participation of undergraduates in STEM that includes institutions eligible for these three programs as well as institutions eligible under section 7033 of the America COMPETES Act (Public Law 110-69).”