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May 4, 2017 

Congress enacts funding for a NSF program focused on HSIs

On May 4, funding for a National Science Foundation (NSF) grant program supporting undergraduate science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) education at Hispanic-Serving Institutions (HSIs) was approved by the 115th Congress as part of the final Fiscal Year 2017 Omnibus spending bill. This new funding has been a key goal of the Hispanic Association of Colleges and Universities (HACU) for many years.

The Commerce-Justice-Science portion of the appropriations bill “…also directs NSF to establish an Hispanic Serving Institution (HSI) program at no less than $15,000,000 as authorized in 42 U.S.C. 1862o-12. The agreement encourages NSF to use this program to build capacity at institutions of higher education that typically do not receive high levels of NSF grant funding.”

The 114th Congress had reauthorized the American Innovation and Competitiveness Act, also known as America COMPETES Act, which included similar language directing the NSF to “…award grants on a competitive, merit-reviewed basis to Hispanic-serving institutions.” No funding, however, was attached to this earlier bill. NSF now has both program authority and specific funding to create the HSI program.

“This new source of support for STEM infrastructure development at Hispanic-Serving Institutions is long overdue. Hispanics make up 17 percent of the U.S. workforce, but received only 6.8 percent of the doctoral degrees in science and engineering awarded to U.S. citizens or permanent residents in 2015,” said HACU President and CEO Antonio R. Flores. “Almost two thirds of Hispanic college students are enrolled at HSIs, and while the number of students and HSIs continues to grow, HSIs remain dramatically underfunded. This new program is critical to meeting U.S. STEM workforce needs of the future.”

HACU commends the members of the 115th Congress for their support of this first-time funding and thanks these members for their strong support and commitment to HSIs: Representatives Joseph Crowley (NY), Jose Serrano (NY), Henry Cuellar (TX), Nita Lowey (NY) and House Appropriations Committee Chairman John Culberson (TX), as well as Senators Richard Shelby (AL), Jeanne Shaheen (NH), Patrick Leahy (VT) and Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Thad Cochran (MS). 

HACU Member Advisories are a service of the Hispanic Association of Colleges and Universities (HACU)