Rep. Johnson Introduces Legislation to Broaden Participation in STEM Education
On April 24, Ranking Member Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX) of the House Science, Space, and Technology Committee introduced the Broadening Participation in STEM Education Act (H.R. 4483). This bill aims to increase the number of students from underrepresented minority groups who receive undergraduate degrees in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) disciplines. It also seeks to increase the number of STEM faculty members from underrepresented minority groups at institutions of higher education.
The Broadening Participation in STEM Education Act would call on the Director of the National Science Foundation (NSF) to award competitive grants to colleges and universities for research-based programs that would recruit and retain underrepresented minority students in undergraduate STEM fields. The grants could be used for STEM programs that would include tutoring or mentoring; outreach to minority K-12 students; faculty development; and efforts to increase and support minority participation in academic STEM careers.
When introducing the bill on the House floor, Rep. Johnson said, “The U.S. faces a severe shortfall in students graduating with degrees in STEM fields. With approximately 20 percent of our undergraduate degrees awarded in science and engineering disciplines, we rank 27th among developed nations in producing graduates qualified for 21st Century STEM careers. Statistics become even more alarming when you look at the number of students from underrepresented minority groups who receive degrees in STEM disciplines. As of 2011, only about 8 percent of 24 years-olds from these groups had obtained a bachelor’s degree in a science or engineering discipline.”
She continued, “This is more than just a question of equity. We have a vast, untapped pool of talent in America, and this pool is continuing to grow. It is estimated that, by 2050, 52 percent of the U.S. population will be from underrepresented minority groups. We have to drastically increase the number of students from these groups receiving degrees in STEM disciplines or we will undoubtedly relinquish our global leadership in innovation and job creation.”
The bill is endorsed by groups that include the American Association of University Women (AAUW), the American Society for Engineering Education (ASEE), the National Action Council for Minorities in Education (NACME), and the Society of Women Engineers (SWE). The bill’s ten cosponsors, all democrats, are Representatives Emanuel Cleaver, II (D-MO), John Conyers, Jr. (D-MI), Danny Davis (D-IL), Marcia Fudge (D-OH), Rubén Hinojosa (D-TX), Jesse Jackson, Jr. (D-IL), Ben Ray Luján (D-NM), Silvestre Reyes (D-TX), Bobby L. Rush (D-IL), and Frederica Wilson (D-FL). The legislation was referred for consideration to the House Subcommittee on Research and Science Education.