Sunday, October 26th, 2014

The Obameter

Increase research opportunities for college students


"Will support university programs that partner NASA, DOT, DOD and NOAA with academia to provide hands-on training experiences at the college level."


Updates

Many agencies are partnering on science, technology, engineering and math education programs

During the 2008 presidential campaign, Barack Obama promised to "support university programs that partner” with federal agencies "to provide hands-on training experiences at the college level."

A study ordered by Congress and overseen by the White House's Office of Science and Technology Policy provides substantial evidence of such programs.

The report, released in December 2011, catalogs federal investments in "STEM” education -- that is, science, technology, engineering and mathematics education. The report found that federal agencies spent $3.4 billion on STEM efforts in fiscal year 2010.

The report listed 252 distinct programs that qualified as STEM investments, including some from each of the four agencies specifically cited in Obama's promise.

Not all of the STEM investments collected in the report funded programs that "provide hands-on training experiences at the college level.” But many did.

Just over one-third of the expenditures were geared towards increasing the number of students who enroll in STEM majors or complete STEM credentialing programs. Another quarter of the expenditures were focused on preparing students to enter the workforce with specific knowledge and skills.

And of the investments serving students (as opposed to teachers or other targeted groups), two-thirds were targeted towards undergraduates or graduate students.

Here are just a few projects cited in the report that seem to fit Obama's definition:

• Agriculture Department: "Agriculture in the Classroom: Secondary and Postsecondary Agriculture Education Challenge Grants”

• Commerce Department: "National Ocean Service Education”

• Energy Department: "American Chemical Society Summer School in Nuclear and Radiochemistry”

• Department of Health & Human Services: "Summer Institute for Training in Biostatistics”

• NASA: "Reduced Gravity Student Flight Opportunity Project”

We should note that many of these programs existed before Obama took office, and also that the report doesn't provide funding figures past fiscal year 2010, so it's hard to know if funding for these programs is higher now than they were when he took office.

Still, in evaluating whether Obama has stuck to his pledge, we think his administration is funding so many STEM education programs that it merits a Promise Kept.

Sources:

National Science and Technology Council, "The Federal Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) Education Porfolio," December 2011

Email interview with Barry Toiv, vice president for public affairs at the Association of American Universities, Nov. 26, 2012

President boosts scientific education initiatives; details still emerging

During the presidential campaign, Barack Obama said that his administration would "support university programs that partner NASA, DOT, DOD and NOAA with academia to provide hands-on training experiences at the college level."

Given the way federal budgets are organized, it's hard to nail down proof that these specific efforts are under way. But it's reasonable to expect that an ongoing presidential initiative will help carry out this proimise.

Obama is making a broad push on science, technology, education and mathematics (or "STEM") education known as the "Educate to Innovate" initiative. On Jan. 6, 2010, Obama announced "several new and innovative partnerships involving major companies, universities, foundations, nonprofit organizations and government agencies designed to attract, develop, reward and retain outstanding educators" in the STEM fields.

In the final fiscal year 2010 appropriations bill for science, science education programs received $1.2 billion, $113 million above 2009. "The federal investment is intended to promote all aspects of STEM education from kindergarten through graduate school, with a particular emphasis placed on inquiry-based, hands-on approaches," said the congressional appropriations committees in a joint statement.

It's not yet guaranteed that any or all of the four agencies cited will see net increases in funding for "hands-on training experiences at the college level." But the administration has clearly made science education a priority, so as we wait for further details to emerge, we'll rate this promise In the Works.

Sources:

House and Senate appropriations committees, summary of fiscal 2010 Commerce-Justice-Science appropriations bill (joint news release), Dec. 8, 2009

The White House, "President Obama Expands "Educate to Innovate” Campaign for Excellence in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) Education" (news release), Jan. 6, 2010,

E-mail interview with Bob Hansen, spokesman for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Office of Education, Jan. 12, 2010

E-mail interview with Barry Toiv, vice president for public affairs at the Association of American Universities, Jan. 5, 2010