Advancing Innovation and Impact in Undergraduate STEM Education at Two-year Institutions of Higher Education

Name Email Phone Room
Pushpa  Ramakrishna (703) 292-2943   
Virginia  C. Carter (703) 292-4651   
Ellen  M. Carpenter (703) 292-5104   
Michael  J. Davis (703) 292-7166   


Apply to PD 21-7980 as follows:

Full proposals submitted via FastLane or NSF Proposal & Award Policies & Procedures Guide proposal preparation guidelines apply.

Full proposals submitted via NSF Application Guide: A Guide for the Preparation and Submission of NSF Applications via guidelines apply.

Important Information for Proposers

A revised version of the NSF Proposal & Award Policies & Procedures Guide (PAPPG) (NSF 20-1), is effective for proposals submitted, or due, on or after June 1, 2020. Please be advised that, depending on the specified due date, the guidelines contained in NSF 20-1 may apply to proposals submitted in response to this funding opportunity.


NSF’s Education and Human Resources Directorate seeks to significantly enhance its support for research, development, implementation, and assessment to improve STEM education at the Nation’s two-year colleges. NSF encourages bold, potentially transformative projects that address immediate challenges facing STEM education at two-year colleges and/or anticipate new structures and functions of the STEM learning and teaching enterprise. This program description is a targeted approach for advancing innovative and evidence-based practices in undergraduate STEM education at two-year colleges.  It also seeks to support systemic approaches to advance inclusive and equitable STEM education practices.


The Nation’s prosperity and security require a STEM-literate public and a well-prepared STEM workforce. Two-year colleges have pivotal roles in achieving both of these educational goals, as well as in providing equitable access to STEM career paths1.  Each year, the nation’s more than 1000 two-year colleges award degrees and certificates to 11.8 million students.2  Among U.S. students who earned Science & Engineering bachelor’s degrees between 2010 and 2017, about half (47%) had done some coursework at a community college and nearly a fifth (18%) earned associate’s degrees3.  In addition, members of underrepresented minority groups are more likely to have attended community colleges and to have earned an associate degree as part of their education.1 As such, two-year colleges are major contributors to the diversity of the Nation’s STEM workforce. This program description will enable NSF to provide more support for STEM education initiatives at two-year colleges. 

Projects will be expected to build on prior fundamental and/or applied research in STEM education and provide theoretical and empirical justification for proposed projects as needed. Projects will also be expected to be research-informed and to result in field-tested outcomes and products that enhance STEM teaching and learning at two-year colleges.

Potential Outcomes of Interest: NSF is interested in projects with potential outcomes that include, but are not limited to: 1) making systemic improvements in STEM education; 2) promoting diversity, equity, and inclusion; 3) mitigating the disproportionate impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on two-year colleges.

Potential Approaches of Interest: Of particular interest are projects that aim to advance undergraduate STEM education by: improving student outcomes in foundational STEM courses; broadening and/or creating new STEM curricula; providing STEM students with authentic research experiences, internships, and other experiential learning opportunities; increasing access to high quality STEM education through new technologies; re- or up-skilling incumbent workers for new STEM jobs; building STEM career and seamless transfer pathways; developing novel mechanisms to identify talent and recruit into STEM programs.  In all cases, NSF is interested in projects that include substantive public and private partnerships that contribute towards advancing STEM education.

STEM Disciplines: In addition to proposals in traditional STEM fields at two-year colleges, NSF particularly encourages submissions to the disciplines of national priority such as quantum information science, artificial intelligence, robotics, process engineering, and cybersecurity.

Scale and Budget: Projects may focus on different time scales, from near-, to long-term challenges and opportunities, and can range from small, exploratory investigations to large, comprehensive projects. Proposal budgets should be commensurate with the scope and scale of the proposed work and level of effort.

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What Has Been Funded (Recent Awards Made Through This Program, with Abstracts)

Map of Recent Awards Made Through This Program