Innovation Lightbulb: Federal STEM Funding for Minority Serving Institutions

Innovation Lightbulb Banner
Remote Visualization

Broadening the STEM workforce pipeline to include underrepresented communities is a key national priority. This week, we explore federal STEM funding patterns for Minority Serving Institutions (MSIs) from 2021 to 2024. 

Aggregating budget data from federal science and technology (S&T) agencies reveals a clear increase in funding for MSIs since 2021. This trend is most pronounced in agencies without a strong presence supporting STEM initiatives for minority and underrepresented communities. The Department of Energy (DOE) has enacted significant funding increases in this area. It has developed new initiatives such as the Reaching a New Energy Sciences Workforce (RENEW) and Funding for Accelerated, Inclusive Research (FAIR) programs and increased the budget of its longstanding Minority-Serving Institutions Partnership Program (MSIPP). Together these investments have brought DOE’s MSI funding from $26.8 million in 2021 to $152.5 million in 2023.  

Similarly, the Department of Defense (DOD) has nearly doubled the size of its minority workforce initiative from $50.8 million in 2020 to $96.8 million in 2023. These increases have funded more research and equipment grants and supported the DOD’s Centers of Excellence project at MSIs such as the new Aerospace Education, Research and Innovation Center at Tuskegee University. In addition, NIST has developed a new initiative aiming to increase minority representation in its workforce in 2022. NIST’s presence in this space will increase as initiatives such as the HBCU CHIPS Network, announced in February 2024, take effect.  

The largest federal funder of MSI STEM programs is the National Science Foundation (NSF), providing upwards of a $1 billion to these institutions annually. It recorded the largest nominal increase in MSI STEM funding from $999 million in 2020 to $1.15 billion in 2022. Cumulatively, these targeted programs complement regionally focused federal initiatives such as EDA’s Regional Technology and Innovation Hub program and the NSF’s Regional Innovation Engines, which include language encouraging collaboration with MSIs in their grant applications. 

These programs across federal agencies show the importance attached to increasing minority representation in STEM despite significant budgetary constraints. However, their impact is in jeopardy if inadequately funded. Congress needs to provide the requisite appropriations to these agencies to ensure these funding initiatives have a long runway and don’t come at the cost of other core programs. 

Data visualization by William Taylor

Tisyaketu Sirkar

Former Research Intern, Renewing American Innovation Project