An institution may submit up to two proposals (either as a single institution or as a subawardee or a member of an inter-institutional consortia project (lead or co-lead) for a given S-STEM deadline. Multiple proposals from an institution must not overlap with regard to S-STEM eligible disciplines. See Additional Eligibility Information below for more details (see IV. Eligibility Information).
Institutions with a current S-STEM award should wait at least until the end of the third year of execution of their current award before submitting a new S-STEM proposal focused on students pursuing degrees in the same discipline(s).
The above restrictions do not apply to collaborative planning grant proposals.
Internal Deadline: Friday, October 13, 2023, 5pm PT
External Deadline: February 20, 2024 for Tracks 2, 3, & Collaborative Planning Grants; March 28, 2024 for Track 1 proposals
Recurring Deadlines: For Tracks 2, 3, & Collaborative Planning Grants: Third Tuesday in February, Annually Thereafter;
March 28, 2024 for Track 1 proposals and Fourth Thursday in March, Annually Thereafter
Award Type: Grant
Estimated Number of Awards: 50-90
Anticipated Award Amount: $80,000,000 to $120,000,000
Awards for Track 1 (Institutional Capacity Building) projects may not exceed $1,000,000 total for a maximum duration of 6 years.
Awards for Track 2 (Implementation: Single Institution) projects may not exceed $2,500,000 total for a maximum duration of 6 years.
Awards for Track 3 (Inter-institutional Consortia) projects may not exceed $5,000,000 total for a maximum duration of 6 years.
Collaborative Planning projects may not exceed $100,000 for a maximum duration of 1 year.
Who May Serve as PI:
For Track 1 (Institutional Capacity Building) and Track 2 (Implementation: Single Institution) projects, the Principal Investigator must be (a) a faculty member currently teaching in an S-STEM eligible discipline, or (b) an academic administrator who has taught in an S-STEM eligible discipline in the past two years. The Principal Investigator must be able to provide the leadership and time required to ensure the success of the project. Projects involving more than one department within an institution are eligible, but a single Principal Investigator must accept overall management and leadership responsibility. Faculty from all departments involved need to have roles in the project as either Co-Principal Investigators, senior personnel or scholar mentors. Other members of the S-STEM project senior leadership and management team may be listed as Co-Principal Investigators.
For Track 3 (Inter-institutional Consortia) projects, the Principal Investigator must be (a) a faculty member currently teaching in an S-STEM eligible discipline, (b) an academic administrator who has taught an S-STEM eligible discipline in the past two years, or (c) a non-teaching institutional, educational, or social science researcher investigating questions related to low-income student success. The Principal Investigator must be able to provide the leadership and time required to ensure the success of the project. Track 3 consortium proposals must have a Principal Investigator who accepts overall management and leadership responsibility across all consortia members. Faculty from all institutions and departments involved need to have roles in the project as either Co-Principal investigators, senior personnel or scholar mentors. Other members of the S-STEM project senior leadership and management team may be listed as Co-Principal Investigators or as Principal Investigators on collaborative research proposals.
Collaborative Planning grants are intended to help a collection of institutions plan for a future Inter-institutional Track 3 proposal. For Collaborative Planning grants, the Principal Investigator must be (a) a faculty member teaching in any S-STEM eligible discipline, or (b) a STEM administrator (department head or above) at one of the institutions within the envisioned inter-institutional consortia, or (c) a non-teaching institutional, educational, or social science researcher investigating questions related to low-income student success. The Principal Investigator on a Collaborative Planning grant must demonstrate the capacity to convene and lead a team of inter-institutional S-STEM eligible faculty, social science or educational researchers, and administrators focused on low-income student success to write the desired proposal in a 1-year timeframe
Link to Award: https://www.nsf.gov/pubs/2023/nsf23527/nsf23527.htm
Process for Limited Submissions
PIs must submit their application as a Limited Submission through the Research Initiatives and Infrastructure (RII) Application Portal: https://rii.usc.edu/oor-portal/. Use the template provided here: RII Limited Submission Applicant Template
Materials to submit include:
- (1) Two-Page Proposal Summary (1” margins; single-spaced; standard font type, e.g. Arial, Helvetica, Times New Roman, or Georgia typeface; font size: 11 pt). Page limit includes references and illustrations. Pages that exceed the 2-page limit will be excluded from review. You must use the template linked above.
- (2) CV – (5 pages maximum)
Note: The portal requires information about the PIs in addition to department and contact information, including the 10-digit USC ID#, Gender, and Ethnicity. Please have this material prepared before beginning this application.
The main goal of the S-STEM program is to enable low-income students with academic ability, talent or potential to pursue successful careers in promising STEM fields. Ultimately, the S-STEM program seeks to increase the number of low-income students who graduate with a S-STEM eligible degree and contribute to the American innovation economy with their STEM knowledge. Recognizing that financial aid alone cannot increase retention and graduation in STEM, the program provides awards to institutions of higher education (IHEs) not only to fund scholarships, but also to adapt, implement, and study evidence-based curricular and co-curricular activities that have been shown to be effective supporting recruitment, retention, transfer (if appropriate), student success, academic/career pathways, and graduation in STEM.
Social mobility for low-income students with academic potential is even more crucial than for students that enjoy other economic support structures. Hence, social mobility cannot be guaranteed unless the scholarship funds the pursuit of degrees in areas where rewarding jobs are available after graduation with an undergraduate or graduate degree.
The S-STEM program encourages collaborations, including but not limited to partnerships among different types of institutions; collaborations of S-STEM eligible faculty, researchers, and academic administrators focused on investigating the factors that affect low-income student success (e.g., institutional, educational, behavioral and social science researchers); and partnerships among institutions of higher education and business, industry, local community organizations, national labs, or other federal or state government organizations, as appropriate.
Scholars must be domestic low-income students, with academic ability, talent or potential and with demonstrated unmet financial need who are enrolled in an associate, baccalaureate, or graduate degree program in an S-STEM eligible discipline. Proposers must provide an analysis that articulates the characteristics and academic needs of the population of students they are trying to serve. NSF is particularly interested in supporting the attainment of degrees in fields identified as critical needs for the Nation. Many of these fields have high demand for training professionals that can operate at the convergence of disciplines and include but are not limited to quantum computing and quantum science, robotics, artificial intelligence and machine learning, computer science, data science and computational science applied to other frontier STEM areas and other STEM or technology fields in urgent need of domestic professionals. It is up to the proposer to make a compelling case that a field is a critical need field in the United States.
S-STEM Eligible Degree Programs
- Associate of Arts, Associate of Science, Associate of Engineering, and Associate of Applied Science
- Bachelor of Arts, Bachelor of Science, Bachelor of Engineering and Bachelor of Applied Science
- Master of Arts, Master of Science and Master of Engineering
S-STEM Eligible Disciplines
- Disciplinary fields in which research is funded by NSF, with the following exceptions:
- Clinical degree programs, including medical degrees, nursing, veterinary medicine, physical therapy, and others not funded by NSF, are ineligible degrees.
- Business school programs that lead to Bachelor of Arts or Science in Business Administration degrees (BABA/BSBA/BBA) are not eligible for S-STEM funding.
- Masters and Doctoral degrees in Business Administration are also excluded.
- Technology fields associated with the S-STEM-eligible disciplines (e.g., biotechnology, chemical technology, engineering technology, information technology).
Proposers are strongly encouraged to contact Program Officers before submitting a proposal if they have questions concerning degree or disciplinary eligibility.
The S-STEM program particularly encourages proposals from 2-year institutions, Minority Serving Institutions (MSIs), and urban, suburban and rural public institutions.
 an activity at a school or college pursued in addition to the normal course of study.
Description of Program Tracks: The following sections describe each track differences:
Track 1 (Institutional Capacity Building)
Track 1 projects seek to increase the participation of institutions that have never had an award from the S-STEM program or the STEM Talent Expansion (STEP) program. This requirement applies to the institution as a whole. One S-STEM or STEP award to any department or school within the institution makes the entire institution ineligible for a Track 1 award.
Track 1 projects must be led by a PI who is (a) a faculty member currently teaching in one of the S-STEM eligible disciplines being pursued by the targeted scholars, or (b) an academic administrator who has taught in one of the eligible disciplines within the two years prior to submission and can dedicate the time necessary to assure project success. The PI must be a member of the proposed project’s leadership and management team. The leadership and management team should also include a STEM administrator (department head or above). Faculty members from all departments or academic units involved should have a role in the project either as Co-PIs, senior personnel, or scholar mentors. The project team could include, if appropriate, a non-teaching institutional, educational, or social science researcher to support evidence-based responses to items raised by the external evaluator through formative evaluation. This additional researcher cannot take the place of the external evaluator.
Track 1 proposals may also include a focus on student transfer or progression to graduate school. In this case, if needed, two or more institutions could partner.
Track 1 proposals may request up to $750,000 total for up to 6 years.
Track 2 (Implementation: Single Institution)
Track 2 proposals have the same S-STEM goals as Track 1 proposals. They generally involve and benefit only one institution, but they will serve more scholars than Track 1 proposals. Any IHE (as described under the eligibility section) can submit a Track 2 proposal, whether or not the institution has received prior S-STEM or STEP awards.
Track 2 proposals may, in some cases, also include a focus on student transfer or progression to graduate school. In this case, if needed, two or more institutions could partner.
Track 2 projects must be led by a PI who is (a) a faculty member currently teaching in one of the S-STEM eligible disciplines being pursued by the targeted scholars, or (b) an academic administrator who has taught in one of the eligible disciplines in the last two years from submission and can dedicate the time necessary to assure project success. The PI must be a member of the proposed project’s leadership and management team. The leadership and management team should also include a STEM administrator (department head or above). Faculty members from all departments or academic units involved should have a role in the project either as Co-PIs, senior personnel, or scholar mentors. The project team could include, if appropriate, a non-teaching institutional, educational, or social science researcher to support evidence-based responses to items raised by the external evaluator through formative evaluation. This additional researcher cannot take the place of the external evaluator.
Proposals for Track 2 may request up to $1,500,000 total for up to 6 years.
Track 3 (Inter-institutional Consortia)
Track 3 projects support multi-institutional collaborations that focus on a common interest or challenge. For example, a collaboration among community colleges and four-year institutions may focus on issues associated with successful transfer of low-income students from 2-year institutions to 4-year programs. In another example, a multi-institutional collaboration may focus on investigating factors, such as self-efficacy or identity, which contribute to the success or degree attainment of domestic, low-income students in different types of institutions.
Proposals with a strong focus on the transfer or advancement of students from one educational level to another should collaborate with appropriate institutional partners. For example, proposals focused on the transfer of students from 2-year institutions to 4-year institutions should include faculty and administrators from 2-year institutions and 4-year institutions in the leadership team; likewise, proposals focusing on the advancement of undergraduate students at predominately undergraduate institutions to graduate programs should include institutions, administrators and Co-PIs representing both the undergraduate programs and the receiving graduate programs.
Track 3 projects have the same overall goals as Track 1 and 2 projects but seek to accomplish these goals at a very large scale by leveraging multi-institutional efforts and infrastructure. In addition to the expectations stated in section II.B.2 for all tracks, Track 3 projects are expected to:
- Establish an authentic, strong and mutually beneficial collaboration across all institutions involved in the consortia, providing comparable benefits to all institutions in terms of number of scholarships as well as in the infrastructure established to serve low-income students;
- Establish strong technical assistance and processes that support and manage project activities across institutions involved in the collaborative effort.
- Engage in high quality research to advance understanding of how to adapt, implement and scale up effective evidence-based programs and practices designed to foster positive outcomes for low-income students in STEM.
NSF does not favor a particular research design over others. How the chosen research methods and approaches are aligned with and appropriate for the research goals should be fully explained in the proposal. The ultimate goal of S-STEM is to support low-income students. Projects are strongly discouraged from allowing a desired sample size to play a role in the determination of the size of awarded scholarships.
Track 3 projects are managed by leadership and management teams composed of faculty members who are currently teaching in an S-STEM eligible discipline(s), STEM administrators, and non-teaching institutional, educational, or social science researchers. The PI of Track 3 proposals must be either (a) a faculty member currently teaching in one of the S-STEM eligible disciplines, (b) a STEM administrator (department head or above), or (c) a non-teaching researcher whose expertise is in institutional, educational, or social science research in higher education. Faculty from all the institutions and disciplines involved need to be included in the leadership team and/or senior personnel. The lead PI needs to demonstrate the capacity, experience and resources needed to manage a complex, large-scale project and the necessary time to dedicate to assure project success.
Track 3 proposals may request up to $5 million total for up to 6 years.
Track 3 projects will be reviewed by NSF during their third year to determine whether satisfactory progress has been made, with continued funding contingent on the result of the third-year review. See section VII.C on reporting requirements.
Collaborative Planning Grants to Develop an Inter-institutional Consortium
Collaborative Planning projects provide support for groups of two or more IHEs and other potential partner organizations to establish fruitful collaborations, increase understanding of complex issues faced by low-income students at each institution, establish inter-institutional agreements when necessary and develop mechanisms for cooperation in anticipation of a future Track 3 proposal that will benefit all institutions and their scholars as equal partners.
This category of projects aims to provide proposers from two or more institutions the funds and time to establish the relationships and agreements necessary for submitting an Inter-institutional Consortia S-STEM proposal. It is expected that proposers will be ready to write and submit this Inter-institutional Consortia proposal within 1-2 years of receiving a Collaborative Planning grant award. Any subsequent proposals to S-STEM based on this work must describe the results of the planning effort.
Inter-institutional Consortia projects represent diverse collaborations, including partnerships between 2-year colleges and 4-year colleges and universities, between 4-year colleges and graduate programs, or between comparable institutions looking to implement and study parallel interventions. As such, Collaborative Planning grants can address these, or other, types of partnerships that might result in a stronger Track 3 proposal. Ideally, planning grants should reflect authentic collaborations between institutions, prepare collaborative partners to award scholarships at all collaborating institutions and provide programming according to each institution’s needs assessment and realities.
A Collaborative Planning grant should allow institutions to gather data, design shared mechanisms for data collection and student support, and establish the necessary memorandum of understanding (MOUs) or articulation agreements to facilitate students’ transition between institutions and ultimate success. Different methodological approaches may be employed to uncover the needs across institutions. PIs should propose approaches they feel are appropriate to their specific context. Surveys, focus groups, interviews, etc., can also be included in the planning grant as mechanisms to understand the needs of students. Furthermore, Collaborative Planning proposals must include the following elements in the project description:
- what is already known about all potential partner institutions;
- the planning grant goals;
- name of the individuals and offices that will be approached at each institution and description of the potential contributions of collaborators representing multiple perspectives;
- the steps to build effective collaborations to achieve the project goals (needs assessment, articulation agreements; meetings, etc.);
- the steps and actions to further refine and develop the future S-STEM Track 3 proposal, including how programmatic details will be decided (the interventions, the definition of the scholarship eligibility requirements based on institutional data; establishment of scholarship amounts, and methods), leveraging the expertise of the collaborators;
- narrative of how the development of the collaboration will lead to a stronger future Track 3 proposal, and;
- a mechanism to assess the collaborative planning effort’s progress towards its stated goals.
If appropriate, Collaborative Planning Grant proposals may request funds to pilot evidence-based supports at one or more institutions in order to collect preliminary data and strengthen those activities. Participating institutions can also test new policies and administrative procedures that, per a needs assessment or other institutional data, have potential to remove barriers or otherwise improve outcomes for potential S-STEM scholars.
Please note that, while collaborative planning projects may wish to share any findings or implementation mechanisms, a formal dissemination plan is not required.
Collaborative planning grants are managed by a PI who is either (a) a faculty member teaching in any S-STEM eligible discipline, (b) STEM administrator (department head of above) at one of the institutions within the envisioned inter-institutional consortia, or (c) a non-teaching researcher whose expertise is in institutional, educational, or social science research in higher education. The PI must provide the required leadership and the capacity to convene and lead a team of inter-institutional STEM faculty and social science or education researchers to write the desired proposal in a 1-2-year timeframe. A successful Track 3 proposal will likely require a range of expertise including STEM faculty and administrators at all institutions, financial aid officers, and education, learning science or social science researchers interested in low-income student success or other pertinent topics. It is ideal that management of the planning grant incorporate the appropriate senior personnel across institutions as needed. Planning grants can also speak to potential gaps in expertise that might hinder a forthcoming Track 3 proposal and work to identify and build relationships with qualified individuals or organizations that would enhance the impact of future collaborative efforts.
Please note that the Collaborative Planning Grant proposals described in this solicitation are a solicitation-specific project category and are separate and distinct from the type of proposal described in Chapter II.E.1 of the PAPPG. When preparing a Collaborative Planning Grant proposal in response to this solicitation, the “Research” type of proposal should be selected in the proposal preparation module in FastLane or Grants.gov.
Visit our Institutionally Limited Submission webpage for more updates and other announcements.