How HBCUs Can Get Federal Sponsorship from the National Science Foundation

By: Ivory A. Toldson & DeShawn Preston


  • The National Science Foundation (NSF) funds more than 11,000 grants to support research, education, and training projects annually.
  • NSF accounts for 24 percent of all federal support to colleges and universities in the United States for basic research.
  • In 2014, NSF awarded $5,253,638,733 to Institutions of Higher Education with $91,230,809 of the funding awarded to HBCUs.
  • For Fiscal Year (FY) 2016, the budget proposes $1.2 billion for STEM education activities, including NSF research Traineeships, Cyber Corps; Scholarships for Service; Graduate Research Fellowship Program; Improving Undergraduate STEM Education; and NSF INCLUDES (Inclusion across the Nation of Communities of Learners that have been Underrepresented for Diversity in Engineering and Science).


Although Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) make up only 2 percent of the nation’s institutions of higher education (IHEs), they are the primary incubators of Black students in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM). According to a recent NSF report, 21 of the top 50 institutions for producing Black graduates who go on to receive their doctorates in Science and Engineering (S&E) are HBCUs. In 2012, HBCUs awarded 17.8 percent of Science and Engineering bachelor’s degrees to Black students.

The National Science Foundation awards over $5 billion to institutes of higher education (IHEs), however HBCUs received only 1.7 percent of this revenue in the most recent year of data available. Over the past two FYs (2012, 2013) the funding to HBCUs declined primarily because of reductions in the funding of LSAMP, CREST, and two scholarships (SFS- S STEM). The purpose of this article is to provide information to assist HBCUs who are interested in securing federal sponsorship for their research and programs through NSF.

The National Science Foundation Overview

The National Science Foundation’s mission is to “promote the progress of science; to advance the national health, prosperity, and welfare; to secure the national defense,” by identifying and funding work at the frontier of science and engineering. NSF was created by Congress in 1950 as an independent federal agency and employs about 2,100 people, including 1,400 career employees, 200 scientists from research institutions on temporary duty, and 450 contract workers and staff. NSF is divided into seven directorates made up by divisions that support science and engineering research and education.

The FY 2016 budget requests $7.7 billion, an increase of $379.3 million from FY 2015 for NSF. This increase will mirror the agenda from President Obama’s administration to support science and engineering broadly, as well as the people that are enhancing the nation’s scientific knowledge and discovery. This budget will allow NSF to continue to make investments in learning and discovery that will grow the economy, sustain a competitive advantage, and enable the United States to remain the world leader in innovation. Specifically, the FY 2016 request:

  • $143.9 million to Understanding the Brain (UtB), contributing to the Administration’s Brain Research through Advancing Innovation and Neurotechnologies (BRAIN) Initiative.
  • $58 million to Risk and Resilience, which aims to improve predictability, risk assessment, increase resilience to extreme natural and manmade events, and to rescue the impact on the quality of life, society, and the economy.
  • The Nexus of Food, Energy, and Water Systems (INFEWS) to receive $74.96 million to study, design, and model how food, energy, and water systems operate through research.
  • $15 million to Inclusion across the Nation of Communities of Learners that have been Underrepresented for Diversity in Engineering and Science (NSF INCLUDES) for national initiatives to increase the preparation, participation, advancement, and potential contributions to underrepresented students in STEM.

White House Initiative on HBCUs’ Liaison to the National Science Foundation

As the liaison between the White House Initiative on HBCUs (WHIHBCUs) and NSF, Tracy Gorman works with the WHIHBCUs to organize efforts to strengthen the capacity of HBCUs through increased participation in appropriate Federal programs and initiatives.

Specifically, Ms. Gorman helps the WHIHBCUs to:

  • Establish how the department or agency intends to increase the capacity of HBCUs to compete effectively for grants, contracts, or cooperative agreements and to encourage HBCUs to participate in Federal programs;
  • Identify Federal programs and initiatives where HBCUs may be either underserved or underused, and improve the participation within those areas; and
  • Encourage public and private sector, as well as community involvement in improving the overall capacity of HBCUs.

Ms. Gorman serves as a NSF Program Officer and Staff Assistant in the office of the Director for NSF. She is responsible for tracking funds allocated to Minority Serving Institutions and for writing the annual funding report.

What Opportunities are there for HBCUs to compete for grants/contracts through NSF?

There are over 300 funding opportunities offered by NSF in which Institutions of Higher Education (IHEs), including HBCUs, are encouraged to apply. The best way to gain access to these funds is to align research and grant proposals to agency-identified priority areas. HBCUs should identify the needs and requests from science and engineering communities, and congressional interests to increase the probability of allocating funds from NSF. HBCUs can review the funding opportunities for IHEs offered by NSF on their webpage ( Funding can be identified by either program area (e.g. biology, cyberinfrastructure, engineering, geosciences, and physical sciences) or type of activities (e.g. cross-cutting, NSF-wide, or broadening participation).

Research and Development (R&D)

The majority of NSF’s solicited and unsolicited funding activities come from R&D. For FY 2016, NSF projects to fund $4.1 billion to IHEs for R&D. Research projects are proposed by single investigators or collaborative teams. Teams are supported in the following areas: biology; geosciences; engineering; education; social, behavioral, and economic sciences; mathematical and physical sciences; and computer and information science and engineering. In FY 2014, HBCUs were awarded new and incremental funding from 64 research programs. From the 64 research programs HBCUs received $34.8 million of the $4.1 billion allocated to IHEs, making up only 0.8 percent of all funds for R&D.

  • Core Research: These programs provide funding for basic research in the science and engineering fields supported by NSF. Funding for this particular category can be solicited or unsolicited. The research may focus on a single discipline or interdisciplinary. Information about core research areas and activities can be found on the seven Directorate/Division webpage.
  • Foundation-wide: All directorates within NSF participate in this award. These solicitation driven programs fund basic research and education in all supported NSF fields of science and engineering. Some of the programs in this category are The Faculty Early Career Development (CAREER) Program, Research Experiences for Undergraduates (REU), and Increasing the Participation and Advancement of Women in Academic Science and engineering Careers (ADVANCE).
  • Targeted Programs: HBCUs in previous years have participated in targeted programs within R&D. These programs are solicitation driven and cover a number of research activities looking to develop on-campus research capacity or partnerships within a region, internationally, or with other institutions of higher education. Program eligibility and requirements maybe restricted and are detailed in the solicitation. Centers of Research Excellence in Science and Technology (CREST), HBCU Research Infrastructure for Science and Engineering (HBCU-Rise), Partnerships for Research and Education in Materials (PREM), and Partnerships in Astronomy and Astrophysics Research and Education (PAARE) are all targeted programs eligible to HBCUS or Minority Serving Institutions (MSIs) and have all been awarded to a number of HBCUs.

Education and Training

The majority of the programs in this category are centered on advancing STEM learning, improving scientific knowledge, and preparing a globally competitive science and engineering workforce. HBCUs have proven to be most successful in this particular category. In FY 2014, HBCUs were awarded new and incremental funding from 14 programs, receiving $53.2 million making up 7.8 percent of all funds allocated to IHEs. This category includes the majority of programs specifically eligible to MSIs, such as the Louis Stoke Alliances for Minority Participation (LSAMP), Historically Black Colleges and Universities Undergraduate Program (HBCU-UP),and Alliance for Graduate Education and the Professoriate (AGEP). For FY 2016, the president’s budget request to Congress proposes $15 million for a new program, NSF INCLUDES (Inclusion across the nation of Communities of Learners that have been Underrepresented for Diversity in Engineering and Science).

Facilities and Equipment

Another area where HBCUs are more successful within NSF is in support of Facilities and Equipment. In FY 2014, HBCUs received $2.5 million, making up 2.4 percent of all funds allocated to IHEs. In total, eight HBCUs received new MRI awards. The majority of the awards received by HBCUs come from the major Research instrumentation Program (MRI). MRI desires to improve the quality and expand research and training in science and engineering, and to integrate research and education by providing instrumentation for research-intensive learning environments. For FY 2016, the budget will see a 0.2 percent decrease in funding for facilities and equipment. However, HBCUs are still encouraged to seek funding in this area.

Fellowships, Internships, Traineeships, Recruitment and IPAs

There are several programs throughout NSF that fund fellowships, internships, traineeships, and recruitment. Funding to HBCUs has supported individuals in two major programs: Graduate Research Fellowships (GRF) and Intergovernmental Personnel Mobility Act (IPA). In FY 2014, HBCUs received support for one GRF and four IPAs, bringing in $568,000 to all HBCUs, and making up 0.2 percent of all funds allocated to IHEs. The various opportunities offered through this category are vital roles at NSF, especially IPAs. Having active personnel in various roles will allow HBCUs to build stronger relationships with NSF, as well as learn a more effective strategy to receive grants.

What advice does the National Science Foundation have for HBCUs who are seeking federal grants and contracts?

  1. Subscribe to NSF Updates. An online subscription service offers updates on events, funding opportunities, publications, and vacancies, among other items. IHEs may customize their subscription so it focuses on activities or programs of interest to them.
  2. Attend NSF Grant Conferences. NSF provides a bi-annual conference to give insight into current issues at NSF including the state of current funding; new and current policies and procedures; and pertinent administrative issues. Officers representing each NSF directorate will also be present to provide up-to-date information about various funding opportunities and to answer any questions. To be notified of future conferences sign up at
  3. Get involved. The various directorates within NSF are always seeking qualified individuals to participate in the reviewing process of applications for grant funding. The same individuals may also qualify for IPA assignments, panelists, advisors. Working in such positions will provide an understanding of the operations and goals of NSF, as well as more insight to how HBCUs can receive more funds.
  4. Make connections.  Contact the program officer listed on the program webpage or in a solicitation before starting the application. Find out about the program priorities and application imperatives. If you have difficulty identifying the appropriate program officer, contact the Division Director.   A complete NSF organization list (directorates and divisions) including phone numbers is available online at
  5. Start early. Institutions should apply for grant funding early while also striving for the proposal to be collaborative, evidence-based, measured, and comprehensive. Build in an initial rejection and revision into the expected time between starting the application and getting funded.
  6. The National Science Foundation recommends IHEs to apply for grants as the primary fiscal agent, in addition identify partnerships with local and national agencies, regional organizations, and a variety of relevant affiliates.
  7. Ground your proposal in research. Successful grant proposals provide in-depth scholarly work and consist of concrete action plans. Consult the program director for each division to understand the accepted validated standards for NSF programs.
  8. If first you don’t succeed, try again. If your institution is denied grant funding, it is imperative to seek the counsel of NSF to determine the strengths and weaknesses of the proposal. The agency suggests that denied applicants capitalize on this feedback to revise grant proposal and reapply in the next application season.


There are many grant opportunities within NSF. While NSF has special programs gear towards minority and HBCUs, they have a number of competitive opportunities that are available to all IHEs. In order to increase funding, HBCUs must take full advantage of all funding opportunities, and not limit proposals to opportunities designated specifically to HBCUs.

In recent years HBCUs have mainly received funds for educational activities. The awards are typically distributed to programs such as HBCU RISE, HBCU-UP, and CREST, which have not seen an increase in the budget since 2014. In order for HBCUs to increase funding opportunities these institutions must broaden the participation within NSF. HBCUs must apply for more grants and research within Research and Development where they are only receiving 0.8 percent of the funds and in Fellowships, Internships, Traineeships, Recruitment, and IPAs where they only receive 0.2 percent of the awards. It is imperative for HBCUs to seek funding from these particular categories, because this is where the overwhelming majority of funds are allocated through NSF. By continuously applying within the two areas HBCUs will gain partnership within NSF, allowing for better comprehension of the language, day to day operations, and goals of NSF, this should prove to be advantageous in the funding application process.

The WHIHBCUs should frequently provide reports such as this, which has information regarding the agency’s HBCU liaison, background facts, funding trends, existing HBCU relationships, and agency emphasis. The WHIHBCUs is here to work with Federal partners to provide technical support to HBCUs who are interested in applying for funding. HBCUs should develop their institutional capacity to produce competitive grants. Members of Congress can help HBCUs to network with key personnel at federal agencies. Members can also help HBCUs connect with corporate and philanthropic partners to strengthen collaborative efforts.

List of Program and Program Directors

Contact specific directorate of interest

Ivory A. Toldson, Ph.D., is the interim executive director of the White House Initiative on Historically Black Colleges and Universities. He is currently on leave from his position as associate professor at Howard University.

DeShawn Preston is a doctoral student in Higher Educational Leadership at Clemson University. He holds a B.A. in History from Oakwood University in Huntsville, Alabama. His research agenda focuses on African American students in graduate and professional programs. More specifically his dissertation topic examines the roll/influences HBCUs play in assisting African Americans with enrollment into doctoral programs.

WHIHBCU Webinar Presentation: Federal Funding Opportunities at NASA!

The White House Initiative on Historically Black Colleges and Universities (WHIHBCU) will host a series of webinars to educate Historically Black Colleges and Universities on the grants and opportunities available to them throughout the federal government.

On July 30, 2015 from 10:30AM-11:30AM, the Initiative co-hosted the first webinar with the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). Please see link to the Presentation Below.

NASA Education Funding Opportunities

For additional information regarding the webinar and MSI funding opportunities at NASA you may contact the following person:

Joeletta Patrick
Minority University Research and Education Project (MUREP) Manager

The Passing of Executive Director Dr. George Cooper

The Passing of Executive Director Dr. George Cooper

I, along with the entire staff of the White House Initiative on HBCUs, am deeply saddened to learn about the passing of Dr. George Cooper.  Yesterday, I spent some time at Dr. Cooper’s home with his family.  As they mourn, they appreciate the encouragement and support from many people with whom Dr. Cooper has inspired.  Dr. Cooper provided us with guidance and mentorship.  As a supervisor, he was light on giving directives and heavy on imparting wisdom.  We grew under his leadership, as he provided the perfect mix of candor, levity and urgency with dealing with office priorities.  He was interesting to listen to and easy to talk with.  He took joy in blending new and senior perspectives on HBCUs.  His legacy lives on through all of us. – Ivory A. Toldson, Deputy Director

Below are official statements on Dr. Cooper’s passing:

Statement by the President on the Passing of Dr. George Cooper

Michelle and I were saddened to learn of the passing of Dr. George Cooper, the Executive Director of the White House Initiative on Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs). As a native of Tallahassee, FL, George’s love of education and HBCUs began as a student at Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University, continuing his education at Tuskegee University and receiving his Ph. D. at the University of Illinois at Urbana. George spent the majority of his life ensuring that students at our nation’s HBCUs were receiving a quality education and had the necessary resources to succeed and make their communities and our country better. He served on the faculty at several universities including Alabama A&M University, Tuskegee University and as President of South Carolina State University. His service extended beyond working with students at institutions.  For 17 years, he worked with the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture, ensuring that HBCUs and other minority-serving institutions were receiving adequate resources to strengthen research and academic programs. George’s passing is a great loss for my Administration, the HBCU and higher education communities and for everyone that knew him.  Our thoughts and prayers are with his wife Diane, family and friends during this difficult time. – Barack Obama, President

Statement by the Secretary of Education on the Passing of Dr. George Cooper

Dr. Cooper made a tremendous contribution that has benefited countless students in a full and extraordinary career.  Throughout his life, Dr. Cooper was committed to promoting excellence, innovation, and sustainability across our nation’s HBCUs.  Dr. Cooper provided the wisdom and direction needed to form important partnerships between HBCUs and the federal government.  He was staunchly committed to student development and success. This Administration has truly benefited from Dr. Cooper’s leadership and will continue our service and advocacy for HBCUs in a manner that follows his passion, persistence, and humility.  Like everyone here who had the opportunity to work with him, I was touched by his kindness, integrity, wisdom, and commitment.  Although he will be sorely missed, his legacy will live beyond him.  On behalf of the entire Department, I send my deepest condolences to his wife, Diane, his children, and the entire Cooper family.  – Arne Duncan, Secretary of Education

Statement by the Chair, President’s Board of Advisors on HBCUs on the Passing of Dr. George Cooper

Today we lost a leader, Dr. George Cooper.  My most heartfelt condolences are with his wife, Diane, with whom I spoke earlier today. I have known George for almost forty years.  When I was the Administrative Vice President at Tuskegee University, he was a member of the faculty in the School of Veterinary Medicine.  I asked him to serve on the team preparing for the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools’ reaffirmation of accreditation.  George was a conscientious, energetic and dependable worker.  He was thorough, focused and no-nonsense.  After that, every opportunity I had to have him serve on a committee, I had him do so.  I knew we could count on him. Later, when Dr. Cooper became president of South Carolina State University, our paths crossed often.  His wife, Dianne, my wife, Norma, he and I became good friends. In his most recent role as Executive Director of the White House Initiative on HBCUs, we met just about every Wednesday by phone and attended meetings together in Washington.  George always had the best interests of HBCUs at heart; and as he did forty years ago, he worked hard and conscientiously during his tenure at the White House Initiative for the benefit of the institutions about which he cared deeply.   He will be sorely missed by the community he served. – Chair William Harvey

Statement by CBC Chairman on the Passing of Dr. George Cooper

Members of the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) are deeply saddened by the passing of Dr. George Cooper, a lifelong supporter of higher education and our country’s Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs).  As a former president of South Carolina State University and the Executive Director of the White House Initiative on Historically Black Colleges and Universities, Dr. George Cooper understood well the role that HBCUs continue to play in providing access to higher education for many African American and minority students.  He was a Senior Fellow with the American Association of State Colleges and Universities and served 17 years with the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture, where he provided key oversight on programs and legislation impacting historically black land grant universities and other minority serving institutions.  Over the course of his life, Dr. George Cooper contributed great service to our country’s Historically Black Colleges and Universities and the impact of his legacy of service as a leader and champion in higher education will be remembered for generations to come. Our thoughts and prayers are with his family. – Chair G. K. Butterfield


WHIHBCU Webinar: Federal Funding Opportunities at NASA! July 30th, 10:30AM-11:30AM EST

The White House Initiative on Historically Black Colleges and Universities (WHIHBCU) will host a series of webinars to educate Historically Black Colleges and Universities on the grants and opportunities available to them throughout the federal government.

The WHIHBCU with co-host the first webinar with the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) on July 30, 2015 from 10:30-11:30AM.

This webinar will feature a presentation by NASA highlighting their funding opportunities for HBCUs. Representatives from the HBCU community are invited and encouraged to view the webinar live and ask questions. Webinar information is listed below.

Date: July 30, 2015

Time: 10:30AM -11:30AM (EST)

To join the online meeting (Now from mobile devices!)

1. Go to
2. If requested, enter your name and email address.
3. If a password is required, enter the meeting password: DELL$567wernji
4. Click “Join”.

To view in other time zones or languages, please click the link:

To join the audio conference only

Conference Call phone: 844 467-6272

Passcode: 451600#

For technical assistance
1. Go to
2. On the left navigation bar, click “Support”.


U.S. Department of Commerce- Job Announcements

The Office of Human Capital Strategy and Diversity at Commerce has an opportunity for a Human Resources Specialist with Training and Development experience. The links below provide direct access to the announcements. The job announcement closes on Tuesday, July 14, 2015.

OS/OHRM-2015-0025 (DEU)

OS/OHRM-2015-0026 (MAP)

Online and Panel Reviewers Still Needed

NASA Research and Education Support Services (NRESS) is seeking persons willing to serve as peer reviewers for a program element listed under Education Opportunities in NASA STEM (EONS) 2014 entitled, NASA MUREP Educator Institutes (MEI). Information about this opportunity, proposal requirements and evaluation criteria can be found on the NASA Solicitation and Proposal Integrated Review and Evaluation System (NSPIRES) website at

Peer review is a critical component of the decision-making process for awarding projects.  Your participation will assist in identifying high-quality projects by engaging individuals with different backgrounds, perspectives and areas of expertise in the review process.

NASA MUREP Educators Institutes (MEI) were due on June 30, 2015, and reviewers will be selected based on the subject matter of the proposals received. If you are selected, you will be notified by email which will contain detailed instructions on the process.

The Online will begin on July 13th and conclude on July the 17th.  No reviewer will be asked to review more than three proposals.

The PANEL review period is scheduled for the week of July 27, 2015 at Stennis Space Center in South Mississippi. The panel will last 2-3 days. All travel arrangements for non-civil servants will be covered by NASA Research Education and Support Services (NRESS) including an honorarium of $200 for each day of the panel.

Please indicate your availability via email by COB July 10, 2015.  Please list your availability for the week of July 27, 2015 and please email a copy of your CV or resume to .

Empowering Working Families Across America with Valerie Jarrett and Mayor Kasim Reed- July 7th

With Special Thanks to the City of Atlanta and Mayor Kasim Reed,

The White House and Department of Labor invite you to participate in an

  Armchair Conversation on “Lead on Leave: Empowering Working Families Across America”

Building on the President’s State of the Union announcements supporting greater workplace flexibility for families, the White House and the Department of Labor are pleased to invite you to our next step in the “Lead on Leave: Empowering Working Families Across America” tour. We hope you can join Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed, and Senior Advisor to President Obama and Chair of the White House Council on Women & Girls Valerie Jarrett for this important conversation about how to support working families across the nation.

When:            Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Please arrive by 11:00 AM. The program will begin at 11:15 AM

Where:           Atlanta City Hall

Old Council Chambers

68 Mitchell St SW

Atlanta, GA 30303

RSVP:  Please RSVP with first name, last name, organization, and e-mail address to by Monday, July 6 at 10:00 AM Eastern Time.  RSVPs will be honored on a ‘first-come, first-served’ basis. Please send on to others who may be interested in the conversation.

For questions, please e-mail the White House Council on Women & Girls at or call (202) 456-4853.


Webinar: Partnership Resources to Help Prepare Houses of Worship for Emergencies

The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) is pleased to invite you to a webinar to help connect faith-based and community organizations with tools, resources, and partners to help prepare their houses of worship for all hazards, including active shooter incidents.

This webinar is a collaborative effort between the DHS Center for Faith-based & Neighborhood Partnerships, a center of the White House Office of Faith-based & Neighborhood Partnerships, and FEMA.

Title: Partnership Resources to Help Prepare Houses of Worship for Emergencies

Date: Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Time:  2:00 – 3:15 p.m. (ET)

How to Join the Webinar:

This link is also contained in the invitation below, “Adobe Connect Registration Web Link.”

Job and internship Opportunities with U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission ( SEC )

The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission’s (SEC) Office of Minority and Women Inclusion (OMWI) has job and internship opportunities within their organization.

Brief Background:

OMWI was established in July of 2011, as required by Section 342 of the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act of 2010.  OMWI is responsible for:

  • taking affirmative steps to seek diversity at all levels of the SEC’s workforce,
  • increasing participation of minority-owned and women-owned businesses in the SEC’s programs and contracts, including standards for coordinating technical assistance to such businesses; and
  • assessing the diversity policies and practices of entities regulated by the SEC.

For more information please contact:

German Rochez
Recruitment Coordinator, Contractor
Phone: 202-551-6046| Email: