This week, freshman Florida rep. Michael Waltz (R) and U.S. House Science, Space and Technology Committee Chairwoman, Texas rep. Eddie Bernie Johnson (D) introduced the MSI STEM Achievement Act, which will improve participation in STEM at minority-serving institutions by increasing capacity for students that are in STEM curricula. It will encourage partnerships with industry and federal laboratories, and it will establish a liaison for MSIs within the federal government.
The bipartisan effort is meant to direct the National Science Foundation and Government Accountability office to have a better understanding of the challenges facing MSIs. In addition, the bill will also ensure that federal science agencies are actively engaging with MSIs, which will build research competitiveness and create opportunities for minority students to pursue careers in STEM.
Speaking on the importance of this bill, Chairwoman Johnson expressed that “with the demand for STEM skills at an all-time high, we must do more to increase the number of STEM graduates entering the workforce.”
Johnson pointed out that “it is increasingly clear that we cannot get there with a STEM workforce that does not reflect the diversity of the nation.” One major concerning is “a lack of resources and infrastructure necessary to compete for Federal research and STEM education funding,” which “have prevented MSIS from realizing their full potential to contribute to the STEM workforce.”
Rep. Waltz informed that “minorities make up 27 percent of the U.S. population but are severely underrepresented in STEM fields, only accounting for 11 percent of the STEM workforce.”
Because of that, “minority-serving institutions like Bethune-Cookman University are key to improving participation and retention in STEM fields.” So, “investing in STEM institutions that educate underrepresented populations will create a larger, more diverse STEM talent pool to fill the jobs we need to and make our country more competitive, including here in Florida’s Space Triangle.”