The Supporting Veterans in STEM Careers Act (introduced as S 153, 116th Congress) expands the scope of various federal programs and grants to promote the involvement of veterans in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) and computer science education. The bill particularly directs the National Science Foundation (NSF) through its various programs and activities to encourage veterans to pursue STEM and computer science careers. To achieve that goal, the bill modifies the following NSF programs to include consideration of veterans:
The bill further directs NSF to create a report to Congress on how NSF intends to enhance its outreach to veterans, both through leveraging existing programs and by better tracking veterans’ participation in NSF research and education programs. Likewise, the NSF’s National Science Board would have to annually report on any “available and relevant data” regarding veterans in science and engineering careers or education programs.
In addition to NSF, both the Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) and the Government Accountability Office (GAO) would have responsibilities regarding veteran involvement in STEM and computer science fields. The OSTP would create an interagency working group, which would exist for three years, focusing on improving equity and representation in STEM fields among veterans and among military spouses. The GAO would conduct a study investigating academic graduation rates of veterans in undergraduate STEM and computer science programs, including identifying barriers to graduation for veterans and recommending governmental action to address those barriers.
While STEM and computer science jobs are desirable, and while veterans tend to participate in STEM occupations at higher rates than do non-veterans, undergraduate degrees in those fields tend to require more than four years of education. Veterans in STEM or computer science degrees who rely on post-9/11 GI Bill funds to finance their education may run out of their promised four-year support before they can complete the degree, potentially discouraging veterans from pursuing those fields in the first place or encouraging them to rush through their degree, leaving them less prepared than their peers. To address this problem, Congress passed the Veteran STEM Scholarship Improvement Act (Public Law 116-36) in July 2019; this law broadened the pool of veterans eligible for the Edith Nourse Rogers STEM Scholarship which awards up to $30,000 in additional funds to student veterans to complete their STEM or computer science degrees.