Rosen, Wicker, Cornyn, Hassan Re-Introduce Bipartisan Legislation to Improve Access to STEM Education in Rural Areas

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, U.S. Senator Jacky Rosen (D-NV), a member of the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) and the Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, alongside Senators Roger Wicker (R-MS), John Cornyn (R-TX), and Maggie Hassan (D-NH), announced the re-introduction of their Rural STEM Education Act. This bipartisan legislation would direct the National Science Foundation (NSF) to support rural STEM education and workforce development through grants for research on teaching STEM in rural schools, barriers rural students face in accessing STEM education, and solutions to improve the participation of rural pre-K-12 students in STEM.

“The coronavirus pandemic has underscored the need to address the lack of resources available to our rural communities–especially when it comes to technology,” said Senator Rosen. “I’m proud to introduce this important piece of bipartisan legislation that will support research and development activities to better understand how to overcome the challenges rural communities are facing in providing quality STEM education programs. I will continue working on forward-thinking legislation to give our students the education and training they need to succeed in a 21st-century economy.”  

“As employment opportunities in STEM fields increase, it is critical that we provide rural schools the resources necessary to offer quality STEM education and prepare students for today’s workforce,” said Senator Wicker. “I am glad to join my colleagues in leading this effort, and I look forward to seeing our bill advance.”

“Texas has a booming science and technology sector. Unfortunately, students who lack access to high-quality STEM educations may have less opportunities in these fields,” said Senator Cornyn. “This legislation would help ensure that students in rural areas can access the same STEM resources as their urban peers to prepare them for high-skilled, high-wage science and technology-related jobs.”

“New Hampshire’s innovative businesses want to hire workers with a background in STEM, but this can be difficult when so many Granite Staters in rural communities do not have the technology that they need to receive a STEM education and compete for those jobs,” said Senator Hassan. “This bipartisan bill would take steps to improve rural broadband, which will help more Granite Staters access the kind of STEM education and job-training that will prepare them for success in the 21st century economy.” 

BACKGROUND: According to a recent report from The Rural School and Community Trust, more than 9.3 million—or nearly one in five students in the U.S.—attend a rural school. Rural schools face unique barriers to providing STEM education, including a shortage of science and math teachers, high teacher turnover, lack of reliable broadband, and difficulty accessing online and computer-based technology.

More specifically, the Rural STEM Act (S.1374) would:

  • Direct the NSF Director to provide grants to support training for STEM teachers in rural schools, conduct research to identify barriers rural students face in STEM education, and establish partnerships between community colleges and rural high schools.
  • Assist the improvement of online STEM education and hands-on training at rural schools;
  • Direct the NSF Director and the National Academy of Sciences to evaluate federal programming for rural STEM education and make recommendations for ways in which it can be improved;
  • Direct the Secretary of Commerce to establish a prize competition to encourage innovative ideas to deploy broadband connectivity to rural communities; and
  • Instruct the National Science Foundation (NSF) Director to establish a working group to address research challenges and opportunities for improving broadband access. The working group would be required to report their findings to Congress.