MAA's focus is on mathematics education, particularly at the undergraduate level. Undergraduate education is the crucial link in the educational system preparing mathematicians, scientists, health care professionals, engineers, our technological workforce, and the teachers of the next generations of students. The Division of Undergraduate Education at NSF aims to improve mathematics and science education through the reform of courses, curricula, and instructional materials, and to increase the quality and quantity of the mathematics and science workforce. DUE programs fund innovative efforts at two and four year colleges and universities in every state, all in an effort to find the best ways to increase the scientific and technological literacy of the nation's youth.
While the NSF budget has grown overall, undergraduate education has been cut. In FY 2004 alone, DUE was cut by nearly $20 million from the FY 2003 level. In FY 2005, DUE would receive $159 million under the Administration's request - an increase of only 2%. Report after report has stated that the key to continued economic vitality is a better educated workforce, particularly in mathematics and science. Therefore, MAA urges Congress to provide $200 million for NSF's DUE program in FY 2005. This amount would reverse the nearly $20 million reduction these programs suffered in FY 2004 and put it on a path that will enable the nation's institutions of higher education - including our community colleges -- to more fully participate in NSF's undergraduate programs.
MAA also urges Congress to support the VIGRE (Vertical Integration Grants for Research and Education in the Mathematics Sciences) program, supported through NSF's Division of Mathematical Sciences. VIGRE brings together university professors, graduate students, and undergraduate students on research projects and education. Universities with VIGRE grants report a dramatic increase in the numbers of highly qualified U.S. citizens pursuing graduate degrees in the mathematical sciences. The program has recently broadened to support faculty and students from all types of institutions to improve the pipeline from the undergraduate years through positions in the workforce and academe.
Finally, MAA urges Congress to reject the proposed transfer of the Math Science Partnerships program from NSF to the Department of Education. NSF's MSP funds merit-based projects aimed at addressing the lackluster performance of U.S. children in K-12 science and mathematics. Moving MSP to the Department of Education, with the likely accompanying loss of merit review, is not in the nation's best interest. The MSP funds will likely be distributed via state block grants, which will spread the money too thinly to do any real good.
Again, MAA greatly appreciates the efforts Congress has made to increase funding for the National Science Foundation in recent years. As the FY 2005 appropriations process progresses, MAA urges Congress to provide $200 million for NSF's Division of Undergraduate Education, continue its support for the VIGRE program, and oppose the transfer of the MSP program to the Department of Education.