Tribal Colleges and Universities Program (TCUP)

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Important Information for Proposers

A revised version of the NSF Proposal & Award Policies & Procedures Guide (PAPPG) (NSF 22-1), is effective for proposals submitted, or due, on or after October 4, 2021. Please be advised that, depending on the specified due date, the guidelines contained in NSF 22-1 may apply to proposals submitted in response to this funding opportunity.


The Tribal Colleges and Universities Program (TCUP) provides awards to federally recognized1 Tribal Colleges and Universities, Alaska Native-serving institutions, and Native Hawaiian-serving institutions to promote high quality science (including sociology, psychology, anthropology, linguistics, economics and bioeconomics, statistics, and other social and behavioral sciences; natural sciences; computer science, including, but not limited to, artificial intelligence, quantum information science, and cybersecurity), technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM), STEM education, research, and outreach. Support is available to TCUP-eligible institutions (see the Additional Eligibility subsection of Section IV of this solicitation) for transformative capacity-building or community engagement projects through Instructional Capacity Excellence in TCUP Institutions (ICE-TI), Targeted STEM Infusion Projects (TSIP),TCUP for Secondary and Elementary Teachers in STEM (TSETS), TCU Enterprise Advancement Centers (TEA Centers), Cyberinfrastructure Health, Assistance, and Improvements (CHAI), and Preparing for TCUP Implementation (Pre-TI). Collaborations led by TCUP institutions that involve non-TCUP institutions of higher education are supported through TCUP Partnerships, with the participation of other NSF programs to support the work of non-TCUP institutions. Finally, research studies that further the scholarly activity of individual faculty members are supported through Small Grants for Research (SGR). Through the opportunities highlighted above, as well as collaborations with other National Science Foundation (NSF) divisions and directorates, and other organizations, TCUP aims to increase Native individuals' participation in STEM careers, improve the quality of STEM programs at TCUP-eligible institutions, and facilitate the development of a strong STEM enterprise in TCUP institutions' service areas.

TCUP supports transformative capacity-building, community engagement, or research projects at TCUP-eligible institutions through the following funding tracks:

Instructional Capacity Excellence in TCUP Institutions (ICE-TI) projects provide support to design, implement, and assess comprehensive institutional improvements in STEM education and research capacity at TCUP-eligible institutions of higher education. By strengthening STEM education and STEM education research, successful projects will increase the number of STEM students and improve the quality of their preparation. ICE-TI projects create and/or adapt and assess innovative models and materials for teaching and learning in STEM, embody knowledge about how students learn most effectively in STEM teaching and learning activities, and bring STEM disciplinary advances into the undergraduate or graduate experience. The objective of this strand is to expand STEM degrees offered by TCUP-eligible institutions or significantly enhance instructional approaches.

Targeted STEM Infusion Projects (TSIP) support the attainment of a short-term, well-defined goal to improve the quality of STEM education at an eligible institution. Targeted STEM Infusion Projects could, for example, enhance academic infrastructure by systematically adding traditional knowledge to the scope or content of a STEM course, updating curricula, modernizing laboratory research equipment, developing and delivering professional development for K-12 STEM educators, or improving the computational infrastructure. The objective of this strand is to expand STEM degrees or significantly enhance instructional approaches.

TCUP for Secondary & Elementary Teachers in STEM (TSETS) supports in-service professional development in STEM disciplinary or STEM education content and/or research for K-12 STEM teachers in the relevant service area. Examples of project activities include, but are not limited to, professional development involving seminar series and engagement in STEM instruction and content during the academic year, structured series of summer intensive workshops and trainings, and summer research opportunities. The objective of this strand is to broaden the instructional capacity for STEM in the K-12 workforce and thereby to the entire community, and to build the capacity for STEM disciplinary or education research among participating educational professionals. 

TCU Enterprise Advancement Centers (TEA Centers) coalesce the STEM and/or STEM education expertise into a team, designed to support and promote the STEM goals, needs, aspirations, or interests of the chartering reservation or tribe(s). TEA Centers may address a critical tribal or community need or focus on a realm of research or design that is beyond the scope of individual research grants or that is of interest to multiple tribes. The objective of this strand is to build on the capacity developed through prior TCUP support and apply expertise to collaborations with communities in the institution’s service area, or nationally. 

The Cyberinfrastructure Health, Assistance, and Improvements (CHAI) strand supports projects at TCUP-eligible institutions of higher education to upgrade the cyberinfrastructure necessary to conduct, expand, manage and administer STEM programs of study, including research. The objective of this strand is to equip TCUP institutions to meet the demands of virtual instruction, advanced computing, and data science opportunities. 

Preparing for TCUP Implementation (Pre-TI) provides support for activities that prepare an institution for Implementation-level projects. Consequently, they are available only to TCUP-eligible institutions of higher education that have never received TCUP support, have not received TCUP support within the previous five years, or are embarking on a significantly novel STEM strategic plan. Examples of supported activities include completing an institutional assessment of its current STEM instructional capacity, or engaging in conversations necessary to formulate a shared vision of what that capacity should be and how to achieve it. Pre-TI awards can support staff and faculty release time, travel, stakeholder gatherings, and associated administrative costs. The objective of this strand is to conduct self-studies and formulate strategic plans for the development of STEM instructional programs of study. 

The TCUP Partnerships strand provides support for collaborations that will improve TCUP institutions' instructional and research capacity in STEM fields supported by NSF; attract, retain, and support TCUP students in internships and research endeavors deemed to be necessary for a complete curriculum offering; and engage partner universities to provide an academic grounding and a successful transition for students who wish to study or attain degrees in STEM fields supported by NSF. TCUP Partnerships broaden the number of scientific disciplines available to students at TCUP institution through collaborations with non-TCUP institutions.  Active Pre-Engineering Education Collaboratives or Partnerships in Geoscience Education awards are not affected by this revision. The objective of this strand is the development, through instructional and research capacity-building, of academic and career pathways for TCUP students through supporting collaborative projects between and among TCUP and non-TCUP institutions. Interested teams of collaborators for which a TCUP institution serves as lead should contact the TCUP program directors. Support for non-TCUP partners must be obtained from other NSF programs, which follows the procedures of the prior Partnership strands.

Small Grants for Research (SGR) strand support STEM or STEM Education faculty members at TCUP-eligible institutions to initiate or pursue research projects or programs that may include undergraduate or graduate student engagement. Awards are intended to help further the faculty member's research capability and effectiveness; improve research and teaching at his or her home institution; create and study new models and innovations in STEM teaching and learning; and enhance the understanding of diverse groups' participation in STEM education practices and interventions. International research or collaborations are strongly encouraged. TCUP students may seek support for international research opportunities under the guidance of a TCUP STEM or STEM education faculty member and an international research collaborator. These awards are particularly appropriate as a means of recruiting and retaining highly qualified scientists, engineers, and educators at TCUP-eligible institutions. The objective of this strand is to support faculty research and professional development that build research capacity at TCUP institutions.

[1] Executive Order 13021 defines Tribal Colleges and Universities ("tribal colleges") as those institutions cited in section 532 of the Equity in Educational Land-Grant Status Act of 1994 (7 U.S.C. 301 note), and other institutions that qualify for funding under the Tribally Controlled Community College Assistance Act of 1978, (25 U.S.C. 1801 et seq.), as well as Navajo Community College as authorized in the Navajo Community College Assistance Act of 1978, Public Law 95-471, Title II (25 U.S.C. 640a note). The term "Alaska Native-serving institution" means an institution of higher education that is an eligible institution under section 1058(b) of the Higher Education Act; and that, at the time of submission, has an undergraduate enrollment that is at least 20 percent Alaska Native students. The term "Native Hawaiian-serving institution" means an institution of higher education that is an eligible institution under section 1058(b) of the Higher Education Act; and that, at the time of submission, has an undergraduate enrollment that is at least 10 percent Native Hawaiian students. Most TCUP-eligible institutions of higher education are two-year or community colleges. See the Who May Submit Proposals section in this solicitation for further details.

Program Contacts

Jody Chase
Program Director, TCUP (703) 292-8640
Jeremy Guinn
Program Director, TCUP (703)-292-8193 EHR/HRD
Regina Sievert
Program Director, TCUP (703) 292-2808 EHR/HRD
Nicole Gass
Program Specialist (703) 292-8378 EHR/HRD

Awards Made Through This Program

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Map of recent awards made through this program