President Barack Obama has signed into law the STEM Education Act of 2015, which expands the definition of STEM—an acronym for science, technology, engineering, and mathematics—to include computer science programs.
The legislation that became the STEM Education Act was introduced in the House of Representatives by Reps. Lamar Smith, R-Texas, and Elizabeth Esty, D-Conn., both members of the Committee on Science, Space, and Technology.
The new law does not add funding, but it does expand the kinds of STEM programs that can be run and funded by federal agencies to include computer science. It also makes people who are pursuing a master’s degree and those with a background in computer science eligible for Robert Noyce Teacher Scholarships, which support science and math graduates and professionals who hope to teach.
The law also instructs the National Science Foundation to continue to finance out-of-school and informal education programs in the STEM subjects. That’s a boon for museums, nature centers, and other organizations that offer informal science programming.
The acronym tends to invite additions: Advocates and educators have added everything from art to religion to reading to create STEAM and STREAM schools. But this new addition has implications for which programs can receive federal funding and who is eligible to apply for STEM programs without adding more letters to the acronym.
A version of this article appeared in the October 21, 2015 edition of Education Week as New Law Brings Computer Science Under STEM Tent