Higher Education Incentives Program


The Illinois Space Grant Consortium (ISGC) Higher Education Incentives Program Grants are designed to fund programs for enhanced, higher education teaching/training projects related to space or aerospace disciplines. This program supports innovative educational activities to educate and retain college students interested in aerospace-related careers.  Examples of activities include course and curriculum development/upgrade, design/build/fly projects, and student travel to conferences. Proposed programs are open to undergraduate and/or graduate students but focusing on the participation of freshmen and sophomores is encouraged. Emphasis will be placed on hands-on activities and projects in areas of interest to NASA.

Funds available

Funding requests up to $20,000 will be considered. Funding will be released incumbent upon authorization of funds by NASA.  We anticipate supporting four of these awards.

 PLEASE NOTE: Funds will be paid through your Space Grant affiliate’s existing subaward.

Period of Performance

Funding has been allocated to these grants for the period April 10, 2022 – April 9, 2023.


Participation in this program is limited to faculty or staff (professorial and research) at an ISGC affiliate:  University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Illinois Institute of Technology, Adler Planetarium, Discovery Center Museum, DePaul University, Northwestern University, The University of Chicago, Southern Illinois University Edwardsville,  University of Illinois at Chicago, Chicago State University, Bradley University, and City Colleges of Chicago. Member institutions (and individuals) are not limited to one proposal.

Proposal Guidelines

Proposals should describe the relevance of the proposed work to NASA’s currently funded research priorities and programs of the NASA Mission Directorate(s). Proposals are required to address one or more research priorities of the Mission Directorates and Centers. The current NASA mission directorates are as follows:

Aeronautics Research
NASA’s Aeronautics Research Mission Directorate works to solve the challenges that still exist in our nation’s air transportation system: air traffic congestion, safety, and environmental impacts.

Space Operations Mission Directorate*

Space Operations Mission Directorate will oversee mature human spaceflight programs, such as the International Space Station and commercial crew and cargo missions. The operations directorate is also in charge NASA’s efforts to commercialize low Earth orbit, an objective the agency hopes will lead to privately-owned space stations.

Exploration Systems Development Mission Directorate*

Exploration Systems Development Mission Directorate will manage NASA’s Artemis moon program, including the Space Launch System heavy-lift rocket, the Orion spacecraft, and the Human Landing System, the spacecraft that will carry astronauts to and from the lunar surface.

NASA’s Science Mission Directorate and the nation’s science community use space observatories to conduct scientific studies of the Earth from space to visit and return samples from other bodies in the solar system, and to peer out into our Galaxy and beyond.

Space Technology
The Space Technology Mission Directorate is responsible for developing the crosscutting, pioneering, new technologies and capabilities needed to achieve NASA’s current and future missions.

Please visit each NASA organization’s website to find detailed information about current projects and current areas of interest.

* NASA announced Sept. 21, 2021, that it will organize its Human Exploration and Operations Mission Directorate into two areas (Space Operations Mission Directorate and Exploration System Development Mission Directorate).

For more information detailing the four mission directorates, visit:



  • Programs should have an emphasis on aerospace, physics, astronomy, cosmology, Earth system science, and other interdisciplinary space-related science or engineering fields relevant to NASA.
  • Grants must be matched (at least one-to-one) with funds from non-federal sources. Prior to the execution of a subaward agreement, the source of matching funds must be identified and confirmed by a letter from the appropriate authority. Waived indirect costs and faculty effort can qualify as matching funds.
  • Proposals can include requests for salary, supplies, and travel support. ISGC funds cannot be used for the purchase of equipment (as defined by NASA guidelines.)
  • The project principal investigator will complete the Data Collection Forms and encourage students to participate in the NASA longitudinal tracking program.
  • The project principal investigator will meet (virtually or in-person) with the ISGC STEM Coordinator, Heidi Bjerke, hbjerke2@illinois.edu at the midpoint of the grant to discuss progress.
  • The project principal investigator will submit final report information to the ISGC STEM Coordinator, Heidi Bjerke, hbjerke2@illinois.edu.
  • All application materials must be submitted by February 20, 2022.

Selection Criteria

Proposals will be reviewed by ISGC Directors and selected based on adherence to the above criteria, scientific merit, and equitable distribution of resources across the Consortium. Programs targeted to women, underrepresented minorities, and persons with disabilities are strongly encouraged. Proposal submission for this program is limited to faculty/professional staff (research and professorial) at ISGC affiliate and lead institutions.

Proposal Requirements and Format

Applications must be submitted online – Higher Education

  • Use 12-pt font, 1″ margins, and single spacing. Tables and references may utilize a smaller font.
  • Abstract not to exceed 150 words
  • Purpose – include audience, educational objectives
  • Project goal(s). Indicate explicitly how these goals are specific, measurable, aligned with NASA and Space Grant interests, realistic and within the funding time frame.
  • Relevance to one or more NASA Mission Directorates
  • Method – what activity(ies) will take place
  • Results – anticipated enhanced benefits
  • Evaluation plan – brief self-evaluation plan and how the program will be continued after ISGC funds are no longer available
  • Timeline for the project containing information about when effort is expected to occur – summer, academic year, or both
  • Total Page limit: 5 pages max
  • Detailed budget, a sample template is found here, if needed.
    • Budget narrative and details that substantiates costs. The proposed budget shall be adequate, appropriate, reasonable, realistic, and demonstrate the effective use of funds (both NASA and cost-shared) to align with the proposed projects.
    • Direct Labor costs shall be separated by titles (e.g. professor, graduate research assistant, etc.) with estimated rates and total amounts of each. PIs should seek to leverage other sources of support for their direct labor costs (e.g., non-federal matching funds, other grants) so as to maximize funding provided to students.  However, support for the PI is possible with strong justification citing the absence of administrative support for the grant and is limited to $4,000.
    • Domestic travel shall include the purpose, the number of travelers, the number of trips and expected location, duration of each trip, transportation costs, and per diem.
    • Other costs shall also be explained in reasonable detail and substantiated whenever possible. The certified negotiated indirect costs for the institution shall be included.
    • The amount and source of cost-shared funds are identified.
    • No page limit on budget.

Reporting Guidelines


  • Upon proposal acceptance, an Excel spreadsheet will be sent to the recipient. This is for gathering demographics information for college/university students involved in the program. Students who are directly funded and/or work over 160 hours on the program must be willing to provide this information and participate in the NASA longitudinal tracking program. See the example here.
  • Longitudinal tracking is required for all students until they take their next step. For example: if you are a junior who receives a scholarship, we will ask for your information yearly until you enter graduate school or take a position in your career field.
  • Upon request, send the completed spreadsheet for college/university students who will have worked (or will likely work) >160 hours during the funding period or receive any direct funding from ISGC. The number of hours of effort and amount of ISGC funding provided will need to be reported. Changes/updates due with the final report.


  • Midpoint progress report due – Touch on all points below (this can be a virtual or in-person discussion). Please schedule this with the ISGC STEM Coordinator (Heidi Bjerke, hbjerke2@illinois.edu ).
  • Final report due within 30 days of the end of grant according to the project timeline.
  • Describe the following in 2 pages or less, 1″ margins, 12-point font.
    • Summary of activity(ies) and how it was relevant to NASA Strategic Mission Directorate(s)
    • Number of indirect students impacted (students not directly supported by ISGC funding)
    • as appropriate, details on collaborations between NASA centers, universities, university departments, industry, faculty, students, etc. (specify disciplines).
    • Self-evaluation of the impact of the experience
  • Appendices: In addition, provide the following (pages are in addition to report components noted above):
  • Papers, presentations, patent applications, proposals, announcements, news articles, press releases resulting from ISGC funding
  • If relevant: 5-10 photographs relevant to the program, involving participants, with captions. Each person with a recognizable face must have signed a photo-release form found here.


  • Researchers submitting NASA-funded articles in peer-reviewed journals or papers from conferences now shall make their work accessible to the public through NASA’s PubSpace at https://www.nasa.gov/open/researchaccess/pubspace . PubSpace provides free access to NASA funded and archived scientific publications. Research papers will be available within one year of publication to download and read.
  • Papers and presentations should acknowledge ISGC funding using this statement: “The material contained in this document is based upon work supported by a National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) grant or cooperative agreement. Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of NASA. This work was supported through a NASA grant awarded to the Illinois/NASA Space Grant Consortium.”


Remember to schedule your midpoint review with the STEM Coordinator, Heidi Bjerke, hbjerke2@illinois.edu, based upon your proposal timeline.

December 1, 2021Application Opens
February 20, 2022Applications Due
The first week of March 2022Awards announced and subawards established
April 10, 2022New grants begin
August 12, 2022Summer data forms sent
October 3, 2022Summer data forms due
December 16, 2022Fall data forms sent
January 27, 2023Fall data forms due
April 9, 2023Grant year ends
May 26, 2023Spring data forms sent
June 10, 2023Spring data forms due

The final report is due a month after the grant’s end based upon the specific project timeline.

Inquiries:  Send questions to Heidi Bjerke at hbjerke2@illinois.edu