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Exploring the impact of proposed budget cuts to NASA education: A case study utilizing qualitative document analysis

McCormick, William Lloyd
The purpose of this study was to explore the impact of proposed budget cuts on NASA's education mission broadly and on NASA's Office of Education / STEM Engagement specifically. Throughout the four years of the Trump Administration, executive budgets proposed the orderly shutdown of the Office of Education and the elimination of its suite of domestic assistance award programs. This study examined a collection of documents spanning the final two years of the Obama Administration and the entirety of the Trump Administration in order to identify potential impacts to NASA's education mission, to consider what differences could be perceived in the documentary data corpus between the Obama era Office of Education and the Trump era Office of STEM Engagement, and to attempt to understand this moment in NASA education efforts in the larger context of NASA's history. Documents examined included budget documents, materials presented to and by the NASA Advisory Council STEM Engagement Committee, and NASA Education / STEM Engagement strategic planning documents. Coding and sorting of the documents revealed shifts in NASA's education mission, resource alignment, relationships with agency and external partnerships, and assessment and strategic planning efforts. While document analysis revealed these themes and adjustments in NASA's approach to its education mission, impacts do not appear to have been as substantial as what they might have been as Congress continually overruled executive budget proposals for the past four years and the proposed shutdown never occurred.