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OnRamp II Scholarship Program

The National Security Agency’s (NSA) OnRamp II Scholarship Program fosters educational partnerships between NSA and academic institutions to promote the technical health and diversity of students in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM).  An important element of this partnership includes: scholarships, internships, and opportunity for mission-focused research.

To be eligible for the OnRamp II Scholarship Program you must be a student at one of the following schools:

  • North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University
  • Collaboration for Advancing Minority Participation in Security (CAMPS) – includes Texas A&M University, Prairie View A&M University, Texas A&M University – Corpus Christi, Texas A&M University – San Antonio, and West Texas A&M University
  • University of Maryland, Baltimore County
  • University of Texas at San Antonio.

OnRamp Predecessor

The National Security Agency (NSA)’s OnRamp program began in 2009 with the issuance of a Broad Agency Announcement (BAA) soliciting interest in grants designed to support and retain students preparing for careers in the mathematical sciences (mathematics, computer science, computer engineering, physics, and statistics).  Priority for OnRamp assistance was aimed at “underrepresented students”, including members of minority groups, women, persons with disabilities, and others who traditionally are involved in these fields in disproportionately low numbers, with a focus on developing competitively credentialed candidates for graduate programs. Grant funding supported student tuition, room/board, and mandatory fees. Moreover, the structure of the On-Ramp program provided for selected participants to receive a comprehensive array of support services from the participating institutions and NSA to facilitate students’ academic, professional, and interpersonal growth and development, including: 

  • Professional Academic and Peer Advising
  • Study Groups and Tutoring
  • Professional Development and Community Service Activities and
  • Summer Bridge Program – mandatory attendance at an accelerated six-week residential program the summer preceding their first semester

Information and Resources for Academic Institutions

The window to submit your application for your school to be a part of the OnRamp II Scholarship Program for the 2021-2022 school year is closed.  

NSA is seeking proposals from educational institutions that desire to enter into an OnRamp II EPA with NSA to initiate a strategic relationship to achieve the program’s stated objectives.  Schools will be selected based on an evaluation of proposals in accordance with the selection criteria outlined below.  Academic scholarships and other program opportunities will not be available until a school is selected as an OnRamp II participant and has executed an EPA with NSA.  To ensure a manageable program size for administration purposes and to account for anticipated funding availability, the Government expects to initially select approximately 4 schools for OnRamp II EPAs.

The OnRamp II program seeks to build upon the prior OnRamp program, the successes of which highlighted the benefits of NSA’s investment.  Specifically, NSA plans to effect a successor program aimed at fostering educational partnerships between NSA and academic institutions to increase the pipeline of students in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) disciplines pursuing employment with NSA while enhancing their academic caliber.  Utilizing the authority of 10 USC §§ 2192(b) and 2194, NSA plans to enter into Educational Partnership Agreements (EPAs) with a set of institutions most likely to achieve the OnRamp II goals (i.e., OnRamp II Schools).  Under these EPAs, NSA plans to:

  • Provide academic scholarships1  to OnRamp II School undergraduate and graduate students in return for a service obligation2 
  • Provide internship opportunities to OnRamp II School undergraduate and graduate students
  • Provide academic and career advice and assistance to OnRamp II School undergraduate and graduate students
  • Provide sabbatical opportunities at NSA to OnRamp II School faculty members to enhance collaboration and partnership benefitting the Agency, the faculty members and the academic institution3 
  • Allow for OnRamp II Schools to seek and perform contract-based cybersecurity lablet work in mission-focused cybersecurity research4

The anticipated level of engagement will be commensurate with an OnRamp II School’s ability to exhibit a successful and sustainable STEM diversity pipeline and thereby justifying an enhanced mission partnership (e.g., sabbatical opportunities, lablet work).   The primary objective of this effort is to promote the technical health of a strongly diverse STEM pipeline for NSA and to increase collaboration between NSA and academic institutions that are well positioned to support this objective.  While this program is not restricted to underrepresented students in STEM fields, a proposal that demonstrates an institution’s success with the advancement of individuals from such groups is highly desirable.  

To this end, NSA is seeking proposals from educational institutions that desire to enter into an OnRamp II EPA with NSA to initiate a strategic relationship to achieve the program’s stated objectives.  Schools will be selected based on an evaluation of proposals in accordance with the selection criteria outlined below.  Academic scholarships and other program opportunities will not be available until a school is selected as an OnRamp II participant and has executed an EPA with NSA.  To ensure a manageable program size for administration purposes and to account for anticipated funding availability, the Government expects to initially select approximately 4 schools for OnRamp II EPAs.

Proposal Submission Guidelines 

  • Selection Criteria
    • Selection as an OnRamp II School will be made on the basis of several factors that demonstrate the academic institution’s ability and process to identify and nominate underrepresented students for internships and scholarship funding at NSA, potential to support the advancement of the technical health of a strongly diverse STEM pipeline for NSA, and the academic institution’s capacity to carry out research directly applicable to NSA’s mission. Relevant factors shall include:
      • The Academic Institution’s demonstrated ability to support the advancement of the technical health of a strongly diverse STEM pipeline for NSA, exemplars include:
        •  Evidence of continuing success related to underrepresented students in the STEM fields (“underrepresented students”):

                         o    Percentage of underrepresented students enrolled
                         o    Freshman underrepresented student retention rates
                         o    Graduation rate gaps and general graduation rates

  • Broad institutional programs that have led to marked, quantitative successes involving underrepresented students

                         o    Improvement in academic performance
                         o    Matriculation to graduate and professional schools

  • Individual-level student interventions

                         o    Summer bridge programs
                         o    Personalized academic advising, plans and support

  • Contextual-level interventions

                         o    Providing for faculty and institutional climate of inclusion
                         o    Cultural competence

  • Institutional accountability with regard to student diversity
  • Creation of student programs that increase diversity of students participating in undergraduate STEM disciplines
  • Approaches to addressing student resource disparity
  • Designation as a Minority Serving Institution (MSI).  
     
  • The Academic Institution’s demonstrated ability to support research directly applicable to NSA’s mission (e.g. NSA Cybersecurity Lablet Hard Problems), exemplars include:
     
  • Research Influence 

                       o    The number of times work by an academic at the academic institution is cited by another scholar
                       o    Perception of academic institution research by peers
                       o    Impact of research as seen in research transitions

  • Research sponsorship by industry, government, and the academic institution system

                       o    Indication of commercial and government impact of an academic institution’s research
                       o    Measure of resources and facilities available to carry out research activities

  • Research Reputation

                       o    Academic Institution ranking nationally across different disciplines

•    Proposal Evaluation

Submitted proposals will be reviewed by a panel of NSA employees. The Panel will meet to discuss, rank, and order the proposals according to the potential contribution and relevance to the OnRamp II program published evaluation criteria. The final ordering of proposals will be used in the selection of academic institutions for EPAs and participation in the OnRamp II program. 

•    Eligibility

o    Who May Submit
It is NSA’s intent to maintain America’s domestic capabilities in STEM at the highest level. Therefore, all regionally accredited four-year and graduate level institutions in the United States and its territories, to include collaborating institutions, designated as an NSA and/or IC Center of Academic Excellence (CAE) are eligible to submit a proposal to seek designation as an OnRAMP II School. 

o    When and How to Submit
Proposals must have been submitted by 24 April 2020. Any proposal, including any modification, or revision received after the date specified for receipt is “late” and will not be considered.

•    What to Submit
      Academic Institutions should submit a single PDF file that comprises each of the following parts of the proposal: 
             o    Cover Page, including:

  • Name and address of Academic Institution
  • Academic Institution point of contact, including:
    • Name
    • Telephone Number
    • E-mail Address
    • Mailing Address

            o    Executive Summary (2-page maximum)
            o    Description of Academic Institution relevance and potential contribution to the OnRamp II program published evaluation criteria. That is, a description of the academic institution’s ability and process to identify and nominate underrepresented students for internships and scholarship funding at NSA, potential to support the advancement of the technical health of a strongly diverse STEM pipeline for NSA, and the academic institution’s preparation for carrying out mission focused research. (8-page maximum)
            o    Personnel

  • The personnel section shall include the qualifications of the key academic institution personnel to be involved in the OnRamp II program. Resume/curriculum vitae may be included for these individuals.

            o    Bibliography (as applicable)
            o    Facilities and Equipment (e.g. laboratories, computers, equipment) available to perform proposed activities in support of the selection criteria. (as applicable)

•    OnRamp II Program Administration

      For questions regarding the OnRamp II Program, please contact the OnRamp II team at OnRamp@nsa.gov.

Resources for Students

The purpose of the National Security Agency’s (NSA) OnRamp II program is to promote the technical health and diversity of students in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) disciplines. Students will be pursuing employment with NSA while enhancing their academic caliber.

An important element of the educational partnerships with academic institutions designated as OnRamp II schools includes:

  • Academic scholarship for up to three years for qualified undergraduate and graduate students in exchange for one year of employment payback for each year of support. Deferment will be allowed for undergraduates who pursue graduate studies.
  • Internship opportunities for undergraduate and graduate students.
  • Academic and career advice and assistance with NSA procedures and processing.  
  • Opportunity for mission-focused cybersecurity research.

NSA OnRamp II Scholarship Benefits

NSA OnRamp II scholarship participants will receive funding up to $25,000 per academic year to cover:

  • Tuition support and education related fees (does not include meal plans, housing or parking).
  • Book allowance (including e-books and audio books) and school supplies up to $3,000 per academic year.
  • Professional development allowance (including travel and conference fees, professional certifications, and leadership development) up to $2,000 per academic year.

Scholarship funding cannot be used for stipends.

Eligibility for NSA OnRamp II Scholarship

To be eligible for consideration for the OnRamp II scholarship, students must meet all of the following:

  • United States citizen.
  • Current or prospective enrollment in a STEM discipline full time as an undergraduate (except for freshman), master’s and/or doctoral student, with a 3.0 cumulative GPA on a 4.0 scale as determined by the academic institution.
  • Selection criteria for hire at the NSA.

NSA OnRamp II Obligations for Scholarship Participant

The NSA OnRamp II scholarship participant must agree to:

  • Processing for clearance as outlined on Intelligencecareers.gov – Application Process.   
  • Employment with NSA following graduation (unless deferred for graduate studies) for a period equal to the length of scholarship
  • Participation in an NSA 12-week internship for at least one summer prior to graduation. 

NSA OnRamp II Application Materials

  • Current resume to include relevant professional experiences such as internships and positions of employment. Include all scholarships, academic honors, STEM student leadership roles, honorary societies, and any other recognition relevant to the selected field of study since entering college. Any notable contributions to STEM prior to college should be highlighted as well.  Test scores (e.g., SAT, ACT) will not be evaluated.
  • Up-to-date official transcript submitted as an electronic PDF.
  • If applicable, copies of relevant publications and presentations pertaining to the STEM fields such as articles, journal submissions, conference presentations, etc.
  • Two letters of recommendation from persons knowledgeable of the nominee’s potential for successful learning and contribution. At least one must be from a current STEM faculty member.
  • Statement of ability to meet security clearance requirements, necessary for employment and paid internship work as outlined on Intelligencecareers.gov – Application Process.   
  • Statement of acknowledgement from nominee that they have read and agree to sign the OnRamp II Scholarship Agreement, outlining internship and service obligations.

OnRamp II Points of Contact

To find out more information and application details about NSA’s OnRamp II Scholarship Program at your school, follow the links below:

  1. North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University
  2. Collaboration for Advancing Minority Participation in Security (CAMPS) – includes Texas A&M University, Prairie View A&M University, Texas A&M University – Corpus Christi, Texas A&M University – San Antonio, and West Texas A&M University
    1. Isah Veronica D. Juranek; CAMPS-OnRamp@tamu.edu
  3. University of Maryland Baltimore County
    1. 410-455-3139
  4. University of Texas San Antonio
    1. Dr. Gregory B. White; greg.white@utsa.edu; 210-488-4291

FAQ

Frequently Asked Questions for Schools

Question:      What are the citizenship requirements for Principle Investigators (PI) under the On Ramp II Program?
Answer:    Principle Investigators under the On Ramp II program MUST be US citizens.

Question:    What are the cost proposal requirements for On Ramp II?
Answer:    NSA is seeking proposals from educational institutions that desire to enter into an On Ramp II EPA with NSA, to initiate a strategic relationship to achieve On Ramp II objectives. Moreover, program opportunities will not be available until a school is selected and has executed an EPA with NSA. Therefore as to funding inquiries, no cost proposal is required at the time of initial proposal submission. Once an EPA is in place, academic scholarships and other program opportunities will be discussed and terms negotiated.
Still further the heart of the proposal is to focus on a description of your institution’s ability and process to identify and nominate underrepresented students for internships and scholarship funding at NSA, potential to support the advancement of the technical health of a strongly diverse STEM pipeline for NSA, and the institution’s preparation for carrying out mission focused research.

Question:    What is the time period for which proposals can be written?
Answer:    Regarding the “time period for which the proposal can be written”, descriptions detailing an institution’s “ability”, “potential”, and “preparation” do not require a “time period”, especially given that no costing information is being required within the initial submission.

Question:    Does an existing EPA cover OnRamp II? Does a new EPA need to be signed for schools that are selected participants?
Answer:    The EPA will be specific to OnRamp II  and will not conflict with already established EPA or CRADA’s. 

Question:    Has the proposal submission timeline been altered as a result of current events?
Answer:    Yes, we have extended the deadline to 24 April, 2020.

Question:    Will the OnRamp II Team be available to speak with individual schools regarding proposals?
Answer:    No. Not at this time.

Question:    Does a school have to be designated as "minority serving" to apply?
Answer:    No. A school does not have to be a Minority Serving Institution to apply.

Frequently Asked Questions for Students

  1. What is the OnRamp II Scholarship Program?

The National Security Agency’s (NSA) OnRamp II Scholarship Program fosters educational partnerships between NSA and academic institutions to promote the technical health and diversity of students in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM).  An important element of this partnership includes: scholarships, internships, and opportunity for mission-focused research.

  1. Where/ how do I start to apply for the OnRamp II scholarship?

To be eligible for the OnRamp II Scholarship Program you must be a student at one of the following schools:

  • North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University
  • Texas A&M University: Includes Texas A&M University, Prairie View A&M University, Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi, Texas A&M University-San Antonio, and West Texas A&M University.
  • University of Maryland, Baltimore County
  • University of Texas at San Antonio.

Details on where/how to apply for the OnRamp II Scholarship Program can be found on the OnRamp II Flyer.

  1. Can this scholarship be combined with other scholarships? Will this effect financial aid? Can a student be awarded more than one scholarship?

Academic scholarships are awarded annually to ungraduated and graduate students of designated OnRamp II academic institutions.  Students may receive scholarship funding for up to three years to complete their course of study.  Other scholarships and/or aide can be applied if tuition and mandatory fees exceed the amount of an OnRamp II scholarship. Award of an OnRamp II scholarships will not affect a student’s ability to receive other financial aid. 

  1. What if a student needs to drop or change a class? 

Students desiring to drop or change a class must notify the EPA Partner Program Manager at their school, as well as the NSA OnRamp II Program Office in advance of taking any action. Refer to Section I of the Student Handbook for details.

  1. Can a student receive a waiver from the internship obligation if their clearance is not granted in time? 

The NSA OnRamp II Program Office can waive the 12-week internship requirement if a student does not receive a clearance in time to fulfill this particular obligation.  Should a student receive a waiver, the service obligation will be extended by an additional 12 weeks. 

  1. Will the OnRamp II Program support graduate and PhD studies? 

Yes. However, for this inaugural academic year (2021/22), support for sophomore and junior undergraduates will be a priority. 

  1. How will GPA be calculated for transfer students? 

GPA will be determined by the designated OnRamp II academic institution, a transfer GPA will not be considered.  

  1. Does the OnRamp II Program support post docs? 

No, post doc support is not within the scope of the program.  

  1. How many years can a student receive scholarship funding? 

Academic scholarships are awarded annually to ungraduated and graduate students of designated OnRamp II academic institutions.  Students funded by the OnRamp II Program will be given priority for scholarship consideration for a total of three years to complete their course of study. 

  1. What does OnRamp II scholarship funding cover?

The recipient of OnRamp II scholarship funding will receive up to $25,000 per academic year to cover:

  • Tuition support and education related fees (does not include meal plans, housing or parking).
  • Books (to include e-books and audio books) and school supplies up to $3000 per academic year.
  • Professional development up to $2000 per academic year (e.g. conference fees, certification training, and travel).

Scholarship funding cannot be used for stipends or administrative activities associated with managing the OnRamp II Program. 

Award/ Payment

  1. How will the student receive the scholarship money? Who will the scholarship money be coming from – the University or NSA?

Scholarship funding will be provided by NSA directly to the academic institutions who will be responsible for disbursing funds to pay for tuition and education related fees, books, school supplies, and professional development as described in the Student Handbook.

  1. Will my scholarship be taxed?

Contact your school’s OnRamp II POC (add info) for details.

Eligibility

  1. What are qualifications to apply for the scholarship? Can an international student apply for this scholarship?

To be eligible for consideration for the OnRamp II scholarship, students must meet all of the following:

  • U.S. citizen
  • Current or prospective enrollment as a full-time student in a STEM discipline at a NSA  designated OnRamp II academic institution
  • Meet selection criteria for hire at the NSA as described at intelligencecareers.gov w/link to applications tab.

Application and Hiring

  1. What does the clearance process entail?

The government considers many factors when granting security clearances, including citizenship, drug use and personal integrity and conduct.  

  1. What types of positions will be available for the internship?

NSA’s summer internship opportunities include cyber operations, cyber security, signals intelligence, math/research, security and counterintelligence and so much more! Interns at NSA are full-time employees entitled to a salary, stipend towards housing costs (only for long distance participants) and paid time off.  For additional information on NSA Internships visit Intelligencecareers.gov – NSA Student Programs.

  1. Is telework available for the intern commitment obligation?

Full-time telework internships are not available at this time. NSA Internships offer students an invaluable experience and insight into the Agency’s national security missions, as well as an opportunity to work alongside premier STEM talent.

  1. Can the commitment be served with a government contractor?

No, the service obligation is to the National Security Agency.

  1. What location will the student be required to serve their internship?

The majority of NSA’s summer internship opportunities are available at Ft. Meade, Maryland, although there may be an opportunity to work as an intern at one of the Agency’s Cryptologic Centers located in Georgia, Texas, Colorado and Hawaii.

  1. What grade level will I be when hired?

Salary for each student will be determined by the Office of Human Resources in coordination with the OnRamp II Program Office taking into account each student’s unique set of skills, experiences and degree(s), that factor into the starting salary/grade.

  1. What is required of the student after the scholarship is awarded?

In addition to the obligations listed in add link to flyer, students are expected to uphold the standards of conduct required to successfully complete NSA’s pre-employment processing and maintain a clearance.

  1. Is there information available on the requirements to obtain a security clearance? 

Information on obtaining a security clearance and requirements for employment at NSA can be found on IntelligenceCareers.gov — Application Process


[1]  Students must be U.S. citizens and satisfy NSA’s security clearance requirements to be eligible for employment and paid internship work. Students must agree in writing: to complete all degree program requirements for which scholarship is provided and maintain at least a 3.0 GPA on a 4.0 scale each semester/quarter; and to reimburse the United States for the total cost of scholarship provided through the OnRAMP II program if, prior to the participant completing all degree requirements, the participant’s employment with the Agency is terminated due to misconduct by the participant, by the program participant voluntarily, or by the Agency for failure of the participant to maintain such level of academic standing outlined for OnRAMP II. The procedure to reimburse the United States will be described in the EPA.  Students who are unable to satisfy NSA’s requirements for a security clearance and thus are unable to undergo a summer internship will have their scholarship funding curtailed. 

[2]  The service obligation calculation is based on 1 year of employment payback for each year of support.  Deferment will be allowed for undergraduates who pursue graduate studies.  Students must agree in writing to continue in the service of the Agency for the described internship and the period of service obligation

[3] Like the students seeking internship opportunities, faculty members seeking a sabbatical at NSA must be U.S. citizens and satisfy NSA’s security clearance requirements.

[4] Under 10 USC 2192(b), NSA may enter into contracts in furtherance of an EPA.  NSA envisions the potential of either sole-source or competitive contracts with OnRamp II Schools where the contractual efforts align with and support the goals of the EPA.  For a description of a lablet, see the following:  NSA Cybersecurity Lablet:

https://www.nsa.gov/News-Features/New-Stories/Article-View/Article/1624730/new-nsa-funded-lablets-to-advance-the-science-of-security-and-privacy

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