Emulate successful models. In federal agencies and private industry alike, there are examples of programs that successfully stimulate interest in the study of S&E, engage youth in summer internship programs, fund graduate study and research, and increase the number of students that complete studies in S&E. One example is a U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) program that supports transportation centers at universities. Their funds require a 100 percent match from a non-federal source.33 These centers reach back into the K-12 school pipeline, building interest and offering incentives, such as the Eisenhower Fellows program, which provides grants for master’s degree candidates and for some undergraduates. While only a few go on to work directly for DOT, 92 percent stay in transportation, which is the program’s broader goal.34 Other federal agencies sponsor similar programs.
Examples of successful privately run programs include the U.S. First Robotic Competition, which engages more than 10,000 high school students across the country in design competitions in collaboration with industrial sponsors.35
Establish more graduate fellowship programs for women and minority groups that are underrepresented in S&E. More could be accomplished by linking policy to need. For instance, although the U.S. Department of Education offers almost $20 billion in student aid, virtually none of it is tied to the need to enhance the workforce in a particular discipline. There are national needs not only in S&E, but also in teaching, nursing, and other disciplines that could be addressed by a more targeted student aid program. Loan forgiveness is another option, with students receiving an educational loan in return for working a specified number of years in the targeted discipline after completion of their terminal degree. Finally, programs modeled after the Pell grants could be established specifically for S&E majors, as well as portable fellowships.
Make better use of education research and modern teaching techniques. Make use of cognition research to better inform pedagogy at all educational levels. Today’s classrooms look much as they did in 1900. Knowledge of how students learn and use information has largely been ignored. The federal government has never invested a large amount of money in education research or in connecting that research to education practice. However, efforts to link technology and industry, as those at the NSF’s Engineering Research Centers, have proven successful;36 these may provide templates for other cross-sector/cross-discipline collaborations.