Fundamentally, policy levers designed to influence the number of US S&E workers fall into two categories: supply-side and demand-side. Among supply-side issues are K–12 science, mathematics and technology teaching, undergraduate S&E educational experience, graduate training experience, opportunity costs compared with those of other fields and professions, and length of postdoctoral training period. On the demand side are funding for research and availability of research jobs, both of which are powerfully influenced by public policies and by public and private expenditures on research and development.
Past reports have identified a number of options the federal government could take to influence the education and career decisions of top US students, including the following:
Double the number of magnet high schools specializing in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics from approximately 100 to 200 over the next 10 years.
Support competitive undergraduate scholarships for students interested in science, mathematics, and engineering.
Provide scholarships to all qualified students majoring in science or mathematics at a 4-year college who have an economic need and who maintain high levels of academic achievement.
Provide at least 5,000 portable graduate fellowships, each with a duration of up to 5 years, for training in emerging fields, to encourage US students to pursue S&E graduate studies.
Provide graduate student stipends competitive with opportunities in other venues.
Support a significant number of selective research assistant professorships in the natural sciences and engineering open to postdoctoral scholars who are US citizens or permanent residents.
Partner with industry to sponsor a series of public-service announcements exalting science and technology careers.
One proven way of fostering students’ interest in science and technology is through magnet high schools that emphasize those subjects. There are approximately 100 such schools in the United States, and studies have shown that graduates from these schools are more likely to study science, mathematics, or engineering in college and enter those fields during their careers.1 It is not known, however, whether these students would have had similar career trajectories even if they had not attended magnet schools.