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Rising Above the Gathering Storm Two Years Later: Accelerating Progress Toward a Brighter Economic Future - Summary of a Convocation Science and Engineering Higher Education In contrast to precollege education, U.S. colleges and universities are world leaders in science and mathematics education. But proportionately fewer U.S. students take advantage of these institutions than is the case in other countries. Rising Above the Gathering Storm recommended efforts to expand the pool of U.S. citizens earning degrees in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM), as well as steps to allow the United States to remain an attractive place for talented foreign students to earn STEM degrees. As Secretary of the Smithsonian and former Georgia Institute of Technology President G. Wayne Clough pointed out, “twenty years ago the United States was almost number one in the world [in undergraduate degree production], with about 39 percent of our people getting a two-year or four-year degree in college. Today we’re tenth and falling rapidly as other nations push past us.” Many students in U.S. colleges and universities pursuing science and engineering degrees are from other countries. As Sally Ride observed, the number of U.S. students with engineering Ph.D.s is declining as foreign students increase their presence in engineering graduate programs, and the same trend can be seen in many scientific disciplines. At the same time, other countries are increasing their investments in higher education, which will entice more foreign students to remain in their own countries for graduate school. Students in other countries “are every bit as good as the students in this country,” said Clough. “What they lack, for now, is the masters and Ph.D.-level education. But that will come, because those countries are investing in those areas.” According to Craig Barrett, “The United States has the best technical universities in the world, and after we educate other countries’ students in science and engineering, we make it difficult for these same students to stay and work in the United States.” While visa processing for students and visiting scholars has improved in the last few years, strict limits remain on the number of foreign scientists and engineers who are allowed to work in the United States. Furthermore, the problem of recruiting and retaining sufficient scientists and engineers will become especially severe in the next one to two decades as large numbers of U.S. scientists and engineers educated in the 1950s and 1960s retire. As minority groups come to represent a larger fraction of the U.S. student population, outreach and support for members of those groups will become increasingly important to increase their representation in the science and engineering workforce. For example,
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Rising Above the Gathering Storm Two Years Later: Accelerating Progress Toward a Brighter Economic Future - Summary of a Convocation America needs to draw on all its talent, especially a growing population of minority students who continue to be under-represented in STEM fields. —RUBÉN HINOJOSA, U.S. Representative from Texas In the two and a half years since the release of this report, we still have not taken up the key steps that are needed to meet the intent of [its] goals. After a surprising amount of positive public attention and a lot of work by a lot of people, we are not moving to where we need to go, and there is no imminent momentum to change this direction. The world is running away from us. —C.D. MOTE, JR., President of the University of Maryland We may have the greatest higher education system in the world — and the statistics tend to bear that out — but we also know that we’re part of the problem at higher education institutions. We’re discouraging too many students from getting STEM degrees. There’s too high a dropout level from the enthusiastic freshman entrants who want to major in STEM to the number who graduate with STEM degrees. —WILLIAM BONVILLIAN, Director of the MIT Washington Office Rep. Hinojosa described the Hispanic Engineering, Science, and Technology (HESTEC) program at the University of Texas-Pan American. HESTEC has become a model program for promoting science, technology, engineering, and mathematics careers among predominantly Hispanic students in South Texas. In the seven years since HESTEC was founded, the engineering school at UTPA has grown from 100 students to 1,200, Hinojosa said. The reauthorization of the Higher Education Act includes a program called Youth Engagement in STEM Partnerships that is designed to replicate the success of HESTEC at minority-serving institutions across the country. The America COMPETES Act also emphasizes increasing the numbers of minorities and women in STEM fields and expanding minority-serving institutions’ participation in education, research, and development.