of nontraditional careers for which scientific and technical expertise is relevant. Third, limiting actions would have little immediate aggregate impact even if they could be orchestrated effectively. Instead, we believe that our recommendations of greatly improved career information and guidance will enhance the ability of the system to balance supply and demand. When the employment situation is poor, better-informed students will be able to pursue options other than a PhD; when the market is expanding, students will be able to move more flexibly and rapidly in the direction of employment demand.
The numbers of science and engineering students and PhDs who are foreign citizens are rising rapidly. The views we encountered about that situation are mixed. Some view it positively, arguing that universities benefit by having foreign graduate students help with research and teaching, that employers benefit by finding the most highly qualified PhDs, and that to compete in a global economy US universities and industries must be able to recruit the best talent available. Others are calling for limits on the numbers of foreign students, arguing that large numbers of foreign citizens compete with US citizens for jobs (which might explain part of the employment problems of recent years); that foreign citizens who return home might work for our economic competitors; that cultural and language difficulties make foreign students ineffective in the classroom as teaching assistants and limit their ability to succeed in the labor market; and that their presence in large numbers depresses salaries and thereby generates a discouraging market signal for potential American students.
As we argue in Chapter 4, the committee does not recommend limiting the number of foreign students, for several reasons. First, there is considerable anecdotal evidence that the most outstanding foreign PhDs tend to find employment in the United States and make major contributions to our nation. Second, the sharp increase in number of foreign-citizen graduate students seems to have been caused in part by a set of political events that are unlikely to recur as well as by changes in US immigration laws. Third, one cause of the presence of many foreign students is that their home nations have lacked adequate opportunities in both education and employment; the wealth of these nations is now growing, and there is already evidence that some foreign students are finding attractive employment opportunities at home.
To the extent that there is a limit on the number of departmental "slots" for graduate students, of more fundamental importance than the presence of foreign citizens is the fact that the number of American students entering science and engineering has grown only slightly in recent years and is a declining percentage of the total number of PhDs. We suggest that the most appropriate responses to the relatively flat enrollment of American students are to implement the measures advocated in this report (which should improve the responsiveness of the PhD labor market) and to continue efforts to strengthen the teaching of precollege science. Those measures, we believe, would make graduate education more attractive, more effective, and accessible to a larger group of qualified American applicants.