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Suggested Citation:"Science and Engineering Higher Education." National Academy of Sciences, National Academy of Engineering, and Institute of Medicine. 2009. Rising Above the Gathering Storm Two Years Later: Accelerating Progress Toward a Brighter Economic Future: Summary of a Convocation. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/12537.
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Suggested Citation:"Science and Engineering Higher Education." National Academy of Sciences, National Academy of Engineering, and Institute of Medicine. 2009. Rising Above the Gathering Storm Two Years Later: Accelerating Progress Toward a Brighter Economic Future: Summary of a Convocation. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/12537.
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Page 13

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RISING ABOVE THE GATHERING STORM TWO YEARS LATER 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 advan- tage 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 sci- ence, 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 engi- neering graduate programs, and the same trend can be seen in many scientific disci- plines. At the same time, other countries are increasing their investments in higher edu- cation, 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 educa- tion. 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 suffi- cient 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, 12

Accelerating Progress Toward a Brighter Economic Future 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 America needs to draw on all its talent, need to go, and there is no im- especially a growing population of minent momentum to change this minority students who continue to be direction. The world is running away under-represented in STEM fields. from us. —RUBÉN HINOJOSA, U.S. Representative —C.D. MOTE, JR., President of the from Texas 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 pro- gram 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. 13

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Rising Above the Gathering Storm Two Years Later: Accelerating Progress Toward a Brighter Economic Future summarizes a convocation held in April 2008 to commemorate the release of the original Gathering Storm report. The convocation featured participation by Members of Congress, Cabinet Secretaries, leaders from industry and academia, and other experts. The discussions reviewed progress made thus far in implementing the Gathering Storm recommendations to strengthen K-12 education in math and science, research, higher education, and the environment for innovation. Participants also noted that much additional work is needed to ensure that America remains a leader in science and engineering in the long term.

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