To Maintain Competitive Edge
Sept. 30, 2010 -- National efforts to strengthen
"It's well-documented that the United States needs a strong science and technology work force to maintain global leadership and competitiveness," said Freeman Hrabowski III, chair of the committee that wrote the report and president of the University of Maryland, Baltimore County. "The minds and talents of underrepresented minorities are a great, untapped resource that the nation can no longer afford to squander. Improving STEM education of our diverse citizenry will strengthen the science and engineering work force and boost the
Underrepresented minorities -- including African Americans, Hispanics, and Native Americans -- comprised just over 9 percent of minority college-educated Americans in science and engineering occupations in 2006, the report notes. This number would need to triple to match the share of minorities in the
The report's recommendations build upon Rising Above the Gathering Storm, a landmark 2005 publication from the National Academy of Sciences, National Academy of Engineering, and Institute of Medicine that urged improvements in STEM education at all levels as part of a larger plan to sustain U.S. scientific and technological leadership. To be successful, the new report says, these efforts must include an ongoing, comprehensive approach to encourage underrepresented minorities to pursue science and engineering degrees. In the short term, the nation should work to double the number of those who receive undergraduate STEM degrees, a goal that is "a reasonable and attainable down payment on a longer-term effort to achieve greater parity overall." Studies show that minorities major in STEM at the same rate as do other groups but are more likely not to complete degrees or to change majors.
To reach this goal, higher education institutions should create programs that provide underrepresented minority students in STEM with strong financial, academic, and social support. Financial support will allow them to complete their degrees and better prepare for the work force or graduate school. The committee estimated that such programs would cost approximately $150 million annually, eventually rising to about $600 million per year as more students are included.
In addition, K-12 STEM teachers need better preparation, and high school programs should emphasize college readiness, the report says. Few students who require remedial courses beyond high school complete undergraduate degrees in STEM, the report says. Secondary school programs that guarantee students have access to advanced courses and proper academic advising would ensure underrepresented minorities are fully prepared for college and improve graduation rates. The federal government, industry, and post-secondary institutions should work collaboratively with K-12 schools and school systems to increase minority access to and demand for post-secondary STEM education and technical training.
Long-term actions recommended in the report include offering stronger programs that develop reading, mathematics skills, and creativity in preschool through third grade, and improving the quality of K-12 mathematics and science education for underrepresented minorities.
The challenge of increasing underrepresented minority participation and success in STEM is so substantial that it requires commitment from every type and size of learning institution -- from community colleges to large state schools, and from predominantly white institutions to those that historically serve minorities, the report says. All of these institutions should be held accountable, and efforts should focus not only on increasing the number of minorities in STEM but also on the quality of the education they receive.
Leadership is key to successful implementation of minority recruitment and retention programs and is required from all stakeholders, including government agencies, employers, and professional societies. At institutions of higher education, regents, trustees, presidents, provosts, deans, and department chairs must make minority participation a commitment both in the institutional mission and in everyday affairs. In addition, leaders must be more aggressive in ensuring that underrepresented minority teachers, faculty, and administrators are able to serve as role models and leaders.
The study was sponsored by NASA, the National Institutes of Health, the National Science Foundation, the Carnegie Corporation of
Copies of Expanding Minority Participation: America's Science and Technology Talent at the Crossroads are available from the National Academies Press; tel. 202-334-3313 or 1-800-624-6242 or on the Internet at http://www.nap.edu. Reporters may obtain a copy from the Office of News and Public Information (contacts listed below). In addition, a podcast of the public briefing held to release this report is available at http://national-academies.org/podcast.
Contacts: Sara Frueh, Media Relations Officer
Molly Galvin, Senior Media Relations Officer
Luwam Yeibio, Media Relations Assistant
Office of News and Public Information
[ This news release and report are available at http://national-academies.org ]
Committee on Science, Engineering, and Public Policy
Freeman A. Hrabowski III (chair)
Principal Member of the Technical Staff
Sandia National Laboratories
Principal Research Associate
Nancy S. Grasmick
State Superintendent of Schools
Maryland State Department of Education
Carlos G. Gutierrez
Professor of Chemistry and Biochemistry
Evelynn M. Hammonds
Charles Stark Draper Professor of Aeronautics and Astronautics and,
Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Professor and Director
Higher Education Research Institute
Institute for Social Research, and
Daniel Katz Distinguished University Professor of Psychology
Quality Education for Minorities Network
Diana S. Natalicio
IAT Project Principal and Vice President
Eduardo J. Padron
Professor and Chair
Georgia Institute of Technology
John B. Slaughter 1
Professor of Education and Engineering
Richard A. Tapia 1
University Professor and Maxfield-Oshman Professor in Engineering
Chief Scientific Officer
RESEARCH COUNCIL STAFF