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Goal: Increase college access, quality, and completion by strengthening higher education and lifelong learning opportunities.
Objective: Restore and sustain America’s lead in the modern knowledge economy, by improving the participation and performance of America’s students in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) subjects and fields.
How progress is measured: Bachelor's degrees awarded in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics: 1998-99 and 2008-09
Why is this measure important? Few issues matter more to America’s vitality than continuing this nation’s tradition of leading advances in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) fields, and the host of applications that can dramatically improve the quality of life in America and around the world. Yet, the 2009 Program for International Student Assessment (PISA) ranked American students behind their peers in 12 out of 33 other developed nations in science literacy (ahead of peers in 9 nations and on par with peers in 12 nations) and behind their peers in 17 developed nations in mathematics literacy (ahead of 5 nations and on par with 11 nations). http://nces.ed.gov/surveys/pisa/pisa2009highlights.asp And, today, only 23% of college freshmen declare a STEM major. Worse still, just 40% of those who elect STEM majors freshman year receive a STEM degree within 6 years. Our students need to do better, in order to thrive as informed citizens and consumers, and to contribute as workers, employers, and innovators. Over the long term, the nation’s ability to address key challenges, like spurring advancements in health and medicine, the environment, space exploration, food production, and a host of other areas that can revitalize the American economy, depends on more students entering – and greater numbers persisting in – STEM fields. It is important for our economic future, as the innovations of tomorrow will be created by scientists and engineers of today.
What do the data tell us at the national level? The percentage of bachelor's degrees conferred in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics fields in the United States was lower in 2008–09 (24.2 percent) than it was in 1998–99 (25.6 percent).
What are the limitations of the indicator? This indicator provides information on the percentage of graduates in STEM fields, but does not provide an indication of the percentage of graduates in other fields who also take significant amounts of STEM coursework. Data are assembled based on major field aggregations. In the major field aggregations that were not classified as STEM, some individual fields could be classified as STEM (such as econometrics within social sciences and history). The data reflect aggregations of degrees conferred by institutions located within the given state, rather than aggregations of residents of that state (who may be attending out-of-state institutions and are counted in data in the institution state).
Documentation for the indicator: Data on degree awards are from the Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS), Completions Survey. As mandated by Title IV of the Higher Education Act, IPEDS gathers information from every college, university, and technical and vocational institution that participates in the federal student financial aid programs (more than 6,700 institutions each year). Science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (or STEM) fields, as defined here, include agriculture and natural resources, biology and biomedical sciences, computer and information sciences, engineering and engineering technologies, health professions and clinical sciences, mathematics and statistics, and physical sciences and science technologies. For additional information on IPEDS, see http://nces.ed.gov/ipeds/. For additional information on NCES surveys on degrees conferred, see: http://nces.ed.gov/pubsearch/pubsinfo.asp?pubid=2010161.
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