Higher Education: Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics Trends and the Role of Federal Programs Page: 3 of 23
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Mr. Chairman and Members of the Committee:
Thank you for inviting me here today to discuss U.S. trends in the fields of
science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) in relation to
the changing domestic and global economies. The health of the U.S.
economy is directly tied to our science and technology industries, and the
United States is a world leader in scientific and technological innovation.
Since 1995, for example, the United States has generated the largest share
of high-technology manufacturing output of any country in the world.
Concerns have been raised, however, about the nation's ability to maintain
its technological competitive advantage, especially in light of other
nations' investments in their own research infrastructures, the aging and
changing U.S. workforce, and the fiscal challenges facing the nation. From
1990 to 2003, research and development expenditures outside the United
States have more than doubled, from about $225 billion to over $500
billion. According to the Census Bureau, the median age of the U.S.
population in 2004 was the highest it had ever been, and the growth of the
labor force is expected to slow considerably, becoming negligible by 2050.
Further, as the United States becomes a more diverse society, minorities,
in addition to women, will continue to represent a continuously increasing
share of the workforce, yet women and minorities have tended to be
underrepresented in STEM education programs and career fields. These
factors, concurrent with the nation's large and growing long-term fiscal
imbalance, present significant and difficult challenges for policymakers as
they tackle how best to ensure that our nation can continue to compete in
the global marketplace.
My testimony today will focus on three key issues: (1) trends in degree
attainment in STEM- and non-STEM-related fields and factors that may
influence these trends, (2) trends in the levels of employment in STEM-
and non-STEM-related fields and factors that may influence these trends,
and (3) federal education programs intended to support the study of and
employment in STEM-related fields. My comments are based on the
findings from our October 2005 report, Higher Education: Federal
Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics Programs and
Related Trends.' Those findings were based on our review and analysis of
data from a variety of sources. For that report we (1) analyzed survey
responses from 13 federal departments and agencies with STEM education
1GAO, Higher Education: Federal Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics
Programs and Related Trends, GAO-06-114 (Washington, D.C.: Oct. 12, 2005).
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United States. Government Accountability Office. Higher Education: Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics Trends and the Role of Federal Programs, text, May 3, 2006; Washington D.C.. (https://digital.library.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metadc292953/m1/3/: accessed April 23, 2019), University of North Texas Libraries, Digital Library, https://digital.library.unt.edu; crediting UNT Libraries Government Documents Department.