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have recommended a national effort to increase the numbers of both domestic and international students pursuing science, technology, engineering, and mathematics degrees in the United States.4

There is concern that, in general, our undergraduates are not keeping up with those in other nations. The United States has increased the proportion of its college-age population earning first university degrees in the natural sciences and engineering over the last quarter-century, but it has still lost ground, now ranking 20th globally on this indicator.5

There are even more concerns about graduate education. In the 1990s, the enrollment of US citizens and permanent residents in graduate science and engineering programs declined substantially. Although enrollments began to rise again in 2001, by 2003 they had not yet returned to the peak numbers of the early 1990s.6 Meanwhile, the United States faces new challenges in the recruitment of international graduate students and postdoctoral scholars. Over the past several decades, graduate students and postdoctoral scholars from throughout the world have come to the United States to take advantage of what has been the premier environment in which to learn and conduct research. As a result, international students now constitute more than a third of the students in US science and engineering graduate schools, up from less than one-fourth in 1982. More than half the international postdoctoral scholars are temporary residents, and half that group earned doctorates outside the United States.

Many of the international students educated in the United States choose to remain here after receiving their degrees, and they contribute much to our ability to create knowledge, produce technological innovations, and generate jobs throughout the economy. The proportion of international doctorate recipients remaining in the United States after receiving their degrees increased from 49% in the 1989 cohort to 71% in 2001.7 But the consequences of the events of September 11, 2001, included drastic changes in visa processing, and the number of international students applying to and enrolling in US graduate programs declined substantially. More recently, there have been signs of recovery; however, we are still falling short of earlier trends in attracting and retaining such students. As other nations develop their own systems of graduate education to recruit and retain more highly skilled students and professionals, often modeled after the US sys-


Another point of view presented in Box 7-1.


National Science Board. Science and Engineering Indicators 2004. NSB 04-01. Arlington, VA: National Science Foundation, 2004.


National Science Foundation. Graduate Enrollment in Science and Engineering Programs Up in 2003, but Declines for First-Time Foreign Students: Info Brief. NSF 05-317. Arlington, VA: National Science Foundation, 2005.


The National Academies. Policy Implications of International Graduate Students and Postdoctoral Scholars in the United States. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press, 2005.

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