Education & Training

The use of IT in education. This is not for STEM issues.

Presentation on "Refueling the U.S. Innovation Economy: Fresh Approaches to STEM Education"

March 16, 2011
| Presentations

Presentation on "Refueling the U.S. Innovation Economy: Fresh Approaches to STEM Education" at the Council of Graduate Schools Research Forum in Washington, D.C.

Time to Fix Higher Ed

March 5, 2011
| Blogs & Op-eds

Last year, in a blog post titled “The Failure of American Higher Education,” Rob Atkinson cited findings from national tests that showed that the majority of recent college graduates were deficient in prose, document and quantitative literacy. Now a new book, Academically Adrift: Limited Learning on College Campuses, by Richard Arum and Jospipa Roksa, reinforces these findings. So, what to do? Atkinson proposes a simple, no-cost solution that could be implemented by executive order of the President tomorrow and would go a long way to fixing the problem.

The Congressional Office of Science and Technology Policy should provide incentives for industry-hosted temporary jobs for undergraduates.

Providing more opportunities for college STEM students to work in industry, especially early in their college careers, will help encourage more students to stay in STEM. As a result, the White House should request through executive order that government agencies begin sitting some of their student fellowship/internships/co-ops/summer jobs in industry locations (e.g., an agency’s industry suppliers or collaborators), if not prohibited by law. At the same time, Congress should allow companies to take a tax deduction for corporate employee time spent mentoring student hires. The company could claim up to 35 percent of the aggregate student hire hours as donations of employee time, at the median prevailing wage of their salaried employees.

Federal research grants should routinely require “token cost sharing” from the sector identified as the ultimate customer for the research.

One way to expand academic linkages with industry is to require more industry or other organization funding of research. Doing this would broaden the range of inputs during the framing of research projects. Contributions should be small and could be cash or in-kind; the purpose is merely to force up-front communication outside the academic sector. Research projects designed to ultimately yield consumer product or service innovations should have a $5K-$30K cost-sharing requirement with industry; those designed to produce education innovations should have a $1K-$30K cost-sharing requirement from the public or from educational institutions not receiving funds under the grant. Evidence of the origin of the donations would be required.

Congress needs to create a “NSF-Industry Ph.D. Fellows Program.”

Doctoral fellowships are key factors in producing more Ph.D. degrees in Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM). But the number of NSF graduate research fellowships awarded per thousand college students graduating with degrees in science and engineering dropped from over seven in the early 1960s to just over two in 2005. Rather than simply expand funding for the NSF Graduate Research Fellowship program (funded at $102 million), Congress should create a new NSF-industry Ph.D. fellows program where firms provide matching funds. To increase these linkages Congress should appropriate $21M/year for the establishment of an NSF-Industry Ph.D. Fellows Program, to support an additional 1,000 Ph.D. students in STEM. The new NSF-industry program would work by enabling industry to contribute $20,250 towards each fellowship, in whatever field(s) the company chooses. NSF would match industry funds dollar-for-dollar.

Congress and the NIH should target a significant share of increases in federal research funding to university programs that partner with industry.

Industry-university partnerships not only spur more commercialization and innovation, they also boost STEM education outcomes. But these partnerships are the exception rather than the rule. To change this, federal agencies should require industry co-funding of many academic research centers, including all the NSF Engineering Research Centers. In addition, Congress should allocate funding for a tripling of NSF’s Industry/University Cooperative Research Center (I/UCRC) program, to $21 million dollars. NIH should examine the NSF model and propose an equivalent program to Congress.