Report Urges Colleges to Emphasize Math, Science, and International Studies

October 27, 2009

Americans ages 25 to 34 are less educated, on average, than their parents' generation, and are less likely than their predecessors to earn degrees in science, technology, and mathematics, according to a new report by the American Association of State Colleges and Universities.

The report, "Leadership for Challenging Times," is the result of a yearlong study by the association's Presidential Leadership and Global Competitiveness commission, which consisted of 13 college presidents. It highlights some of the challenges that American higher education faces, including declining student interest in math and science, weaknesses in elementary and secondary math and science education, and the increasing cost of college.

The United States will become less globally competitive if the proportion of young people earning a college degree continues to decline, the report concludes. It goes on to say that other countries, including China and India, are putting large amounts of money into their higher-education systems, so fewer students from those countries are likely to come to the United States for a college education in the future.

Declining international enrollments at state colleges and universities would mean that such institutions "run the risk of becoming less international in character, thus diminishing the likelihood that students gain a significant understanding and appreciation of other cultures," the report says.

To fight those effects, the report recommends that colleges and universities do more to increase international awareness on their campuses, including encouraging students to learn foreign languages and study abroad. It also says that college presidents should emphasize the importance of math, science, and technology.