Enrollment in sciences should be emphasized

By By Emily Rodriguez-Vargas

By Emily Rodriguez-Vargas

Competition is a part of life. Darwin based his theories on it. We feel it at the workplace, in school and in life in general.

As the nation with the most available college education, highest numbers in enrollment and access to the most advanced technology, one would think we would have all competition wiped out and left in the dust.

This is anything but the case. The United States is losing its momentum in areas such as research and development and is quickly slipping from its place as the No. 1 innovator and leader in science and technology. China is the new up-and-coming leader and has made remarkable progress in an unfathomable period of time.

A 2007 study by the Georgia Institute of Technology showed China is leading with a technological standing, awarding them a score of 82.8. In comparison, the United States is currently at 76.1. The remarkable change in China has just been in the last 11 years, where it has jumped from a score of 22.5 to surpass us in technological competitiveness and productivity.

According to the global education chapter in Science and Engineering Indicators, a publication with quantitative data on science and engineering enterprise, more than 50 percent of all undergraduate students in China were studying natural science or engineering in 2003.

“In the United States, 15 percent of undergraduates receive their degrees in a natural science or engineering discipline,” said James Turner, acting director of the National Institute of Standards and Technology at a February conference. “That’s fewer than one in seven.”

The U’s student portrait illustrates the areas of study with the largest number of undergraduate degrees in 2007-2008 are not in science or engineering, but economics and mass communication.

It’s encouraging to know 38 percent of U students are enrolled in science-related studies through the college of engineering, earth sciences, science, nursing, pharmacy or medicine. However, in order for our society to produce more American scientists and specialists to keep pace with other countries, many more students are needed to excel.

Taking a look at the more successful and resourceful global leader in this respect, China, we have a lot to measure up to. In the past decade, China has strengthened its academic institutions considerably to offer more competitive programs and increased funding, which resulted in higher enrollment rates.

The Feb. 2006 Science and Engineering chapter on higher education said nationally, bachelor’s degrees in these science fields constitute 32 percent of all degrees. According to the Budget and Institutional Analysis reports, the U has 8,320 students in science-related fields out of 21,526 total, slightly above the national average. Although that number is encouraging, the U is not to the point at which half of its student body is looking to advance in a science field, as is the case in Asia. This area still needs improvement in making a college degree and career in science and research more enticing.

Mark Miller, a professor in the electrical and computer engineering department, proposed that by increasing funding for students in graduate school, the path to research would be a greater option for more students to get involved in.

By re-evaluating our science requirements and promoting research in our school system early on, we can encourage future students to consider the path to becoming contributing doctors, engineers and scientists.

Depending on the steps the university, state and nation takes to strive for better achievement in academic areas, they will either succeed and stay on their feet or fall further behind in the technology race.

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Emily Rodriguez-Vargas