Efforts by federal and state governments to increase the STEM workforce in support of innovation and competitiveness are frustrated by a shortage of adequately prepared and interested students. Less than half of 12th graders meet the math proficiency benchmark that indicates college readiness. Further, only 17 percent of 12th graders are math proficient and interested in STEM careers. African American, Hispanic, and Native American students are substantially underrepresented within this group, with less than 6 percent of all African American 12th graders interested in STEM careers and college ready in math.
Notably, the group of students interested in a STEM career but not math proficient is nearly as large as the proficient and interested group. These students represent an untapped pool of talent that might be marshaled to address our country’s workforce needs. In particular, over half of the students in this group are within 4 points of the math benchmark score that would allow them to enter college-level STEM coursework without requiring remediation. This migration into STEM education could have a significant impact on diversity.
This brief is part of the BHEF STEM Workforce and Policy Brief Series, which focuses on important dimensions of the education and workforce misalignment challenge facing the United States. Through this series, BHEF will further analyze 10th and 12th grade student STEM interest and math proficiency, as well as postsecondary enrollment using a longitudinal data set provided by BHEF member organization ACT. These analyses will provide fresh insights into the nature of the STEM challenge and explore unique solutions to these challenges.