Chairman LaValle and members of the Senate Higher Education Committee, thank you for having me here today. As we are all aware, the state of science and engineering education is a major issue across the globe and deserves not only appropriate consideration, but action to ensure the United States’ leadership continues. We are transitioning to a global society, with global competition and a global economy. Innovation will be the key factor in determining the United States and New York’s success through the 21st century. We must step up the cultivation of the skilled scientists and engineers needed to create these innovations. For that reason, I welcome the opportunity to talk to you today about what SUNY is doing to support New York’s role in the global economy, and most importantly, what we plan to do.
Nationally, our education system should be our top priority. American universities have long held a strong lead in educating the worlds top engineers and scientists. Unfortunately, every day we are permitting other nations to close the gap on our educational lead because we are not focusing enough on providing top quality education, particularly in math, science and engineering, to every single student in America.
Consider a few facts …
In 2000, Asian universities accounted for almost 1.2 million of the world’s science and engineering degrees. European universities (including Russia and Eastern Europe) accounted for about 850,000 science and engineering degrees, while North American universities accounted for only about 500,000 degrees.
Last year, both the US and South Korea, with one-sixth of our population, produced 60,000 engineering degrees. India produced 120,000 and China produced at least 300,000. In 2004, New York State, with the 11th largest economy in the globe, produced just more than 4,000.
China’s and India’s production of engineers is growing, while ours is declining. In the decade between 1991-92 and 2001-02, the number of engineers produced by the State of New York declined more than 2,200 engineers. That 40 percent drop occurred despite growth in our population and rapidly intensifying global competition.
And, more than 25 percent of the current science and engineering workforce is approaching retirement.
By 2010, if current trends continue, more than 90 percent of all scientists and engineers in the world will be living in Asia. The need to produce more science and engineering graduates is real and it is urgent.
These trends are not irreversible. There are a few bright spots for us in the global picture.
The United States leads the world with 1.3 million researchers, China has 820,000, India has 130,000, and Russia has 490,000. We have far more people performing R&D than any of our international competitors. The global R&D international patents picture reflects that in 2005, China had 46,500, Germany 56,500, Korea 82,000, the U.S. 168,900 and Japan led the world with 346,000. With strong investment in our higher education system now, we can produce the scientists and engineers necessary to compete –- and win – in the global marketplace.
These patterns – and opportunities – hold true in New York State. As the eleventh largest economy in the world, we face the same challenges as the entire nation.
We produce the second highest number of science and engineering degrees annually, after only California. While this is admirable, we need to consider it in the context of national and international growth, since our position is defined not by what we’re doing, but by what we’re doing relative to our peers. While our science and engineering degree production is high, it rose only 5.4 percent between 1990 and 2000. Comparatively, Illinois’s grew 11 percent, Pennsylvania’s 13 percent, California’s 19 percent, and Texas’ a whopping 31 percent. This shows that other states have anticipated the need for more science and engineering degrees and are already investing in these areas.
Demand for science, engineering and technology workers is rising across the country, creating stiff competition for graduates with science and engineering degrees. Job openings for computer software engineers, for example, will grow by more than 50 percent in New York through the end of the decade. But nationally, job openings in the field will grow by more than 90 percent, making it difficult – if not impossible – to fill New York’s job openings in any other way than by producing these workers.
The bottom line is that we need many more scientists and engineers … and we must produce them in New York State.
We must increase New York’s talent pool by improving our K-16 mathematics and science education. SUNY is prepared to help meet this challenge. We are reviewing enrollment and capacity at our campuses, and will propose additional strategies for growth in targeted areas that meet state workforce needs. More than 80 percent of our alumni stay in New York. We offer access to educational and professional opportunities that would otherwise be unattainable for many of our students. Funding strategic growth at SUNY is a considerable investment, but it guarantees an enormous return to the State of New York and its citizens, one unmatched by any other institution.
Last year we produced about 1,700 engineering degrees from the associate to the Ph.D. level, about 2,700 in computer science, about 2,700 in physical and biological sciences, and 675 in mathematics. These numbers vary slightly year to year, but are largely constant. While we are not numerically losing ground, we are losing competitiveness because our degree production is not increasing correspondent with external competition. We cannot continue to do the same old thing and expect to lead when our competitors are constantly innovating.