This story has been widely circulated over the past few days. Should it be a surprise? Should it be a surprise for those who claim that America's future is our intellectual strength versus the rest of the world? Should it be a surprise for those who say we should not worry about the loss of our manufacturing jobs because we will be the source of new research and ideas for the world? You decide.
An excerpt is below; click on the link for the full article.
Ph.D.s in America on the declineCheck out what I wrote on December 20, 2004. You decide.
By THOMAS HARGROVE
August 17, 2005
The United States in 1970 produced more than half of the world's Ph.D.s. But if current patterns continue, the United States will be lucky to produce just 15 percent of the world's doctorates by 2010.
"We don't know exactly why this is happening. But we do know that there are financial issues involved, including the increased debt burden that American students are facing," said Debra Stewart, president of the Washington-based Council of Graduate Schools.
Is the cost of pursuing an education (much less a Ph.D.) too much? You decide.
Prepaid college tab soars 20%Last September, I wrote the following letter:
September 14, 2004Is it time to take some positive steps toward strengthening our future? You decide.
Rep. John Boehner, Chairman
Committee on Education and the Workforce
U. S. House of Representatives
2181 Rayburn House Office Building
Washington, D.C. 20515
Subject: Expanding America’s Intellectual Resources
As the father of three sons, two of whom have Masters Degrees (Engineering and Computer Science) with the third approaching his Baccalaureate, I am concerned about the situation within the American education system.
Increasingly, the ranks of our universities' PhD programs are being populated with students from other nations. While diversity of opinion, experience, and skills are valuable, I believe that such diversity already exists within the tens of millions of American-born potential PhDs. The fact that a company such as Microsoft feels compelled to seek Chinese PhDs for their research staff while, at the same time, U.S. universities’ PhD programs are so heavily populated with foreign students sends a message to me that our system of education is failing to focus on American intellectual resources: U.S. citizen students. (http://www.nytimes.com/2004/09/13/technology/13china.html?pagewanted=all&position)
The point of my concern is this: the U.S. is losing manufacturing and technology jobs to lower cost labor suppliers, and the argument is that this is not serious because these jobs will be replaced by better paying ones based on the U.S. becoming the wellspring of new ideas. There is no guarantee that the foreign PhD students will stay here when booming economies in their native lands offer them the chance to become part of the elite there. I would argue that without support for creating the home-grown expertise, the U.S. eventually may be relegated to just another country that had a glorious past.
I propose a simple incentive to create a more favorable environment for U.S. students: allow students who are U.S. citizens at the time they enter a PhD program and who work in the U.S. for five years immediately after receiving their PhDs a tax break. This tax break would be very simple: average the last five years of income prior to receiving the PhD and then average that with the income received over the next five years. For example, if the average income during the last five years of the PhD program was $20,000 and the income over each of the five years following was $100,000 (for simplicity), then the taxable income before any other adjustments would be $120,000/2 or $60,000. At a 25% tax rate, that would be an annual incentive of $10,000 ($100,000 minus $60,000 times 0.25). Over five years, that would be a savings of $50,000 which could be used to offset some of the costs of pursuing a PhD.
This incentive could well be the difference between a U.S. student deciding to pursue a PhD or deciding that the burden of pursuing one is too great.