The United States has long been known as a world leader in scientific and technological innovation. To help maintain this advantage, the federal government has spent billions of dollars on education programs in the science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) fields for many years. However, concerns have been raised about the nation's ability to maintain its global technological competitive advantage in the future. This report presents information on (1) the number of federal programs funded in fiscal year 2004 that were designed to increase the number of students and graduates pursuing STEM degrees and occupations or improve educational programs in STEM fields, and what agencies report about their effectiveness; (2) how the numbers, percentages, and characteristics of students, graduates, and employees in STEM fields have changed over the years; and (3) factors cited by educators and others as affecting students' decisions about pursing STEM degrees and occupations, and suggestions that have been made to encourage more participation. GAO received written and/or technical comments from several agencies. While one agency, the National Science Foundation, raised several questions about the findings, the others generally agreed with the findings and conclusion and several agencies commended GAO for this work.
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