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STEMMING Leaks in the Education Pipeline

Successful societies make the best use of their resources. So why isn’t the United States making the best use of its resources?

No, this isn’t about drilling for oil. It’s about drawing on an even more valuable resource—one abundant in every state in the country: talented Latino students whose intellectual potential toooften goes untapped.

At a time when the United States is falling behind other nations in math and science, this failure is inexcusable.

The nation’s estimated 44 million Hispanics represent one-seventh of the population, with a growth rate more than three times the population as a whole.

Yet as a new issue of ETS Policy Notes says, in 2003 Latinos earned just 3 percent of all doctorates awarded in the U.S. In the STEM fi elds — science, technology, engineering and math — the numbers were even smaller; in math, only 16 of the 516 Ph.D.s went to Latinos.

Part of the reason is that too many Latinos “leak” out of the higher education pipeline. For example, while Latinos are well represented in two-year community college programs, too few transition to and graduate from four-year programs.

If oil leaked from a pipeline at the same rate as Latino students leave the education system, alarms would sound and fi xes would be made. Don’t people deserve the same urgency?

We need to create and sustain educational momentum throughout the education system—from ensuring high-quality teachers in K-12 schools, to helping Latino families navigate the college application and financial aid maze.

Creating opportunity for Hispanic students is the focus of a longstanding partnership among ETS, the College Board, and the Hispanic Research Center at Arizona State University. One of our goals is to expand the higher education pipeline and help Latino students pursue STEM-related careers.

At ETS, we’re working on our part. We’re listening to educators, parents and policymakers. We’re learning from sound research. And we’re leading the effort to achieve informed public policy and informed educational practice.

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