Across our state, young West Virginians are aiming for greatness. Many of them are considering futures in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) fields, which helps lay a strong foundation for West Virginia's economic future. As a study recently released by the Higher Education Policy Commission found, a promising majority of students aspiring for STEM degrees are strongly prepared for postsecondary education.
According to the study's findings, prospective STEM majors reported being more prepared for college-level coursework, earning higher grades in high school, scoring higher on the ACT and taking more high-level math courses. In addition, 90 percent of these students planned to attend college, compared to 79 percent of their peers who did not plan to major in a STEM field.
Interestingly, close to 58 percent of prospective STEM majors said they first considered attending college in elementary school, compared to about 39 percent of their non-STEM peers. Nearly 40 percent of prospective STEM majors reported hope to obtain doctorate degrees, compared to 11 percent of their non-STEM peers. These are fantastic goals and they are attainable right here in West Virginia.
There is a national call to increase the number of students pursuing STEM degrees and entering the related workforce. This state study shows us that many young West Virginians are interested in these fields - and if they are interested, they take college very seriously. It is gratifying that they have such a clear focus on their futures; they know that this commitment can lead to tremendous opportunities.
As more students strive for knowledge in these fields, we will see West Virginia move forward - because STEM degrees lead to innovation. While innovation is defined as any new invention or idea about using existing things in new ways - it's more than that; it is something that produces intellectual capital and harnesses the spirit of entrepreneurship.
We have work ahead of us to ensure that we take full advantage of the opportunities at our feet in order to compete on a much larger scale than ever before. We need to encourage our young people to pursue creativity - and we need to create a culture that supports the idea of innovation and limitless thinking, recognizing its importance to our economic future.
Demand is high for STEM jobs and workers, but our present and projected workforce might not be able to meet that demand. With future college students considering careers in these crucial areas, we need to provide all the support we possibly can to make sure they earn their degrees - and consider building their career and family life right here in West Virginia.
To learn about science and research initiatives that support STEM education in West Virginia, visit the Higher Education Policy Commission's Division of Science and Research at www.wvresearch.org