STEM-ming The Tide
Career College Central summary:
About half of bachelor’s degree candidates in science, technology, engineering and math leave the field before completing a college degree, according to a report from the U.S. Education Department’s National Center for Education Statistics. That might seem high, but it roughly tracks the rate at which students in other majors — like humanities, education and health sciences — switched majors or dropped out of college, too, the study found.
The report calculated the attrition rate in STEM fields and examined the characteristics of students more likely to abandon STEM fields. The report used data that tracked students enrolling in a bachelor’s or associate degree program in the 2003-4 academic year through 2009.
About 28 percent of bachelor’s degree candidates and 20 percent of associate degree candidates had declared a STEM major. Of those who had entered a STEM program, 48 percent of bachelor’s degree candidates had left the STEM field by spring 2009. The attrition rate was greater for associate degree candidates — 69 percent of STEM entrants had left the STEM field during the course of the study. An October 2012 report tracking students who had entered postsecondary education in the 2003-2004 academic year found the same attrition rate for STEM entrants.
The attrition rate was highest for bachelor's degree candidates who declared a major in computer/information sciences and for associate degree candidates who declared a major in mathematics.
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