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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