Wednesday, February 17, 2010

More College Students Start, but Don't Finish, Science Majors

A new report from UCLA's Higher Education Research Institute (HERI) has found that growing numbers of freshmen are interested in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) majors, but that only a fraction graduate in those fields within 5 years. In a first, a roughly equal number of underrepresented Latino and African-American students express interest in science fields as whites and Asian-Americans--but their graduation rates still lag behind. The findings are the latest of several reports produced by a multi-year research project called Post-Baccalaureate Experiences, Success, & Transition (BEST). It is funded by multiple agencies, including the National Institutes of Health, the National Institute of General Medical Sciences, and the National Science Foundation. The BEST project studies results from a series of annual surveys, higher education databases, and some classroom field observations to identify programs that successfully retain minority students in STEM majors. Some investigators have called for integrating transcript analysis into this work to get a deeper understanding of student progress at the post-secondary level.