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Attrition in STEM fields at a liberal arts college: The importance of grades and pre-collegiate preferences

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  • Rask, Kevin
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    Abstract

    There is widespread concern, both in the private and public sectors, about perceived declines in U.S. college graduates in STEM fields. In our sample, the proportion of science majors has remained steady over the sample period; however, the number entering our college intending to major in STEM fields has fallen. In this paper we use administrative data from the graduating classes of 2001-2009, roughly 5000 graduates, from a northeastern liberal arts college to model the progression of students through STEM majors. The results suggest that absolute and sometimes relative grades are important, as is the intended major (as reported on the admissions application). AP credits are also strongly correlated to taking a first course, but diminish in the more selected samples. Simulations suggest that if science grade distributions were more like the college average, there would be roughly 2-4% more students progressing in STEM departments.

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    Bibliographic Info

    Article provided by Elsevier in its journal Economics of Education Review.

    Volume (Year): 29 (2010)
    Issue (Month): 6 (December)
    Pages: 892-900

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    Handle: RePEc:eee:ecoedu:v:29:y:2010:i:6:p:892-900

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    Web page: http://www.elsevier.com/locate/econedurev

    Related research

    Keywords: Major choice STEM;

    References

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    1. Eide, Eric & Waehrer, Geetha, 1998. "The Role of the Option Value of College Attendance in College Major Choice," Economics of Education Review, Elsevier, vol. 17(1), pages 73-82, February.
    2. Richard Sabot & John Wakeman-Linn, 1991. "Grade Inflation and Course Choice," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 5(1), pages 159-170, Winter.
    3. Kathy Cannings & Sophie Mahseredjian & Claude Montmarquette, 1997. "How Do Young People Choose College Majors ?," CIRANO Working Papers 97s-38, CIRANO.
    4. Federman Maya, 2007. "State Graduation Requirements, High School Course Taking, and Choosing a Technical College Major," The B.E. Journal of Economic Analysis & Policy, De Gruyter, vol. 7(1), pages 1-34, January.
    5. Rask, Kevin & Tiefenthaler, Jill, 2008. "The role of grade sensitivity in explaining the gender imbalance in undergraduate economics," Economics of Education Review, Elsevier, vol. 27(6), pages 676-687, December.
    6. Brandice J. Canes & Harvey S. Rosen, 1995. "Following in her footsteps? Women's choices of college majors and faculty gender composition," Industrial and Labor Relations Review, ILR Review, Cornell University, ILR School, vol. 48(3), pages 486-504, April.
    7. Robst, John & Keil, Jack & Russo, Dean, 1998. "The effect of gender composition of faculty on student retention," Economics of Education Review, Elsevier, vol. 17(4), pages 429-439, October.
    8. Micahael Tomz & Jason Wittenberg & Gary King, . "Clarify: Software for Interpreting and Presenting Statistical Results," Journal of Statistical Software, American Statistical Association, vol. 8(i01).
    9. Mark C. Berger, 1988. "Predicted future earnings and choice of college major," Industrial and Labor Relations Review, ILR Review, Cornell University, ILR School, vol. 41(3), pages 418-429, April.
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    Cited by:
    1. Winters, John V., 2013. "STEM Graduates, Human Capital Externalities, and Wages in the U.S," IZA Discussion Papers 7830, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
    2. Wiswall, Matthew & Stiefel, Leanna & Schwartz, Amy Ellen & Boccardo, Jessica, 2014. "Does attending a STEM high school improve student performance? Evidence from New York City," Economics of Education Review, Elsevier, vol. 40(C), pages 93-105.
    3. Ehrenberg, Ronald G., 2010. "Analyzing the factors that influence persistence rates in STEM field, majors: Introduction to the symposium," Economics of Education Review, Elsevier, vol. 29(6), pages 888-891, December.

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