Friday College Town Hall

In Friday College Town Hall, we post a question about college, and you leave an answer in the comment field.

Today’s question:

According a study conducted by UCLA’s Higher Education Research Institute, nearly 22% of students in science, math and engineering (STEM) programs, drop out after five years.

Why are STEM graduation rates so low? Can these low graduation rates in these fields affect how the U.S. competes globally? How can completing a STEM degree be encouraged? Are you a STEM major?

Have a thought or an answer? Leave a reply below.

We’ve also asked our @Cappex Twitter followers to chime in! Here’s what people are saying on Twitter:

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  1. Cricket Garancosky says:

    I am a chemistry-business major and I can completely understand why so many drop out of these kinds of majors. Going from high school to college was a complete shock. I am not sure if my high school was underfunded or if it was just the majority of students not caring, but it seemed like the STEM subjects never went in depth.

    When I got to college I found two kinds of teachers…Ones who spoonfed us information for us to memorize and regurgitate, and ones who wanted us to use critical thinking. I have found that at least with my class year and +1 -1 year, that the students seem to like teachers who do not challenge them. I honestly can say that there are not many students out there who possess critical thinking skills because we are taught memorization (at least in the schools I have attended).

    It also doesn’t help that before college we are expected to take a lot of useless standardized tests so our schools can get funding. Teachers have sacrificed /real/ teaching so they can teach this magical test that allows them to keep their jobs.

    Then, we have the problem of university professors who have a PhD in their field, but have never had an education class in their lives. This seems to be a big discussion in the education field: “who are better suited to educate our students? Master instructors or masters in their fields?” I have noticed that a lot of PhD teachers know the information, but cannot explain it. I feel that if a teacher cannot teach someone else what they know then they have failed as teachers.

    Also I have noticed that enough STEM teachers do not make their subjects interesting to their students, so a lot of students do not “get it” like they would if they knew “why” instead of “just memorize this theory.”

    If we want our students doing better in the STEM areas then we need to rethink how we are educating them. A lot of people wonder why the kids in Shanghai do so much better than the kids in the USA, I will tell you why. The kids in China /want/ to learn and know they /need/ to learn to succeed. There are a LOT of students in the USA who don’t care. We need to change that attitude. If we can make our students /want/ to be there, and give them teachers who (also want to be there) know how to actually teach instead of talk /at/ our kids, then things will slowly turn around.

    I think a standardized curriculum would also help this, if nationwide we all were taught the same things then we would know what is expected. It is amazing the differences in curriculum from one public school to the next. This is scary. For some schools their AP Chemistry is just like the general chemistry in another school. We need to set the standard about what we want our kids to know and enforce it. Standardized testing does not tell us what kids know, it tells us who can take a test. I know plenty of people who know a LOT of information, and can even teach, but they cannot take a standardized test to save their lives. My class has become good at taking tests, but that does not mean we actually understand the material, or remember it for longer than needed to take the test.

  2. Sudan says:

    Makes sense to me. Stem graduation rates are low because there is little to no support for students who are in them. If a student runs into a difficult class, which is bound to happen in a STEM major, they can either choose to delay their graduation date by dropping a needed class, or attempt to suffer through it. Since most scholarships are merit based, the student ends up finding scholarships strained, or finical aid canceled. Which makes their dream of getting out of college seem further and further away. Most Stem majors I know have G.P.As of under a 3.0. The classes are hard, and then money to go disappears quickly. So then the students start working to make ends meet, which gives them less time to study and it quickly becomes a vicious cycle.

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