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Why Do So Many College Science Majors Drop Out?

timothy posted more than 2 years ago | from the your-war-stories-below dept.

Education 841

Hugh Pickens writes "Christopher Drew writes that President Obama and industry groups have called on colleges to graduate 10,000 more engineers a year and 100,000 new teachers with majors in science, technology, engineering and math but studies find that roughly 40 percent of students planning engineering and science majors end up switching to other subjects or failing to get any degree — 60 percent when pre-medical students are included. Middle and high school students are having most of the fun, building their erector sets and dropping eggs into water to test the first law of motion, but the excitement quickly fades as students brush up against the reality of what David E. Goldberg calls 'the math-science death march' as freshmen in college wade through a blizzard of calculus, physics and chemistry in lecture halls with hundreds of other students where many wash out. 'Treating the freshman year as a "sink or swim" experience and accepting attrition as inevitable,' says a report by the National Academy of Engineering, 'is both unfair to students and wasteful of resources and faculty time.' But help is on the way. In September, the Association of American Universities announced a five-year initiative to encourage faculty members in the STEM fields to use more interactive teaching techniques (PDF)."

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841 comments

High school doesn't prepare you for college (5, Interesting)

Nemilar (173603) | more than 2 years ago | (#37966158)

Public high school STEM classes are nowhere near sufficient as far as preparing students for a university-level STEM courseload is concerned.

Maybe if we made public education more about actually teaching and challenging students, rather than a game to see how you can bend the rules to pass the most students, then the first year of college wouldn't be such a difficult experience.

Re:High school doesn't prepare you for college (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37966258)

Maybe if colleges understood that, going in, many students aren't really understanding what they're getting into. Maybe that would help.
 
Kids idealize much of the world around them. This is a fact. Too many think that science and engineering involves the kinds of stuff they see on the Science Channel. They need to have someone somewhere give them a wakeup call on this before it's too late. Sadly colleges are handling this by letting kids fail in their first year for not knowing what they were really getting into when they took up a science or engineering major. There isn't much that can be done about it.

...stuff they see on the Science Channel. (4, Funny)

taxman_10m (41083) | more than 2 years ago | (#37966362)

Crab fishing? Ice road trucking? Paranormal investigation?

Re:...stuff they see on the Science Channel. (5, Insightful)

slick7 (1703596) | more than 2 years ago | (#37966512)

Crab fishing? Ice road trucking? Paranormal investigation?

Governments do not want a critically thinking populace. Just suck up the bullshit they, the bought dogs of the corporate states of America, want you to think and believe.
Science and math require a solid foundation in the basics. With a solid foundation, politicians, corporate thugs and banksters cannot sway the public. Bread and circuses brought down the Roman Empire in approximately 200 years. This country is next.

Re:High school doesn't prepare you for college (2)

Killer Instinct (851436) | more than 2 years ago | (#37966308)

Agreed. My father teaches AP Physics and Trig in a FL Public H.S. He's always complaining about how the kids are unprepared, dont try, christmas tree their exams, etc and most of them say they are going to college. And they all pass every year so they do graduate, but arent close to being prepared for college STEM. They dont even have a firm grasp of H.S. level concepts at graduation. -KI

Re:High school doesn't prepare you for college (5, Insightful)

peragrin (659227) | more than 2 years ago | (#37966314)

Exactly my high school didlittle to prepare me for actuallysurviving college. In high school I could sleep through most classes and get A and B on everything but handwriting.

We need to separate out students and challenge them all. Different people learn in different ways. Our system only teaches in one way

Incentives, not challenge (5, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37966554)

Engineers and scientists are underpaid and overworked as it is. Seriously...this is true all over the country.

Teachers, same deal.

Adding more of them to the labor market will make these problems worse. Higher supply of workers pulls wages down, as a matter of simple economics.

People drop out because the subjects are hard, sure. Making them fun won't make them less hard, so that won't address the problem. Asking colleges to churn out more graduates won't increase the incentives that people have to go into the field, let alone to stay in it.

If you want more engineers, then pay them. If you want more teachers, PAY THEM. People will follow the money. It is as simple as that.

Re:High school doesn't prepare you for college (0)

longacre (1090157) | more than 2 years ago | (#37966330)

Universities can adapt much more easily than government- and union- dominated public high schools.

Re:High school doesn't prepare you for college (5, Insightful)

masternerdguy (2468142) | more than 2 years ago | (#37966336)

I'd like to remind you that many students in high school can barely handle Algebra III/Precalculus (whatever you call it). If you're proposing making Calculus a graduation requirement for high school or something moronic like that, you're going to do a lot of damage. I'm a college freshman right now, so I actually do remember my senior year of high school very well.

But I'm not blaming students, I'm blaming the curriculum and instruction methods in high schools. High school math classes don't have enough time to teach the material. Every high school math class I was in dedicated the first half of the class to going over homework sets (generally 10-40 problems of varying complexity) which takes away from instructional time. Many math classes ran out of time so if you wanted to get the last 10 minutes of the lesson you had to stay after class (how exactly is this supposed to work in a world where your next class starts in 6 minutes, unlike college where you might have 2 hours to your next class). I went to 3 different high schools in 2 different states, and this was a general theme everywhere.

I've also done 2 years of physics, at 2 different high schools, and those were well taught classes that had time to cover their material. They didn't go over homework at the start of class. In fact, one of my teachers didn't actually grade the homework, just strongly advised doing it. There was an extremely strong relationship between doing the homework and passing, and everyone figured that out very quickly. Even though the homework wasn't graded, everyone who cared about the class still completed it.

Re:High school doesn't prepare you for college (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37966338)

That and finding out that real life isn't anything like CSI or Mythbusters. It's all difficult math, theory and memorization with zero payoff or excitement.

Why do that when you can do easy and tedious in the business school, and then make a lot more money when you graduate? It's hard to blame anyone.

Re:High school doesn't prepare you for college (1)

DoctorNathaniel (459436) | more than 2 years ago | (#37966368)

This is indeed the problem I see teaching introductory physics at a small college: students are smart, students are hard-working, but they don't have either the technical or study skills they need.

If there were better prepared in STEM fields, they wouldn't have as far to catch up in their first year, and so the "death march" would be substantially easier.

If they were better prepared to be challenged, to accept intellectual problems of much larger magnitude than they have seen before, then they would also be OK. They would know how use their hard work instead of revving in neutral, madly reading and re-reading textbooks they don't understand.

There are lots of things we can do to teach better, but all of those things require time, in class and out. We can't just 'make time' to do them: that would leave an undergraduate student without a complete education. (For example: we could cover only half of the topics on the MCAT, so future doctors would need to take twice as long learning science requirements, delaying their medical school by years and driving up their debt load.)

Re:High school doesn't prepare you for college (2)

mark-t (151149) | more than 2 years ago | (#37966422)

I don't think it's high school's fault.

The problem lies in the fact that doing well in those types of courses requires a certain type of analytic thinking that is simply not that intuitive for most people. It's not that there's anything elite or special about science-related disciplines... it's just that people don't typically have the opportunity to practice that type of thinking on a daily basis, and it's really about as likely that a person will have a natural gift for math, for instance, as it is that a person will be able to play a piano well without ever having learned any musical instruments previously. Skills require practice to get any good... and that practice is time consuming, and will almost always be difficult if it is not accompanied by a genuine personal motivation to actually learn and excel at the skill (in which case, a person is usually practicing the skill outside of academia often enough that it doesn't seem as difficult anyways).

Re:High school doesn't prepare you for college (1)

Surt (22457) | more than 2 years ago | (#37966426)

I had the reverse experience (albeit 20 years ago). My high-school was so hard that I was bored to tears by my first two years at University (UCSD).

Need to model science after sports. (5, Insightful)

khasim (1285) | more than 2 years ago | (#37966490)

Look at the emphasis on sports in high school and college. And no one is talking much about the "attrition" rate where high school / college athletes don't make pro.

How about a science program with the same model?

Kids are identified in high school and they take extra classes after school and in the summer so that when they do get to college they've already completed the 1st year classes in their last year of high school.

With scholarships pretty much guaranteed for the kids in the program.

Re:High school doesn't prepare you for college (2)

the eric conspiracy (20178) | more than 2 years ago | (#37966548)

Public high school STEM courses are a fricken joke. My High School physics teacher knew less physics than I picked up reading some basic books by George Gamow etc.

When I hit college physics those books paid off big time. The prof I had was in a whole 'nuther league than what I had in high school. To give you an idea eventually he was awarded a Nobel Prize for developing the maths behind CT scans.

The fact of the matter is that if you think you are going for a career in STEM you had better be doing some outside beefing up in addition to your AP courses. High School STEM courses put you at the mercy of teachers who do not have adequate background to prepare people who want to specialize in that area.

Sometimes that's the plan (3)

Hentes (2461350) | more than 2 years ago | (#37966160)

Some universities in my country have too many freshmen so they deliberately try to make half of them drop out.

Because so many more enter college these days? (3, Insightful)

NixieBunny (859050) | more than 2 years ago | (#37966164)

The percentage of high school graduates entering college has gone way up in the last few decades, as college is regarded as a right rather than a privilege. So it stands to reason that more would drop out, since college happens to be rather difficult. As a college dropout myself, I can attest to that: although I was at the top of my high school class in math, it was a math class that did me in.

Re:Because so many more enter college these days? (1, Insightful)

hedwards (940851) | more than 2 years ago | (#37966196)

No, it's gone up greatly in the last few decades because it's becoming harder and harder to draw a living wage without a degree. Even jobs that don't require a degree are increasingly likely to have a degree listed as a requirement.

As for math, in my experience, one of the problems is that people who teach math at the college level have either a masters or PhD in math, and often times forget that they aren't educating people who are necessarily good at seeing the things the same way that the prof does. I myself have noticed that after years of tutoring math that I'm starting to just see that there's something wrong with a problem, without having to do the math.

Then there's the problem of profs assuming that things were covered in previous classes which weren't covered. When I got back to math, I had to very quickly memorize a huge number of math facts that I hadn't been expected to memorize, which put me at a distinct disadvantage to most of the other students whose teachers had expected them to memorize them.

Re:Because so many more enter college these days? (1)

scottbomb (1290580) | more than 2 years ago | (#37966248)

Some of them also assume that we remember everything we learned in the previous semester as if it was yesterday. Over the summer, I forgot most all of the trig identities I memorized in the spring semester because I never use them in real life. It made it especially difficult when the prof started lecturing on a topic I hadn't touched in four months with very little (if any) review. He does math stuff every day. Most people don't.

Re:Because so many more enter college these days? (3, Informative)

Godskitchen (1017786) | more than 2 years ago | (#37966358)

Don't blame the teacher. Math is cumulative. You don't remember your trig identities going into calculus, maybe someone else doesn't remember how to multiply (it's an extreme example, I know). But if the prof is forced to go back to ensure everybody is "caught up," there would be no time for new material. When you enter a class, you are expected to be familiar with the prerequisite material upon which that class is building upon and it is your responsibility to do what needs to be done to make that happen.

Re:Because so many more enter college these days? (1)

tibit (1762298) | more than 2 years ago | (#37966394)

He probably doesn't use those trig identities each day anyway. It's basic stuff, you'd think a math professor will be doing research that's slightly more involved than that! Heck, if your research involves lots of trig identities (somehow), you are dumb if you do it by hand, as you'd be wasting time with inevitable mistakes. If you need lots of trig identities done, you use a symbolic math package to do it for you. I'd think there's plenty of profs out there who do quite high level research and would pretty much suck at some of the undergraduate level stuff. I don't remember the trig identities, even if I could prove or derive every one of them in a couple of minutes.

Re:Because so many more enter college these days? (1)

dgiaimo (794924) | more than 2 years ago | (#37966432)

He probably doesn't use those trig identities each day anyway. It's basic stuff, you'd think a math professor will be doing research that's slightly more involved than that! Heck, if your research involves lots of trig identities (somehow), you are dumb if you do it by hand, as you'd be wasting time with inevitable mistakes. If you need lots of trig identities done, you use a symbolic math package to do it for you. I'd think there's plenty of profs out there who do quite high level research and would pretty much suck at some of the undergraduate level stuff. I don't remember the trig identities, even if I could prove or derive every one of them in a couple of minutes.

That is exactly the point. If you are memorizing these identities then you are doing it wrong. It is actually much easier to learn to derive them, since they are all derived in essentially the same way. Memorizing a thousand identities just wastes your time.

Re:Because so many more enter college these days? (3, Insightful)

dgiaimo (794924) | more than 2 years ago | (#37966332)

Then there's the problem of profs assuming that things were covered in previous classes which weren't covered. When I got back to math, I had to very quickly memorize a huge number of math facts that I hadn't been expected to memorize, which put me at a distinct disadvantage to most of the other students whose teachers had expected them to memorize them.

This is college. If you are not prepared for a class it is *your* responsibility to fill in the gaps in your knowledge. It is *your* job to learn. It is *not* the professor's job to hold your hand as though you were an infant. The sole job of the professor is to point you to the important information in the field and gauge how much you are learning. If you can't handle that, maybe you're not cut out to go to college.

Re:Because so many more enter college these days? (1)

theshowmecanuck (703852) | more than 2 years ago | (#37966556)

A long time ago, near the end of my course on engineering calculus, a neighbours kid asked me for help with their 10th grade math (can't remember exactly what the question was). I just remember that I couldn't figure it out for a long time. Then I realize that the problem was I was looking for something way more complicated than what was there. Kind of like trying to figure out the area under a curve for the question 1+1=?. Similarly (see what I did there?), these math PhDs are often too egg headed for their lesser egg head students.

Re:Because so many more enter college these days? (1)

JoeMerchant (803320) | more than 2 years ago | (#37966344)

My high school's salutatorian took all the AP science and math classes (in fact, I think he took all the available AP classes, including English and history), aced them all. He majored in Mechanical Engineering at Georgia Tech. Intro to Electrical Engineering did him in, failed 3x. He interned at NASA, worked on Hypersonic engine design and currently does fluid dynamics.

There is something arbitrary in the process, I'm surprised he didn't find a way around a simple problem like failing intro to EE, but it got him - I suspect he might have been trying to get away from his live-in girlfriend and the EE class made it easy to do, but I'm sure if he could have aced it, he would have.

Re:Because so many more enter college these days? (2)

snowgirl (978879) | more than 2 years ago | (#37966510)

It's not just that. A lot of people get into CS programs or pre-Med because software engineers and doctors make lots of money. There are a large number of people for whom their major is "which degree will make me the most money". Naturally, most of these people think that it's an easy-track career or something like that, and once reality sinks in they jump ship.

The CS dropout/transfer-away-from rate was so bad at my alma mater that they instituted a "pre-CS" program, which you were in until you passed college-level algebra. As I understood it, it was precisely for the reason I noted above. Everyone wanted in on the money, but weren't prepared for what it actually meant to be in a CS program, especially a CS program that evolved from a Math department, and not an engineering department. (Yes, engineering usually requires hefty amounts of math, but our program was all but pure theoretics. The last algorithms class I took didn't even have a single coding project.)

Theory (0)

mehrotra.akash (1539473) | more than 2 years ago | (#37966178)

College is where you move from practical, demonstrable stuff to abstract theoretical stuff, like Newton's laws of motion to quantum mechanics,etc

Re:Theory (4, Insightful)

artor3 (1344997) | more than 2 years ago | (#37966356)

College is where you move from practical, demonstrable stuff to abstract theoretical stuff, like Newton's laws of motion to quantum mechanics,etc

While that's true, a lot of students wash out before reaching quantum or similar topics. I'd say the problem is more that college is where you move from qualitative descriptions of physical processes (i.e. the calculus-free physics courses so popular in high school today) to quantitative descriptions, that demand you to actually know the math and do the work.

We've dumbed down high school too much already. The article's solution of dumbing down college to match would be disastrous.

Re:Theory (1)

tibit (1762298) | more than 2 years ago | (#37966414)

Huh? Quantum mechanics are quite practical and demonstrable, it's just that you need to know a lot of theory to begin applying them at all.

Really? The colleges are the problem? (1)

BrianRoach (614397) | more than 2 years ago | (#37966186)

If the number of engineers has decreased and the teaching methods have been a constant ...

Seems like the problem is somewhere else in the equation.

Re:Really? The colleges are the problem? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37966286)

Flawed logic. That assumes that the students have been constant as well. Based on having been a science major 30 years ago, the son of an electrical engineer, and parent to two current STEM majors - admittedly a limited data set - I've observed that (a) the current students are less prepared than previous generations and (b) fewer kids today are willing to put in the work. We live in the instant gratification age and some are unwilling to invest the 8-10,000 hours needed to get an undergraduate STEM degree.

Re:Really? The colleges are the problem? (2)

BrianRoach (614397) | more than 2 years ago | (#37966404)

Erm, no ... it doesn't. That would be that "somewhere else in the equation" part I was speaking of.

I agree with you completely and that was my point, though presented in a much more tongue and cheek fashion.

The post talks about changing things at the college level. This reeks of the same logic that got us to where we give kids medals for just showing up.

Re:Really? The colleges are the problem? (1)

musicalmicah (1532521) | more than 2 years ago | (#37966450)

This.

Plus, if you're a bright young kid, which looks better to you:

1. get some random liberal arts degree and party through college, while playing with computers a little bit on your free time, then get a good-paying job slapping together PHP, OR
2. struggle through all of college, never have time for friends, face the risk of a nervous breakdown, then hunt for some aerodynamics job that would force you to relocate, if you could even get it -- after all, your competition is some baby boomer that has 30 years of experience in the field

I'll take the parties and PHP scripting, thank you very much.

Re:Really? The colleges are the problem? (1)

c_sd_m (995261) | more than 2 years ago | (#37966350)

The percentage bachelors degrees granted in engineering doubled from 1975-1985 and it's dropped back down to the 1975 value again. [nytimes.com] I can't find the source but I read the other day that the number of bachelors degrees has roughly doubled since the 1970s. If so, we're graduating as many engineers as we were in 1975 but "production" of engineers has not not kept up with the increase of over 25% in population [wikimedia.org].

Re:Really? The colleges are the problem? (1)

NFN_NLN (633283) | more than 2 years ago | (#37966412)

If the number of engineers has decreased and the teaching methods have been a constant ...

Seems like the problem is somewhere else in the equation.

Investment adviser (at a bank):
- job consists of picking 1 of 7 possible bank created portfolios to put their clients money into
- gets to keep their job and bonuses regardless of the portfolio outcome
- works bankers hours
- doesn't get called in after hours or have to stay on call for emergencies

Engineer:
- job consists of far more stressful work than picking a number between 1 and 7
- career flounders if projects (even ones with unrealistic deadlines) slip
- works overtime (without overtime pay)
- constantly on call
- gets paid less than the investment advisers (after bonuses)

Re:Really? The colleges are the problem? (1)

BrianRoach (614397) | more than 2 years ago | (#37966514)

While this would be a reason for many not to get into engineering at all, I don't know that it supports the problem set described in the article(s), specifically the part that says "failing to get any degree".

The core of the problem I think is that the public education system nor the current methods of raising children prepares them for a world where you don't get accolades for just showing up.

Because Science is hard (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37966198)

That's just the way it is.

Why Do So Many College Science Majors Drop Out? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37966202)

Science can be hard work.

Re:Why Do So Many College Science Majors Drop Out? (1)

thrillseeker (518224) | more than 2 years ago | (#37966482)

Because there is little downside anymore to going through life ignorant.

Working while going to school. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37966204)

I'd attribute some of my difficulty with science and math to working part-time while going to school. If I had to do it over again, I think I would have had more free time to wrap my head around the things I had difficulty understanding. I'd be curious to know how the number of students who work while going to school in the USA compare with other countries.

Pretty simple explanation... (5, Insightful)

MagusSlurpy (592575) | more than 2 years ago | (#37966222)

...because STEM majors are so much more demanding than others. In addition to having heavier workloads, everything builds on everything else - if you fall behind, or don't master a particular fundamental like calculus or kinematics or chemical bonding, you're fucked. If you're getting a degree in English, and you don't master Blake, it's not going to have any impact on your study of Wordsworth, unless your thesis is a comparison of the two.

Re:Pretty simple explanation... (1)

Sardak (773761) | more than 2 years ago | (#37966374)

I tend to agree for the most part. I recently went back to college to start an electronics engineering degree program. While there is a lot of work, none of it particularly difficult. I'm doing quite well, but I can't help noticing that 95% of my fellow students are struggling immensely. What I really don't understand is why they chose to enter a program like this while claiming to hate math and logic.

I often stay after class to help out those who are willing to accept it, but there's only so much I can do. The biggest problem, in my opinion, is that because so many of the students are having a difficult time, the entire class gets behind as we continually rehash the same material far after what was allotted in the syllabus. I'm almost hoping that many of them will drop out so that future semesters can go more smoothly.

Re:Pretty simple explanation... (1)

babblesaurus (2473482) | more than 2 years ago | (#37966474)

When I was a college kid I thought similarly so, but that is not really true. In fact it is a very typical arrogant position that many science people, or rather people who are fans of science but don't actually study it themselves, tend to make; in reality it is a small-minded position.

For example my wife is finishing her PhD in history, specifically medieval art. Granted it is a PhD and not undergrad, she has had to master many things else she would be, as you said, fucked. I remember once she was told to learn German the next semester - not like take a class, but learn German to read old-ass academic and literature text. I am a scientist and I know there is no way I could learn a foreign language like that. She reads through medieval Latin text; that was a skill that if she didn't master she would fall behind.

Again, this is my wife's situation and it is all I know besides my own experiences. However, to simply say if you don't study STEM programs then you don't need to build on fundamentals is just simply a naive thing to say. And, ironically, a not very scientifically-minded statement.

Re:Pretty simple explanation... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37966486)

- if you fall behind, or don't master a particular fundamental like calculus or kinematics or chemical bonding, you're fucked.

So that's why I couldn't get laid in college! I kept up with my studies!

Re:Pretty simple explanation... (5, Interesting)

bill_mcgonigle (4333) | more than 2 years ago | (#37966488)

....because STEM majors are so much more demanding than others ... if you fall behind ... you're fucked ... If you're getting a degree in English ...

And yet, look at the way the two are taught. My Freshman bio class had 190 students with two assistant profs, in a auditorium, and my total freshman class was just over a thousand. Neither prof was good, the TA's were unavailable, the textbook was poorly written, and on the final the average score was 23% (I got a 44, but one nerd pulled a 62 and blew the curve). These were two hundred students who did well enough to get into Dartmouth who were utterly failed by the lack of teaching.

In comparison, my freshman English seminar had 12 students. This was a mandatory class, so they have close to a hundred sections over the three Freshman terms. The claim is that writing can't be taught on an industrial scale but science can be. Yet, mysteriously, 60% of students are failing to succeed in the sciences.

Djikstra would disapprove (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37966228)

Science must necessarily be cruel [utexas.edu].

Difficulty and requirements (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37966242)

Engineering school, at a lot of places, is deliberately more difficult. If I took classes at the same pace as a liberal arts student, it would take me 5 years to graduate. Instead, I have to take 5 or 5.5 classes a semester. Engineering classes are way more time consuming (more lectures, recitations, and labs, all of which have far more mandatory attendance than most humanities, problem sets requiring stable, large time commitments, no optional work). Engineering students have to spend way more time worrying about research, internships, etc. The professors are also typically less interesting and more difficult (or at least less skippable).

It's a high stress way of life and many can't cope.

Re:Difficulty and requirements (1)

tibit (1762298) | more than 2 years ago | (#37966430)

Mandatory attendance? Gee whiz, when I went to grad school there wasn't a single course where attendance counted for anything. There were a couple courses where I skipped most of lectures, and there were some where lectures were so good that I didn't have to do any extra learning at home besides solving assignments.

Employment outlook? (4, Insightful)

vlm (69642) | more than 2 years ago | (#37966246)

the excitement quickly fades as students brush up against the reality of what David E. Goldberg calls 'the math-science death march'

What a load of B.S.

The problem is jobs... there aren't any in this country for non-H1B holders. Its very much like the market for French Literature, 1% of the graduates will get $100K/yr professorship jobs, the rest.... will not have a positive outcome.

Would a degree in Physics have been fun for four years? Sure. Would living in permanent unemployable poverty be fun for the next sixty years? Not so much. I'd rather see my kids being rich enough to own shoes, or not depending on food stamps for my next meal.

If you're going to end up with an "unemployable" degree, why the heck not get one in something more fun, with more women, better parties, less homework...

I encourage my kids to avoid STEM fields because they do not live in China or India. Why go into a field the government is actively trying to destroy? It would be like encouraging my kids to go into automotive assembly line work or textiles or manufacturing consumer goods or ...

(Note there is absolutely nothing wrong with STEM as a hobby.. nuke-eng or chem would be a tough hobby, but my son likes computers, and theres nothing wrong with IT/CS as a hobby, as long as he has some other plan, one that involves making money)

Re:Employment outlook? (3, Insightful)

bberens (965711) | more than 2 years ago | (#37966354)

I would encourage a trade that cannot be outsourced. Electrician, plumber, A/C repair, etc. Once you've worked for someone else making b.s. money for a few years it's painfully easy to start your own business in those fields and make more than most engineers.

Re:Employment outlook? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37966402)

Bingo. B.S. in Chemistry here. Overqualified for 1/2 the available jobs, and underqualified for the other 1/2. Absolutely worthless degree ... that I'm still paying for.

Re:Employment outlook? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37966494)

the excitement quickly fades as students brush up against the reality of what David E. Goldberg calls 'the math-science death march'

What a load of B.S.

The problem is jobs... there aren't any in this country for non-H1B holders. Its very much like the market for French Literature, 1% of the graduates will get $100K/yr professorship jobs, the rest.... will not have a positive outcome.

Would a degree in Physics have been fun for four years? Sure. Would living in permanent unemployable poverty be fun for the next sixty years? Not so much. I'd rather see my kids being rich enough to own shoes, or not depending on food stamps for my next meal.

If you're going to end up with an "unemployable" degree, why the heck not get one in something more fun, with more women, better parties, less homework...

I encourage my kids to avoid STEM fields because they do not live in China or India. Why go into a field the government is actively trying to destroy? It would be like encouraging my kids to go into automotive assembly line work or textiles or manufacturing consumer goods or ...

(Note there is absolutely nothing wrong with STEM as a hobby.. nuke-eng or chem would be a tough hobby, but my son likes computers, and theres nothing wrong with IT/CS as a hobby, as long as he has some other plan, one that involves making money)

Without meaning offense to you as a person, this post is the load of BS.

I'm a current IT student, with a minor in Business. I get exposed to students from every STEM major, and many of the business majors. When the economy is down, IT students are still in high demand. In fact, we have so many prospective employers in CS/IT that we can't possibly fill all the positions. Business majors on the other hand, well they started worrying as soon as the economy went south. Businesses can be streamlined using technology in order to replace accountants, business managers, supply chain etc. But who's going to install and maintain that? IT people. Who's going to create it? CS. Granted some CS stuff has moved overseas, but there's still plenty left. And try getting IT support from someone overseas....

You're doing your kids an incredible disfavor by discouraging them from taking a STEM major. We do real tangible things. Anyone can learn business or communications without attending school. It takes hard work in a structured setting to properly understand STEM majors. And that's why STEM offers a better outlook than non-STEM majors.

For the original post: I think many people start off thinking STEM, then they're lured in by the ease of non-STEM majors. Then they graduate and have trouble finding a job. I'm not a big fan of Obama, but it makes a lot of sense to encourage STEM majors. What can you do with a major in Education? Teach. What can you do with a major in Engineering? Get a professional engineering job, consulting, or teach. An Engineering major will cost the student about the same in tuition. But Education is infinitely easier. If you're a student struggling with grades and you are only good about thinking of the short term, which do you think they'll pick?

Re:Employment outlook? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37966520)

Douchebag.

Good lord. (1)

Godskitchen (1017786) | more than 2 years ago | (#37966254)

"...unfair to students..." Seriously, we should just hand them a degree since they deserve it right? And it should be free. Not everyone needs to go to university and not everybody can hack it in a hard science field. If we coddle people so it's easier to get a degree, that's not going to help them once they get out of school; the "unfair" argument isn't going to fly when you can't keep up at your first job. Know your limitations and go into a field where you can succeed. I'm starting to think the master's degree is the new bachelor's...

Re:Good lord. (1)

Belial6 (794905) | more than 2 years ago | (#37966524)

The unfair part is that they encourage them to get into the program, accept them into the program, and then fail them out knowing that this is exactly what most of them will do. If they get out of school, and they get hired by an employer who hires 10 people to fill 1 position, knowing that they must fire 9 of them in the next 90 days, that employer is being unfair. Luckily, most employers don't do that.

Bathroom Graffiti in the Physics Dept (1)

painandgreed (692585) | more than 2 years ago | (#37966266)

Limit of the sum of a Physics Major as GPA goes to 0 equals and Engineering Major.

Face it. Sciences tend to be hard. Math is hard, especially at higher levels when prepped by a high school system that really doesn't prepare the kids looking into such fields. I know I was never really challenged by my high school maths and then once I hit college calculus (not to mention upper division physics) which actually required study and doing homework to get and solve, it threw me for a loop and was harder than it should have been.

Re:Bathroom Graffiti in the Physics Dept (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37966316)

So I take it you haven't taken an engineering class, then? I have a dual major and I can honestly say that Engineering was more demanding because of the amount of projects required.

Re:Bathroom Graffiti in the Physics Dept (1)

JoeMerchant (803320) | more than 2 years ago | (#37966418)

Limit of the sum of a Physics Major as GPA goes to 0 equals and Engineering Major.

And pre-med dropouts become science teachers. The difference between a successful Physics Major and a successful Engineering Major is that the Engineer gets to choose where they live and what they work on. Most successful Physics Majors I know are scrabbling around the planet trying to get a decent post anywhere that will have them.

Because its bullshit. (1)

unity100 (970058) | more than 2 years ago | (#37966268)

1-1.5 year in university will make you see that not only you probably wont be able to make good money in that profession, but your academic potentials in academia will also be limited with the same kind of filth that plagues politics/corporations - power play, interests, dirty dealings, people pulling shit to undo others and get ahead. you have to be VERY idealistic and persevering in order to attempt conducting science in modern academia.

i had numerous friends who had desired to actually be scientists in university, most of them let go of the idea early. those who actually persevered gave up later.

Re:Because its bullshit. (1)

TeknoHog (164938) | more than 2 years ago | (#37966444)

Fortunately, there are other things to do with a science degree, besides working in academia. I think I started something like 5 different PhD projects at various departments before realizing how depressing life in academia could be. However, I have since enjoyed teaching and engineering jobs, both of which require, and make great use of, my master's degree in physics.

Always been this way... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37966270)

I entered a very prestigious Engineering School in Hoboken, NJ and was floored when I realized that the Freshman dorm was the same size as the sophomore, junior and senior dorm - fully one-half of entering freshmen failed out their first year, and only one out of four entering freshmen graduated from the school. Fully one-half the graduating class were transfer students.

A friend of mine took Electrical Engineering at a prestigious University in Rochester, NY - he said at his university EE meant 'Eventually Economics'...

Personally, I fail to see how lowering the requirements (eliminating the freshman 'death march') will make for better engineers, it will just increase the numbers. Seems like they want to make Engineering Degrees as common (and as useful) as MS certifications.

The rewards are too low too (2)

erroneus (253617) | more than 2 years ago | (#37966274)

Yes, science is "hard." (I don't think hard so much as there is a more limited number of people with the right aptitude... if science is you shouldn't be doing it.) But the rewards are with business and management. We don't need to go into why and how things are the way they are.... the OWS thing is indication enough that people can at least sense that something is wrong with the way things are at the moment. But there are some very qualified and skilled people who don't get appreciation, let alone compensation, for what they deliver.

And yes, I know there are some people who will respond "Bullshit. I'm a programmer/scientist/whatever and I get over $100k." Congratulations. You're not among the average. The real average is considerably different.

Re:The rewards are too low too (1)

ATMAvatar (648864) | more than 2 years ago | (#37966464)

That's the sad reality. I know full well that my decision to complete a computer science degree virtually guarantees that in the long run, I will make less money than guys who dropped out of my CS program because they couldn't hack it to pursue business school.

Throw an idea at the wall and hope it sticks. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37966278)

"In September, the Association of American Universities announced a five-year initiative to encourage faculty members in the STEM fields to use more interactive teaching techniques."

You know what that means... FREE LAPTOP COMPUTERS FOR EVERYBODY!

Some bachelor degrees aren't worth it. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37966296)

There isn't much of a future with some degrees unless you plan on continuing until you get your PhD. I dropped out of a physics major because I was already making more money per year that I could expect if I had stuck around and gotten a Masters, and even then I would only qualify for the "lab bitch" jobs. A bachelor degree would only qualify me for jobs that required an unspecified college degree, there aren't many jobs specifically for someone with a bachelors in Physics. The same holds true for chemistry and I believe biology majors.

Re:Some bachelor degrees aren't worth it. (2)

JoeMerchant (803320) | more than 2 years ago | (#37966484)

I was working as an engineer with a Masters' and about 8 years in the field, the company was hitting some hard times and I was looking around at what I could do. There was a post-doc position in a sister organization that I talked about doing temporarily... thing was, it only paid 1/3 what I was making as an engineer, and these guys were 3 to 5 years past getting their PhD. I'm not too good to work for less money, but I did have a mortgage to pay and that just wasn't going to cut it.

Similar story for an ME I knew, he had a post-doc doppelganger at his old job, ME had a wife, new baby, house, etc. Postdoc had a bicycle, judging from his website he liked his bicycle a lot.

Dropping out saved me tens of thousands of dollars (1)

bberens (965711) | more than 2 years ago | (#37966304)

I dropped out because I found I could make the same money without the degree and am generally making more than my age-peers because I started the experience/raise/promotion cycle about 2 years earlier than them with the added benefit of having paid off my tiny little bit of student debt very quickly. Of course, I'm working in a field that doesn't require a P.E. which makes a huge difference.

Only the strong survive, as it should be (1)

jmcbain (1233044) | more than 2 years ago | (#37966310)

I completed a BS, MS, and PhD is computer science and engineering in the US. My grad school was top-20. I learned that surviving in undergrad is what's important, just as excelling in grad school and your later career is what's important there. Some of my friends from high school couldn't hack the surviving part, and I myself barely kept my head above water. Indeed, I often wondered what was the point of the six calculus classes, three physics classes, and three chemistry classes that I was taking in my first two years. In retrospect, it's true that they're to teach breadth in the fundamental sciences that, yes, do come into play later on in your career; however, they also serve as predators that eliminate the weak. If you don't have the stomach and focus to make your way through those classes when you're 18-21, what about when you're facing high-pressure deadlines throughout the rest of your career?

The Four-Year Notion May Be Part of the Problem (1)

damn_registrars (1103043) | more than 2 years ago | (#37966312)

There is too much material for many programs to adequately cover in four years. Of course, part of this is because of the lack of good science and math curriculum in American high schools, but part of it is just the volume of material needed to adequately call someone "educated" in a STEM field.

The particular science I majored in had a very poor record for students finishing in four years, in part because there were three years of prerequisite work before you could take the most critical courses of the subject.

From my perspective, we either should start accepting that some programs need to take 5 (or more) years, or start doing more joint BS/MS programs where a student writes a capstone at the end of year four, defends an undergrad thesis, and then becomes a master's student to finish their program.

Re:The Four-Year Notion May Be Part of the Problem (1)

simm_s (11519) | more than 2 years ago | (#37966540)

I agree with the idea that sticking everyone into a four year program is counter productive. Problem is the longer the program the more expensive the cost is to the student.

Re:The Four-Year Notion May Be Part of the Problem (1)

JoeMerchant (803320) | more than 2 years ago | (#37966546)

Architecture already does this (the 5 year program), and of course, there's Med School. Thing is, if you can take your STEM major over here in 4 years, or over there in 5, who's going to opt for the 5 year program? What will the outside world think if it took you 25% longer to reach the same goal? I know the good answers: oh, he will have a more thorough understanding of the fundamentals, yadda, yadda.... now, what will really be said: he couldn't hack it in 4, he lacks drive I want someone who took stimulants and got it done in 3...

Profit (2)

vlm (69642) | more than 2 years ago | (#37966324)

'Treating the freshman year as a "sink or swim" experience and accepting attrition as inevitable,'

They'd make more money filtering them on the output stage rather than on the input stage, since that is all that matters to the administrators, I don't understand why they don't do this.

I know the educational-industrial complex is corrupt and evil, I'm surprised the only "output filtering" I can think of is lawyers having to pass the bar exam after law school collects all the money.

Re:Profit (1)

JoeMerchant (803320) | more than 2 years ago | (#37966560)

In some areas (mostly Civil), engineers have the EIT / PE exams. I've never needed them, so it's basically impossible for me to sit for the PE because I don't work with any PEs in my jobs. In some ways, I'd like for there to be a PE license for software, but see a recent /. thread about how much sense software exams actually make.

My Recent Experience (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37966328)

I just completed a degree in IT Security (General IT, a touch of computer science, crypto, business systems, security and risk analysis and management) and we had a ~50% drop out rate per year of a 4 year course. Only a dozen of us graduated in our year, one with honours (Could have been two if if I my mark was 0.7% higher :( ). The problem I saw was the requirements to get into the course were all the same throughout the faculties (except medicine and physics related stuff), since I'm not in the US and explaining our system would take too long, it was basically the equivalent score of 50% assuming entrance direct from highschool, people just had no idea about the mathematics involved for the crypto side of things (And for some reason object-oriented programming seemed to catch alot of people out) and people just dropped like flies.

Cooling out. (2, Insightful)

Animats (122034) | more than 2 years ago | (#37966334)

The US does not need more engineers. Salaries aren't going up. This has been discussed before on Slashdot.

As for attrition, that's by design. The classic paper is "The Cooling-Out Process in Higher Education": "The cooling-out process in higher education is one whereby systematic discrepancy between aspiration and avenue is covered over and stress for the individual and system is minimized. The provision of readily available alternative achievements in itself is an important device for alleviating the stress of consequent failure and so preventing anomic and deviant behavior. The general result of cooling-out processes is that society can continue to encourage maximum effort without major disturbance from unfulfilled promises and expectations."

"Cooling out" in this context comes from a criminal term, "cooling out the mark": keeping the victim of a con game from coming back with cops or a baseball bat. It's not about being cool.

The alternative is tougher admission standards. If you can get into MIT, you have a 91% chance of coming out with a degree. Cal Poly, 40%.

One alternative is better vocational education. In the US, that's a dirty word, because all kids should go to college. In Germany, it works. German makes it hard to fire people. As a result, there's an incentive to train and retrain existing employees. Germany also has a functional apprenticeship system.

It's to be expected (3, Informative)

lexsird (1208192) | more than 2 years ago | (#37966340)

We have slacked off on students over the past several decades, making it an easier experience, and we produce dumber students. When they get to the "hard sciences" they are shocked by the need to actually apply themselves and study hard. It's hard to sugar coat science, math and other terminology rich and study intensive fields.

Exactly what the article says.. (0)

Xaositecte (897197) | more than 2 years ago | (#37966348)

I'm graduating in may from a BSEE program, and I must say this is largely correct. Calculus and physics courses from freshman and sophmore year were largely sink-or-swim where about half the class would drop before we even reached the halfway point of the term. They had more students sign up then they had capacity to teach, so weeding out students was the explicit purpose of those classes, to the point where we'd lose 50% or more by halfway through the term, and of the half that remained, a fair number still failed.

Unnecessary homework load is the prime culprit. Freshman and Sophmore level classes will routinely assign homework where you'll learn how to solve a particular kind of problem the first time, and then repeat it with minor alterations another dozen times. Compare this to Junior and Senior level classes where we'll get three very difficult problems, and that's it. Additional studying or examples can be done at the student's discretion.

Since every class is loading you down with the same level of unnecessary busywork, you're inevitably so swamped that you stop sleeping, lose out on any kind of social life, and tear your hair out from the stress. Frankly, I sometimes wonder if I'm the stupid one for sticking with it, when I could have just said, "Fuck it," and coasted through a business major without even trying like several of my peers ended up doing.

 

Science Jobs Lacks (2)

babblesaurus (2473482) | more than 2 years ago | (#37966364)

I started college as a pre-med biology and chemistry double major. I got through two years of undergrad and just got burned out. Lots of hours in the classroom, laboratory and studying. I dropped the chemistry major but my GPA already got hurt so the med school thing was a long shot. By the time I graduated with my B.S. in biology I had no desire (at the time) for graduate or professional school. I took a job as an analytical chemist and did that for nearly ten years working my way up to a PhD equivalent type of position (Principal Investigator and Study Director type of roles).

Something that people who are not in the sciences do not seem to realize is that science jobs really suck, for lack of a better term. The locations are very fragmented (I had to move halfway across the country to move up the industry ladder), if you don't have a PhD you are capped, and even at that many - if not most - PhDs in the industry are doing basic bench-work alongside folks with their B.S. The pay is just terrible as well. So you work your ass off in school taking difficult and time-consuming classes to make crap money in an industry that lays off tens of thousands of people each year (just look at the M&A in pharma and industrial chemicals). And people wonder why students don't want to go into science.

Chemical engineering is another story - that is what I should have gone into if I knew then what I know now.

It is because they are not ready. (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37966370)

My 3 children each did fine in college, in prominent engineering schools, while watching the students around them drop like flies in Calc 2 and 3, not dropping out so much as switching majors to something without the calculus.

The difference, in my children's own words, is they knew the Calculus going in, having taught themselves the calculus in our home-school before college.

Their advice to high school students: "Get a book and study like I did."

Most students today have a cakewalk in high school even with AP classes and are not prepared for success in college.

because they teach it all wrong (4, Interesting)

holophrastic (221104) | more than 2 years ago | (#37966372)

it's not that classroom-learnin' ain't no good -- that's also true -- but it's simply that suhc environments are insufficient by themselves.

I know what you're thinking, "but that's why we have labs!" And that's my point. Have you seen the STEM labs assignments? These "practicals" are so very academic that they might as well be more classroom lectures. Pouring one chemical into another chemical isn't the practical application of anything -- unless you designed the spout on the first beaker, or the splash guard on the second.

Look at the practicums in arts, or in psychology. Being a subject/participant/donkey in someone else's psych experiment is actually real. Painting a painting for a crummy art gallery is real.

4+ years of labs counts for nothing.

Perhaps rational logic is the reason. (3, Interesting)

RyanFenton (230700) | more than 2 years ago | (#37966380)

I'm a huge proponent of the scientific method, am completely pro-science, especially against psuedoscience... but I completely understand why simple logic would prevent most folks from entering a proper science degree, once they've gotten a chance to digest the extent what lies before them.

It's not the math. It's not the science. It's not the hard work.

It's the fact that they will have no control over their life, in the field that has precious few opportunities, and seems to amount to grueling busywork 90+% of the time.

Either that, or end up as an industry scientist, with some rather nasty ethical consequences in many cases.

In many cases, it would be the love of science that would keep many from rationally choosing to bet their lives in the very limited and dwindling pool of opportunities available in the field(s) now. Not that there isn't research that desperately needs to be done - it just isn't economically feasible to do big things, so you'd just end up a researcher performing tasks for people unable to really progress science much. You'd be wasting your limited existence serving goals that don't help.

At least that's how it looks from the outside.

Get industry to fund real research again, shift university funding to actual general research, and clean up the "Intellectual Property" mess that stifles research, and there would be a rational path to more progress of the sciences - until then, it really does seem a poor wager to bet your life on.

Ryan Fenton

I took engineering and I know the answers (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37966388)

1) engineering is hard. We had a student who was missing 1 class to graduate, took the class 3 times and just couldn't get his head around it and ended up changing majors.- Most actual engineering companies have smart/technical engineers and less smart or less technical engineers as a mix and there are roles for both to play so maybe if you went for engineering and couldn't pass they could change the major to applied engineering or something and you could still get a job but everyone would know you couldn't quite handle the harder material.

2) engineering is important to companies so engineers are not. If apple or some other mass production company is late 10 days to deliver a product they lose millions of dollars. So the manager who really isn't important needs to work his workers so that they achieve this goal. The workers can't take vacations during this crunch time. If an individual worker causes the schedule to slip the manager will say is this worker worth 10 million dollars? And then fire them. Meanwhile the managers higher up who are not actually essential to the company are able to take vacations whenever, are seen as essential to the board and are paid serious money. Fix this and you won't have bright engineers ending up bankers to rob you of your retirement benefits.- The fix is to alloy engineers to work for more than one company like doctors work for more than one hospital at a time. This would totally change the balance of power and make engineers far more likely to start their own companies and make even more money that way.

3) At the college level the schools are run by people who think that english and art are equal to engineering in terms of importance. On a national GDP competitiveness this is sheer BS but go talk to the faculty in schools and they are making engineers take poetry classes and a bunch of other BS. Engineers are different in how they think, the sheer brutality of facing reality in the form of equations removes forever the ability to live in make believe that most people enjoy. The first time I saw a James Bond movies after receiving my education I realized I lost forever the ability to enjoy the idea of giant space lasers that don't follow real world physics etc. You can't try and force these people back into a world of fairies and belief that every opinion on things is equally valid. Until you treat engineers and scientists as doctors and lawyers and bankers you won't compete with the chinese, japanese and other countries that do.

Does the job market have anything to do with it? (1)

scottbomb (1290580) | more than 2 years ago | (#37966392)

Students ARE interested in stuff like science and engineering. It seems to me that part of the problem is when they start examining what they will actually do once they get the degree, the outlook doesn't appear very promising. Entry-level jobs (especially in IT) are scarce and the constant drumbeat of overseas outsourcing is driving many people to change their major to a subject where they're more likely to make a living. I'm working on a computer science/software engineering degree and I'm very nervous about what my prospects will be when I graduate with $50k in debt. My passion for the subject matter drives me though. I actually love practicing what I'm learning.

STEM requires intelligence. Lots of it. (1, Interesting)

Gorobei (127755) | more than 2 years ago | (#37966406)

The problem is simple: STEM is hard!

How you structure the education almost doesn't matter: 1/10 graduates, at most, will have really mastered the basics of their field; Magna cum laude hardly means anything in terms of the graduate being effective.

After interviewing junior STEM hires for 25 years, I can see almost no correlation between education and effectiveness. That's no saying there is none (obviously, we don't see many high-school only types,) but, of the pool we do see, philosophy majors, college drop-outs, etc, seem to do pretty well. A PhD in CS seems to actually be a negative predictor of effectiveness.

All the education in the world simply will not turn an average intelligence person into a great engineer.

Science and Engineering is boring (1)

The Great Pretender (975978) | more than 2 years ago | (#37966440)

I have a PhD in Chemistry, I love science, I love engineering, but the first 2 years of chemistry, maths, physics at university (in the UK) was probably the most boring and uninspiring period of my science/engineering life (I'm now 41) (biology was actually okay due to the lecturer). I found myself being entertained by pool and beer in the students union more than the class and am surprised that I made it through. It they want success rates to go up, they really need to figure out how to get the education across in a more accessible way, I don't mean easier, I actually mean accessible. Yes I can read the book chapter and work through board problems, and in the lab I can follow a set of instructions, but the more entertaining lessons actually followed through with practical examples and relevant demonstrations, where those demonstrations actually linked into the lesson, and weren't just for fun.

Work Ethic - self motivation is the failure point (2)

RichMan (8097) | more than 2 years ago | (#37966442)

What high school does not teach is a self work ethic. This leaves the student totally unprepared for college where they are not even punished for not showing up at class. Miss a class or two, skip doing the required reading and suddenly they are totally lost and way to far behind.
It is sink or swim in the sense of being self-responsible for attending class and doing the required out of class work.

University means 15 hours of classes and 30 hours of self motivated work a week. Most are not going to do that. Especially when you add in being away from home for the first time.

-- see this policy -- that is not preparation for university

http://oncampus.macleans.ca/education/2010/09/29/teaching-plagiarism/
"Under a new evaluation method for report cards, Saskatoon public high school students will no longer face penalties for handing assignments in late or trying to pass off someone else’s work as their own. The idea, according to the board, is to shift focus from behaviour to learning. “We’re trying to keep the emphasis on the learning, not on the penalty,” "

Because it's hard (1)

heypete (60671) | more than 2 years ago | (#37966446)

When I was a freshman (majoring in physics with a math minor) at the University of Arizona, there was ~180 freshman who had declared their major as "astronomy".

When I graduated four years later, only 8 astro majors graduated.

Why? Probably because it's really hard. It's definitely not the idealized scenario that many new students think it might be.

Astronomy isn't just taking pretty pictures of space -- it involves a huge amount of theory and advanced mathematics.

Chemistry isn't all explosions and making visually-interesting reactions in test tubes -- again, there's a lot of theory, scary classes (see organic chemistry), and advanced mathematics.

Physics isn't just rolling balls down inclines and swinging pendulums -- lots of theory, advanced mathematics, and mind-warpingly weird stuff.

Even then, once one graduates, there's more of the same through graduate school. If one is lucky enough to get an academic position, there's intra- and inter-departmental politics and drama, budget and resource issues, and a zillion other things that "interactive teaching techniques" aren't going to help alleviate.

In short, science involves an enormous amount of work for remarkably little personal gain. The pay isn't that great, there's little chances for public recognition or fame, and the vast majority of other people will no have no idea what one does for a living. One has to really love it to succeed at it.

Not everyone is cut out to be a scientist, doctor, or engineer*. Having better teaching techniques will probably help keep some borderline students in the program, at least at the undergraduate level, but what about after that?

* That's not a bad thing. A lot of scientists, doctors, and engineers would make terrible high school teachers, lawyers, policemen, plumbers, astronauts, etc.

Why? (1)

fahrbot-bot (874524) | more than 2 years ago | (#37966448)

Just guessing... Because Science is actually hard and many of today's students are lazy, self-entitled, undereducated and unmotivated to actually learn anything?

Because the pay is too low (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37966452)

The article is on the wrong. It is typical political spin. It's not that American students wash out but that they make a couple of realizations by their second or 3rd year in college. I saw it myself as an undergrad, but I stuck with it. I graduated with 3 majors: Pre-med with a degree in Engineering and another in Biology.

Except for MDs, most US science and engineers graduate into a job market where the pay is low and there is no job security. One reason might be that the US has flooded these job markets by importing too many foreign workers who are often thrilled just to be here and will work for low pay and temporary jobs in those fields .

I just wanted to be an engineer or scientist (2)

nixterino (323991) | more than 2 years ago | (#37966462)

Back in the day (I graduated in 1976 (BS)) it was a mix of people who really wanted to be engineers (mech/civil/hydraulic/electric/etc) and people who thought they would make a lot of money. Honestly, I think the curriculum was hard enough at my mid-level state U that if you weren't dedicated and involved, you'd not finish your degree. The geeks did well, the money seekers changed majors (mostly to business).

I hadn't thought about career prospects, just knew I wanted to be an engineer.

I did go back to grad school 2 decades later for "fun" and got a "hobby PhD" in CS doing computational microbiology from a top 20 University. Not using it, still nursing the bruises, maybe don't regret it - learned a ton, and it does help in day-to-day work, but ...

Helicopter Parents aren't allowed to write exams (1)

theshowmecanuck (703852) | more than 2 years ago | (#37966492)

The colleges and universities won't let helicopter parents write their exams for their precious little wuggums. Too bad so sad, should have thought about that when self esteem trumped your kids ability to actually think and do for themselves. But if you disagree, continue putting your kids in your minivan and driving them one block to school every day.

So now it's time for your precious wuggums to take a fine arts degree. Or if they are even less intelligent or more incapable of doing thing for themselves without expecting praise every two minutes, a business or the old stand-bye, psychology degree (at least fine arts students understand that they will need to face some disappointment in life).

Mind you it doesn't speak to others' intelligence when they let people with business degrees actually run things. According to Jennings (Pg 13), the highest performing CEOs usually have engineering degrees. (Hit the Ground Running; Jennings, Jason; Penguin Group; 2009).

Reminds me of a joke (5, Funny)

slasho81 (455509) | more than 2 years ago | (#37966502)

This reminds me of a joke I read here in a thread about whether pre-med students should study organic chemistry:

A college physics professor was explaining a concept to his class when a pre-med student interrupted him. "Why do we have to learn this stuff?" he blurted out. "To save lives," the professor responded before continuing the lecture.
A few minutes later the student spoke up again. "Wait-- how does physics save lives?" The professor responded. "By keeping idiots out of medical school."

Colleges are hostile to men (2, Interesting)

Kohath (38547) | more than 2 years ago | (#37966518)

Since math, science, and engineering students are more likely than other students to be men, it seems reasonable that the University environment's hostility to men is an important factor in math, science, and engineering students dropping out.

When I went to college, it was a depressing place filled with extremely narcissistic, hateful people. It didn't seem like an experience worth paying for. Meanwhile, at the office, people are happy I'm there. They thank me for my help and pay me.

Good luck with that whole 100,000 thing (1)

bjdevil66 (583941) | more than 2 years ago | (#37966526)

"and 100,000 new teachers with majors in science, technology, engineering and math"

Good luck with that. A large majority with the skills to learn said fields is probably going to laugh at a teacher's salary.

heres why (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37966538)

because math professors are horrible at teaching math to non math geeks

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