Education Progress

What is the S&E retention rate in U.S. 4-year institutions?

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What is the S&E retention rate in U.S. 4-year institutions?

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Data include beginning postsecondary students at 4-year institutions only.
S&E = science and engineering.
Physical sciences = chemistry, physics, astronomy, and earth/ocean/atmospheric sciences.

Main Finding

Of the beginning postsecondary students who enrolled in 4-year institutions in academic year 2003/04 with intentions to major in S&E, 67% had received an S&E bachelor’s degree, or were still enrolled and majoring in an S&E field, in spring 2009. More than half (54%) of the 2003/04 cohort stayed in the same S&E field as their intended major when they were freshmen, while 13% changed to a different S&E field.

Key Observations

  • Retention in S&E was most evident among students who had plans to major in engineering when they started college in academic year 2003/04: by spring 2009, 56% had graduated with an engineering degree or were still majoring in engineering, and another 16% had received a degree or were enrolled in a different S&E field.
  • Retention within the same field as the intended major in the freshman year was most evident in social sciences/psychology – 61% of those students stayed in the field while 4% switched to a different S&E field.
  • The lowest level of retention was in the area of physical/computer/math sciences. Only 43% of freshmen in academic year 2003/04 who had plans to major in this area stayed there. However, an additional 19% remained within S&E and either graduated with an S&E bachelor’s degree or were still enrolled in an S&E field as of spring 2009.