A Huge Racial Gap in STEM Degree Program Attrition Rates

STEm photoA new report from the U.S. Department of Education shows that more than one half of all African Americans who enter bachelor’s degree programs in STEM-related disciplines either drop out of college or change majors and graduate with a degree in a non-STEM field.

The data shows that for African American students who entered bachelor’s degree programs in a STEM-related field in the 2003-04 academic year, by 2009, 29.3 percent had left college without a earning a degree. Another 36 percent of Black students who started out in a STEM-related bachelor’s degree program in 2003-04 had graduated from college by 2009 but with a degree in a non-STEM related field. Thus, almost two-thirds of Black students who start out in STEM-related bachelor’s degree programs do not complete their studies in these fields.

Whites, too, who start out in bachelor’s degree program in STEM fields also have high attrition rates from these degree programs. Some 19.8 percent drop out of college and don’t earn a degree and 28.1 percent earn degrees in non-STEM-related fields.

However, there is a large racial gap in attrition from STEM programs. For Blacks 65.3 percent of those who start out in STEM don’t graduate with a degree in the STEM field compared to 47.9 percent of Whites.

The report, STEM Attrition: College Students’ Paths Into and Out of STEM Fields, may be downloaded here.


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