Addressing the Racial Divide in STEM Education

New data from the U.S. Department of Education shows that for all students who began bachelor’s degree programs in STEM fields in 2003-04, 20 percent dropped out of college altogether and 28.1 percent changed to a non-STEM major before earning their degree.

When we break the data down by race, we find major differences. For Whites who began in STEM fields, 19.8 percent dropped out of college and 28.1 percent changed to a non-STEM major before earning their degree. For Blacks, 29.3 percent dropped out of college and 36 percent transferred to a non-STEM major.

Thus, nearly two thirds of all Black students who start out in STEM majors end up not getting a degree in STEM fields. The data suggests that attracting Black students to STEM fields is not the problem. It appears that major efforts must be made to increase retention of Black students in these fields.


Comments (7)

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  1. Jeff says:

    Just want to say thanks for the job that you are doing in promoting us in higher education

  2. Martey says:

    I totally agree. I started out as an enthusiastic math major my first year at Oberlin College but was forced to switch majors because I was totally unprepared for the level of rigor required to SUCCESSFULLY COMPLETE the mathematics degree major requirements.

  3. Gigi Ngala says:

    I changed majors from pre-med (sounded great but I was ill prepped for the time and finances involved in keeping pace with the tough curriculum. i was in over my head post quant chem.

  4. Mark says:

    What is the name of the actual document that is referenced in this story? I would like to read it. Please advise.

    • Editor says:

      You can download the report, “STEM in Postsecondary Education: Entrance, Attrition, and Coursetaking Among 2003-2004 Beginning Postsecondary Students” at

    • Dr. John Young says:

      Absolutely. It was my dream to become a mathematician when I was an undergraduate. But although I was one of the top students from my working class/poor high school, I was totally unprepared for the rigors of college level calculus, especially at a top-tier liberal arts college.

  5. Daniel says:

    Thank you so much for this information.

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