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New Study on Student STEM Interests

I recently came across an interesting publication that looks at patterns in STEM education and it provides some surprising insights into students' interests in STEM education and career pathways.

The report Where are the STEM Students is jointly published by myCollege Options and STEMconnector. It profiles the national high school student population (by graduation year) including more than one million students interested in STEM careers. The element of the report I found most interesting details the national trends in STEM among female and under-represented minority students.

The study results indicate that female interest in Engineering increased after a significant dip between 2001 and 2005 but that it seems to have leveled out at about 3% of the high school population for the 2012 to 2016 graduating classes. Female interest in Technology showed a similar drop beginning in 2001 but that drop lasted much longer and the numbers did not begin increasing again until the graduating class of 2013! And despite this increase, the percentage of female students indicating an interest in careers in Technology remains below 2%.

The results for under-represented minority students are very mixed and somewhat surprising. According to the study, since the graduating class of 2000, African American student interest in all STEM disciplines has dropped by nearly 30%. After reaching a high of just over 28% in 2001, African American student interest began a significant downward trend, bottoming out in 2004. Despite a bumpy trajectory since then, the numbers have never really recovered beyond 22%. While African American students' interest in Engineering continues to plummet, interest in Technology is showing significant improvement and is now trending toward its previous (2000) high of 10%.

Reported interest in STEM by Hispanic students also bottomed out at 22% with the graduating class of 2004. Interest among Hispanic students, however, seems to be trending upward despite another minor dip for 2009 with 27% of students graduating in 2016 expressing interest in STEM courses and careers. (The report did not include the discipline-based results for Hispanic students.)

Interest in Engineering remains highest among American Indian students, with the graduating class of 2016 reaching an all time high of 17%. And despite a dip that reached bottom (4%) with the 2010 and 2011 graduating class, student interest in Technology is also trending steadily upward, reaching between 9% and 10% among the 2016 graduating class.

Chris Stephenson
CSTA Executive Director

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