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Why Do So Many College Science Majors Drop Out? 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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Why Do So Many College Science Majors Drop Out?

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  • by Nemilar ( 173603 ) on Sunday November 06, 2011 @01:32PM (#37966158) Homepage

    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: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward

      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

      • by taxman_10m ( 41083 ) on Sunday November 06, 2011 @01:50PM (#37966362)

        Crab fishing? Ice road trucking? Paranormal investigation?

        • by slick7 ( 1703596 ) on Sunday November 06, 2011 @02:03PM (#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.

          • by icebraining ( 1313345 ) on Sunday November 06, 2011 @02:24PM (#37966738) Homepage

            Not a fan of the man, but I agree with this:

            When you're young, you look at television and think, There's a conspiracy. The networks have conspired to dumb us down. But when you get a little older, you realize that's not true. The networks are in business to give people exactly what they want. That's a far more depressing thought. Conspiracy is optimistic! You can shoot the bastards! We can have a revolution! But the networks are really in business to give people what they want. It's the truth.

            -- Steve Jobs

            • by 0123456 ( 636235 ) on Sunday November 06, 2011 @03:00PM (#37967080)

              When you look at TV, you also see that most programs glamorise lawyers, cops, doctors and sports stars. When was the last TV show that starred an engineer and made it look like a great thing to do? Even in Star Trek, Scotty was a secondary character.

              • by ADRA ( 37398 )

                A better question for you would be: Design the formula for a TV show that is targeted at Joe Six-pack which can highlight engineers in a way that speaks to the audience in a way they can understand. I'd say the two largest successes based on this criteria were MacGyver and Mythbusters. That IS popular culture Engineering. I'm sure there have been many many less populist engineering shows that have come and go over the years, but if you can't capture a large enough audience, don't count on the show lasting t

                • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

                  by plover ( 150551 ) *

                  Rocket City Rednecks.

                  It's a couple of NASA rocket scientists, living outside Huntsville, Alabama, and doing a science-related build every weekend. They create such things as blast-proof armor, an Iron Man suit, a submarine, etc., in a way similar to Mythbusters. They showcase bits and pieces of science and engineering as they build (not enough in my opinion, but it's watchable.) And they do not hide who they are. They go fishin' and shoot each other with paintball guns and drink beer and whiskey.

                  It's li

              • by icebraining ( 1313345 ) on Sunday November 06, 2011 @03:34PM (#37967388) Homepage

                That's easy to explain - most engineers could be working on something they find incredibly exciting but to an outsider, he looks no different than someone typing a letter to his grandmother in Word.

                People want visible, palpable drama and action. Engineer work looks incredibly boring to a layman.

                Sure, TV shows pick up anything and crank it up to 11 in order to make a routine job seem like a hero task. But they need something to work on.

                Even for lawyers, cops and doctors, only a few types are shown; you won't see a show about tax lawyers, cops writing tickets or dermatologists.

              • You're not going to see many dramas featuring engineers as anything but secondary characters, due to the nature of engineering. When people watch fictional shows, most of them want to see shows about human drama. Engineering isn't about human drama, and no one really wants to watch a "drama" about a bunch of engineers arguing over technical details, including other engineers. So the best you get is that engineers are secondary characters who help make things happen. In Star Trek, this was actually portr

            • by mmcuh ( 1088773 )
              That quote is really ironic, considering that Jobs spent hist last decade marketing things like the iPad.
        • by Kohath ( 38547 )

          So stop watching it. If you really look to TV for validation, then you're part of the problem.

      • by Xugumad ( 39311 )

        > 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.

        Are colleges really failing that many students who would succeed at a degree if only given a few extra chances? I don't think we could run any more introductory courses if that's what you meant. We do run a programme for school kids that can give them an idea what university is like, but we're limited in how many kids we can do tha

      • I'm friends with various academics who feel students could all be coddled into success. They are wrong.

        I've taught courses four different countries and groked the educational system in another two. There is only one educational strategy that works present opportunities and expect results. It's fine if people fail, just give them a chance to try again later.

        In Europe & elsewhere, there isn't this bullshit idea that students are 'education consumers', no, students are the product, society is the consum

    • 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
      • by hal2814 ( 725639 )
        So your dad teaches a course whose purpose is to prepare kids for college-level coursework, at the end they're don't even have a grasp of the high-school-level coursework, and he passes them? Maybe instead he should,,, I don't know... fail them? They did fail to master the material.
    • by peragrin ( 659227 ) on Sunday November 06, 2011 @01:47PM (#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

      • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday November 06, 2011 @02:07PM (#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.

        • by Roger W Moore ( 538166 ) on Sunday November 06, 2011 @03:19PM (#37967264) Journal

          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.

          No, students do not drop subject just because they are hard. They drop them because they are hard AND they have never been academically challenged ever before. I've seen this happen numerous times with smart first year students. They are completely used to coasting through school with one cylinder firing because there is no challenge at all for them. Then, when they get to university, they are suddenly faced with material that they cannot master with a quick read through and they literally do not know how to cope.

          If we challenge even the brightest students at the school level then they will be used to having to think things through carefully and then, when they do finally understand it, they will get the sense of achievement which comes with that. Some of my colleagues who have a reputation for teaching very challenging, senior undergrad courses have some of the best student feedback because, by that point, the students like to be challenged and to succeed. Sadly though we lose a lot of students before we get there just because they are completely unprepared for university and don't know how to cope.

          • by kevmeister ( 979231 ) on Sunday November 06, 2011 @08:48PM (#37969504) Homepage

            There may be some truth to this. My high school physics teacher was in his first year teaching and clearly thought he was teaching a college class. It was brutal with about 2 hours of homework a night and every day started with a quiz on the material. The class started with about 20 students and 7 finished, only one with an 'A'. The teacher was fired due to complaints from parents (which I still feel was appropriate).

            My college physics class was breeze, since I know most all of the material when I walked in the door.

            While I think the teacher went way overboard, for those who could cut it (I managed a 'B"), it was an outstanding experience, though I did not feel that way 40 years ago. Probably something between that class and and a "typical" class would have been ideal, but I was ready for college classes, at least and I really appreciate it.

            By the way, The teacher, Gary Mantelli, was re-hired a year later after promising not to push so hard and taught until shortly before his death about 5 years later. I wish I had gotten a chance to thank him!

        • by methano ( 519830 ) on Sunday November 06, 2011 @03:22PM (#37967278)
          AC is right on with this one. Only the problem is much worse than that. The US does not value the scientists that they have. The current job market for scientists is absolutely miserable. In the field where I used to work, pharmaceutical drug discovery, the industry is sending research jobs to China and laying off huge numbers of scientists in the US and Europe. Over 90% of the chemists that I know, that are over age 50, have been let go at least once in the last 10 years. Few have found new jobs. Those that have found jobs have taken large salary cuts. It's a real mess. We don't need more scientists. It would be nice if we knew more science and it would be even nicer if we had jobs for the scientist that we have now.
        • by buybuydandavis ( 644487 ) on Sunday November 06, 2011 @04:04PM (#37967644)

          Engineers and scientists are underpaid and overworked as it is.

          Adding more of them to the labor market will make these problems worse.

          Worse, for who? Not for companies.

          "We don't have enough engineers" is largely just an excuse for allowing corporations to get exemptions to immigration laws and import indentured servants in technical fields. US schools have produced plenty of engineers. Most of them aren't in engineering.

          46 year old. Ivy League EE undergrad. Neither me nor any of my friends in undergrad spent more than 7 years as engineers. A couple jumped to business school in undergrad. After spending a couple years working, a couple went to business school, and a one went for a MSEE, and I went for a PhD in EE. MSEE worked for 5 years after graduation then went back for MBA. I worked in engineering 5 years after PhD, then moved to business IT analysis/proj mgmnt.

          The opportunities in engineering were lacking. The opportunities in business were better. There are plenty of engineers. There aren't great opportunities for them.

        • by hey! ( 33014 ) on Sunday November 06, 2011 @04:50PM (#37967998) Homepage Journal

          Well, maybe the problem is the entire model of college education, which comes to us from medieval times when a young gentleman could go to university, and come home after a few years with a sizable fraction of all human knowledge. Today people have to keep learning all their lives. Why does college education have to look the way it does? Rather than contemplating dumbing down the current system, I think it makes sense to ask whether a different but equally rigorous system might be more successful.

          From what I've seen, many people enter college well before they've grown up. That is not necessarily a moral failing, in fact it strikes me as irrational to expect somebody to be as mature at eighteen as he will be at twenty-two. What happens is we send everyone to college at seventeen or eighteen as a kind of experiment to see if they're ready, and obviously many are not ready to get their degree in four years. The result is that ultimate success at university is often related to the affluence of the student's parents, not necessarily the student's ultimate potential. If a student needs another semester to finish, and has no family resources to draw upon, he's stuck. I once knew a guy who was a mediocre student but had a very rich father. His dad pulled some strings so the guy could get into a master's program in public health when he was thirty or so, and from their the guy went on to earn his MD in his late 30s. Yet despite how unfair this was to other people (e.g. to the person who lost his place in med school), this guy went on to be a distinguished surgeon. In this case the exception carved out by money and influence allowed someone to reach his full potential.

          I also have a strong suspicion that the brain continues to develop in certain ways well into the 20s. When I went into MIT at 17 years of age I was pretty good at math, but I feel strongly that my natural aptitude for mathematics continued to improve until I was in my late 20s. I'm also reasonably certain that many brains entering college at seventeen and eighteen have not finished developing what psychologists call "executive control functions": being able to direct attention, to control impulses to weigh the present effort against the future rewards.

          I just don't think four year university right after high school works for everyone. Nor does it get the most out of many of the people who do manage make it through, but not with distinction. Some people who struggle through four years and make it out by the skin of their teeth might pass with distinction if they just started their college career two or three years later, whether that reflects life experience, brain biology or some mix.

          But if the problem is that the design of the current system doesn't meet everyone's needs, then dumbing it down is the worst possible choice. The system *still* wouldn't work for the people it currently doesn't serve well, but the people it *does* serve well are cheated. On the other hand it makes no sense to shortchange students who might have equal potential but don't fit the current system, either because they need a few years seasoning or don't have the money to cushion them through a tight spot.

          I'd like to see options that are equally or more rigorous, but more diverse. I'd like to see some students earn their bachelors over six years or even eight years, paying for their with co-op work or national service. Stretching out education this way would in itself would allow students to bring more life experience to classes in social sciences, literature and business management.

          I'd also like to see the end of the expectation that somebody can get a bachelor's degree at twenty-one years, and coast on those credentials until he's sixty-five. I'd like to see degrees expire unless you show you've continued to learn into your thirties or beyond.

          • There's too many problems with your ideas. Basically, the human lifespan is much too short, and people have to get a job and make money to survive and support their family. You can't have people going to school in their 30s and 40s, because most people are busy raising a family at that age. You can't ask people to put off raising a family, because that's biologically impossible (women can only get pregnant in their teens-30s, sometimes 40s but that's pushing it and they have a lot of birth defects if the

      • by Tacvek ( 948259 )

        I fully agree that separating out students is the right thing to do.

        There are however two problems with this. One is politico-cultural, which is that the American public will not by-and-large accept this idea.

        The second issue is that most implementations of such a system in other countries tend to decide which level or path you take based on a single test, or the grades of a single year. That puts tremendous pressure on a student still in middle school, and one bad day can ruin their chances at their desire

    • by masternerdguy ( 2468142 ) on Sunday November 06, 2011 @01:49PM (#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.

      • Naw, I believe you need homework to be graded, but for a *different* lesson! I now call that the "100% Performance" heuristic. Y'all are smarter than me. But I made it through college just doing the damn homework. For me, it prevented test time melt downs. I know, it's a point of bragging who blew off their homework, but then a bunch of the otherwise bright kid melted on the exams and that was that.

        In *real work*, there's none of this "Gee, 88%, that's good enough". Sure, that's how far you get the *first t

    • by mark-t ( 151149 )

      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 t

      • by ninetyninebottles ( 2174630 ) on Sunday November 06, 2011 @02:21PM (#37966706)

        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.

        I graduated with a bachelors of science from an engineering focused university. I like math and science and use both in my work daily. The problem I saw was that the introductory classes were treated specifically as a way to weed out some of the students with mindless busywork. First year chemistry was an entire year of several hundred students in a giant lecture hall memorizing the periodic table, memorizing ion charges, and (in short) doing nothing at all relating to science or the type of problem solving or analytical thought actually needed to be a competent scientist. Something like half the people who took those chemistry classes switched to another major or dropped out, but I seriously doubt there was a strong correlation with those that would be good at science.

        The introductory math classes were little better with huge classes where you were supposed to memorize formulas and methodologies and then apply them, with lots of minor mistakes, on paper. The only use they had was helping students learn a good balance of speed versus meticulousness. At least in introductory computer science you actually did some programming and did some of the nuts and bolts work of making a computer work for you. In general, however, it felt like teachers with no interest doing as little work as possible by forcing a lot of rote memorization for no real purpose other than to weed out students so there were more manageable class sizes going forward. It was as though all the advances in educational theory and methodology over the last 100 years were intentionally ignored.

    • by khasim ( 1285 ) <> on Sunday November 06, 2011 @02:00PM (#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.

      • by artor3 ( 1344997 ) on Sunday November 06, 2011 @02:12PM (#37966622)

        One of my friends is working on a doctorate in high energy particle physics at LSU. Their labs are critically underfunded, and they've been laying off technicians. It's at the point where a lot of experiments are forced to use substandard materials because they lack the resources to do things right. But hey, they beat the Crimson Tide yesterday, so it's all worth it, right?

    • 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 outsi

    • by rolfwind ( 528248 ) on Sunday November 06, 2011 @02:17PM (#37966674)

      Let me put forth some propositions:

      a) Many science/math teachers suck. Maybe it's because nerds tends towards autism spectrum, but I had teachers who couldn't communicate worth a damn. Of the ones who could speak english (some were imports and didn't master the language yet), many took delight in speaking in jargon and not english. One guy I knew prided himself on failing 3/4 of the class. And yes, college is hard (at least science/math) and it should be, but there is little excuse to obfuscate things.

      Some teachers didn't suck, but they were the exception not the rule. They were a joy to have. When those didn't come up. Guess what? Learn from the book and just hope that's what the teacher tests you on.

      b) Lack of hands on experience. Some of the best programmers I worked with never took college. Some of the worst graduated college but were fresh out, but couldn't program anything more complex than hello world in less than a day. Okay, a bit exaggerated, but it was like they were all theory and never sat down to program for fun.

      c) I read 10 years ago that 30% of freshmen dropped out anyway. Assuming this is par for the course still, perhaps this 40% is not a big dea.

      d) Not so much a proposition, but college shouldn't be the end of the world or beginning. There shouldn't be a monopoly on education nor should all the jobs that want degrees really even need them. Germany has a much better apprenticeship system, where you actually get paid a small amount to learn on the job and taught by a master for several years. Not like here where you get taught a bunch of unrelated classes, some focus on what may (or may not) be in your future job -- and then justify the $10's of thousands expense by calling you "educated" (or some other chestpuffing adjective you can lord over other less inclined) and not one of those "lowly tradesmen". (I've seen that here a lot).

      I mean, get real, most Comp. Sci. grads won't become academics or push the edge, but most programmers get taught in college as if they were. Now, if they were to become Engineers (the real thing, with a rigorous test and certification and all that), it's a different story, but there really isn't much in this field like that.

    • by k8to ( 9046 )

      I went to a fairly seriously academic private high school. I had plenty of challenges, and had successes and failures in my high school years. I learned to try to keep focused, to spend 3+ hours a night studying wIth larger projects like research papers on top of that. I struggled with difference equations problems (second semester calc) in my junior year for a variety of reasons (information wasn't presented so well) and managed to find the resolve to get through it.

      Even with all that, I bounced right

    • by Lemmy Caution ( 8378 ) on Sunday November 06, 2011 @02:46PM (#37966952) Homepage

      There is the question of temperament. Suppose, suddenly, there was no need for math, science or technology workers - that AI has taken care of all those positions, and the only thing left for which people are competitive are those which are unique to people, like emotional work (the service sector), entertainment, counseling.

      Would you just be a few courses away to being competitive for those jobs? Or would the market have left you behind, forcing you to the lower ranks of the economy, at best?

      The problem is that our fates are dictated by the whims of the job market, and temperament and inclination don't respond accordingly. There is a reason why the old communist dream was "from each according to their ability" - because it ultimately becomes rather unfair to reward people only because their skills of the hour happen to be marketable.

      The result is what we see now: people crowding into fields for which they are ill-suited simply to get a job.

  • by Hentes ( 2461350 ) on Sunday November 06, 2011 @01:32PM (#37966160)

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

    • by sackvillian ( 1476885 ) on Sunday November 06, 2011 @02:10PM (#37966602)

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

      Which is not a bad strategy when you consider the alternative: absurdly high entrance requirements. That's the strategy that medical schools have adopted, at least up here in Canada, and it's pretty clear that trying to separate the top 1% from the top 10% for admissions doesn't make for more successful students. If anything, it selects for the hyper-competitive, the resume-builders, and/or the lucky.

      Better to let in as many as possible and let the actual material decide who really has the needed ability and passion.

      • I'm not sure if the alternative is really worse - absurdly high entrance requirements stops unprepared people from spending a year's worth of tuition to fail. Of course, you've got to work on what your high entrance requirements are going to be (I'd probably assert many standardized test suck as barometers, but fighting over the details is inevitable - I'd probably weigh teacher recommendations more heavily, and look for proof that these kids can work hard and get shit done, rather than just pad a resume w

      • by Hentes ( 2461350 )

        Better for the college, but worse for the students as they end up wasting years of their lives.

  • by NixieBunny ( 859050 ) on Sunday November 06, 2011 @01:32PM (#37966164) Homepage
    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: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by hedwards ( 940851 )

      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 my

      • 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: (Score:3, Informative)

          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.
      • Or the definition of "living wage" is being influenced by MTV.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by dgiaimo ( 794924 )

        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.

        • Opposite. (Score:4, Insightful)

          by mosb1000 ( 710161 ) <> on Sunday November 06, 2011 @03:13PM (#37967204)

          It is *your* job to learn. It is *not* the professor's job to hold your hand as though you were an infant.

          The student isn't paid to learn, the teacher is paid to teach. You have it backwards.

          • by ildon ( 413912 )

            He's paid to teach you what the class curriculum entails. He's not paid to teach you basic math concepts that you're assumed to already know beforehand. If you do not know them and still elect to take the class, then yes, it is YOUR responsibility to learn them on your own time. At my school at least, there are tons of resources to help you with this such as free tutoring, teacher's assistants, and all professors are required to have office hours in which you could visit them and ask them to help you withou

          • Re:Opposite. (Score:5, Insightful)

            by rabiddeity ( 941737 ) on Sunday November 06, 2011 @04:39PM (#37967906) Homepage

            The student isn't paid to learn, the teacher is paid to teach. You have it backwards.

            The professor is paid to present the information; the student pays for the opportunity to learn from an expert. As a student, it is your responsibility to study until you understand the material. University is about taking personal initiative in learning what the professors say is important. And while some of them are poor teachers, all professors were at one time undergraduates, and thus they tend to have a good idea about what you need to understand to be a master of a subject.

            If you expect a professor to stuff your head with information without any effort on your part, then you do not understand how the learning process works. If you pay for a gym membership and personal instructor and then never do the exercises regularly and properly, you have no justification to whine that you didn't get your money's worth when you're still out of shape. Suck it up, and take initiative.

    • 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 colle

  • 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.

  • by MagusSlurpy ( 592575 ) on Sunday November 06, 2011 @01:40PM (#37966222) Homepage

    ...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.

    • by bill_mcgonigle ( 4333 ) * on Sunday November 06, 2011 @02:00PM (#37966488) Homepage Journal

      ....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.

  • by vlm ( 69642 ) on Sunday November 06, 2011 @01:43PM (#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)

    • by bberens ( 965711 ) on Sunday November 06, 2011 @01:50PM (#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.
      • The family owns a Plumbing/HVAC company so I'll say you're kind of right. I have worked in it frequently before jumping into the IT world. The main reasoning was my father has always said he didn't want his kids getting into the industry. He's 3rd generation master plumber and I took his advice. Skilled trades are often overlooked at being just that, highly skilled. But the job can be physically demanding and if you're in a cold climate and furnaces go down it can be a time sensitive job. Hernias, back surg

    • by rve ( 4436 )

      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.

      You're being overly dramatic. Most (?) physics graduates probably don't end up working as physicists, but that doesn't mean they're unemployable, it just means they find a place to work other than a university or lab. Very likely a better paying one.

      The money and the social status must be a factor though. It's clear that not some college degrees (law, medicine?) offer a better career prospect with a higher social status and a higher pay than some others (computer science, math?) in this society. Probably be

  • Engish iz ezier, much.

  • 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 sh

  • 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 i
  • by erroneus ( 253617 ) on Sunday November 06, 2011 @01:44PM (#37966274) Homepage

    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.

  • 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.
  • 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
    • by simm_s ( 11519 )

      I see a lot of well educated engineers coming into the field that have terrible problem solving skills. I am sure they have great grades but they can't solve their way out of a card board box. I am not exactly sure this weak student elimination thing is working out very well.

  • 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
  • by vlm ( 69642 ) on Sunday November 06, 2011 @01:48PM (#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.

  • Cooling out. (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Animats ( 122034 ) on Sunday November 06, 2011 @01:49PM (#37966334) Homepage

    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.

    • we need more engineers if we turn the decline we're in around, to make solutions for needs of energy, pollution, medicine, quality food, new generation of integrated circuits once features go below 11 nm etc.
  • It's to be expected (Score:4, Informative)

    by lexsird ( 1208192 ) on Sunday November 06, 2011 @01:49PM (#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.

  • by holophrastic ( 221104 ) on Sunday November 06, 2011 @01:51PM (#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.

  • by RyanFenton ( 230700 ) on Sunday November 06, 2011 @01:51PM (#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

  • by RichMan ( 8097 ) on Sunday November 06, 2011 @01:57PM (#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
    "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,” "

  • by slasho81 ( 455509 ) on Sunday November 06, 2011 @02:02PM (#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."

  • by Kohath ( 38547 ) on Sunday November 06, 2011 @02:03PM (#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.

  • by Toonol ( 1057698 ) on Sunday November 06, 2011 @02:13PM (#37966644)
    Why? There are vast numbers of qualified, unemployed teachers in every state. When districts are actively laying off teachers and have been for many years, the only thing more teaching degrees would cause is more unemployed teachers. Besides, I don't think a teaching degree is much of an indication that a person is a particularly talented teacher.

    There may be a bit more of a need for engineers, but I suspect the real need is in more scientific and rational trained people in all fields.
    • Re:More Teachers? (Score:4, Insightful)

      by vlm ( 69642 ) on Sunday November 06, 2011 @03:17PM (#37967242)

      Why? There are vast numbers of qualified, unemployed teachers in every state. When districts are actively laying off teachers and have been for many years, the only thing more teaching degrees would cause is more unemployed teachers

      Its actually worse than that. My sister in law is roughly the youngest employee of her school district. The union contract enforces that, more or less, no one is employed between the ages of 22 and roughly 40. As they downsize (and age !!) the lower bound goes up due to seniority/experience/union membership rules. Dumping a big cohort of new 22 year old teachers doesn't mean the odds of all unemployed teachers overall drop from 20% to 10%, it means the lower bound of age increases until quite possibly, the 22 year old grad won't have an open teaching slot until approximately retirement age !!!

      Note that this depends on local area. If you're a teachers union member and willing to work in "must wear bullet proof vest" neighborhood, the have a shortage of teachers, but if you want a nice neighborhood, then its gonna be tough not to get bumped out of your slot unless you have gray hair. Which brings up a secondary effect, that all the STEM parents in the nice suburban STEM neighborhoods want their kids to grow up and become little STEM-lets, but union rules mean all the new young teachers will end up in the meth and crack neighborhoods, which are not exactly noted as hotbeds of STEM activity or blind faith in STEM positive outcomes.

      Which leads to a third level effect that if 20 years of teachers union membership is required to reach a STEM-positive environment, no one can transfer into the program... By the time I'd graduate with the required Ed degree, add 20 more years, and I'd be past retirement before I'd ever get to apply my "STEM" skills in a STEM-positive environment.

  • by Tablizer ( 95088 ) on Sunday November 06, 2011 @02:21PM (#37966712) Journal

    Our system seems to have the belief that we should FORCE more STEM students in order to juice the economy, even if it means a dead-end career for many.

    Maybe STEM is just not America's comparative advantage, at least economically. Brains are plentiful and cheaper in Asia and we can't easily change that. Academics is a cultural obsession with them. We can't do the same just by passing legislation.

    America's comparative advantage is marketing, for good or bad. We are experts at suckering consumers and corporate buyers purchasing outside their area of expertise. As Dick Cheney said, "America's business is business". (Not that I always agree with him, but he was right on that one.)

    • America's comparative advantage is marketing, for good or bad.

      Nonsense. Economies don't and can't grow on the back of marketing - not for any meaningful length of time. You have to have a valuable product to market or it isn't sustainable. You are just being cynical.

      As Dick Cheney said, "America's business is business

      That was said by President Calvin Coolidge []. If fact it is his most famous quote in all likelihood. Cheney may have repeated it but he is most definitely not the originator.

  • first year (Score:4, Informative)

    by Tom ( 822 ) on Sunday November 06, 2011 @02:25PM (#37966746) Homepage Journal

    '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.'

    Not if you do it right.

    I went to a private university in Germany, which - contrary to almost all other universities here - intentionally uses the first semester to weed out its students. Not by attrition, the way the article suggests, but by way of a test that you have to pass in order to continue.

    The vital differences were that
    a) everyone knew up front this was coming, the entire process is transparent
    b) actual knowledge was tested, not the ability to withstand the horrors of crowded lectures

    • by Rich0 ( 548339 )

      Would it not make sense to weed out students with some kind of test that doesn't involve a 6-9 months of time and $20k+ in expense?

      I agree that the root of the problem is that people try to study things they just aren't cut out for. However, there are better solutions to that than dragging them through months of classes at considerable expense.

  • by nadador ( 3747 ) on Sunday November 06, 2011 @02:28PM (#37966768)

    My first several semesters as an undergrad were brutal. The assignments were very abstract, the courses hard, and some of the computer science classes were clearly designed to fail half the students at mid-semester, or so it seemed to me.

    And I'm glad.

    Being an adult and having a career is often full of hard work, most thankless, and sometimes tedious. I'm glad that my professors in college didn't coddle me, or try to spare my feelings. Adjusting to work life was hard enough, but it would have been doubly difficult if I had been under the mistaken impression that the purpose of work was to entertain me.

    So, I'm all for adjusting coursework to make it more engaging and for capturing the imagination of young students and keeping them interested. But, when I put on my old man hat, I also want to make sure that students understand that there will also be a lot of hard work that will be terribly important and will be terribly boring.

  • Bizarre (Score:5, Interesting)

    by ahoffer0 ( 1372847 ) on Sunday November 06, 2011 @02:30PM (#37966788)

    Here is an alternative perspective.

    In the US, there seems to be a very strong connection between universities and vocational education. I never really grokked that. I grew up thinking that universities is where people who loved to learning gathered to learn, share ideas, and advance knowledge. Education was its own reward. If one wanted to learned something practical, like something for a job, one attended a vocational school, training course, or the employer took responsibility to train their employees. I think it used to be that way.

    Somewhere along the line that seems to have changed. A four year degree has become the minimum entry criteria for a desk job. Over the last twenty years, I've had nothing but desk jobs. I've been a software developer, a business analyst and a solution architect. None of these jobs required anything more than a two year vocational degree-- 90% a motivated high school grad could have learned to do the job.

    Why is there such emphasis on university degrees in the job market? I understood that employers liked to hire university grads for certain jobs because employes knew these people could learn things on their own, enjoyed learning, and in general wanted to do a good work. I later realized that a university education had class implications and employers often want employees from certain social classes. But there is nothing wrong with vocational school, training courses, or even learning on the job. Why try to pump a quarter of your population through the university system when the needs of many of the students (and their future employers,) would be as well or better served by other avenues of learning?

    It saddens me when I see people with master's degrees in computer science spending their days executing test cases for point-of-sale systems or Web shopping carts. It saddens me when I see chemistry majors running the same water quality tests five days a week. It saddens me when I see people with advanced degrees in economics spend their working years fiddling with Excel spreadsheets to balance project budgets.

    From my perspective the system we have created is a tragic waste human capital and other resources. The indebtedness it is creating threatens to turn the next generation into indentured servants with white collars. Meanwhile, the university system continues to water down its curricula and loose its vitality.

    How did it come to this?

    • Re:Bizarre (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Registered Coward v2 ( 447531 ) on Sunday November 06, 2011 @05:04PM (#37968088)

      Why is there such emphasis on university degrees in the job market? I understood that employers liked to hire university grads for certain jobs because employes knew these people could learn things on their own, enjoyed learning, and in general wanted to do a good work. I later realized that a university education had class implications and employers often want employees from certain social classes. But there is nothing wrong with vocational school, training courses, or even learning on the job. Why try to pump a quarter of your population through the university system when the needs of many of the students (and their future employers,) would be as well or better served by other avenues of learning?

      Signaling. A college degree tels an employer you are trainable and have the drive to slog it out through four years of college. It doesn't make you any smarter or more capable than someone else; but it does make the selection prices easier for an employer. Hence, a college degree becomes an entry requirement.

      That carries through to the graduate level as well - a top student at a non-top ten business school is every bit as bright and capable as a counter part at a top 10 school (and probably smarter than the bottom half at a top school); but lacks the "pedigree" and so faces a tougher job market. Smart companies realize they can hire the top grads at a lesser known school for less money.

  • I'm a gatekeeper. (Score:4, Interesting)

    by bcrowell ( 177657 ) on Sunday November 06, 2011 @02:46PM (#37966954) Homepage

    I teach physics at a community college in California, so I'm one of the gatekeepers who washes out STEM majors. It's my job to do that. Society can't afford to have anesthesiologists who can't convert grams to milligrams, or civil engineers who can't add force vectors. A lot of the people who don't succeed in my class are very nice, sincere people. It's just that their talent lies somewhere else than in math and science. The sooner they find that out, the sooner they can find a more appropriate major.

    In addition to the good but untalented students described above, there are many who don't succeed for other reasons. There's a book called Academically Adrift, by Arum and Roksa, which is summarized here: [] . One of their findings is that the average time studying has dropped dramatically in the last 50 years. The average number of hours per week was 25 in 1961, 20 in 1981, and 13 in 2003. This drop is still present when you control for the fact that different people go to college now than in 1961.

    Another finding, which has been replicated by others, is that students' critical thinking and writing skills show extremely small improvements over the course of a college education. The improvements are so small that they are undetectable on the individual level, and still quite small even when you average over a large number of students. Well, maybe we shouldn't expect critical thinking and writing skills to increase so much. Maybe they're innate talents, or maybe they're fixed at an earlier age. But if you get a degree in a field like English or philosophy, essentially the only thing the school *claims* you're getting out of it is critical thinking and writing skills. And greater improvement in these areas is found to be correlated with faculty's high expectations, high standards, and approachability; the fact that there is so little improvement on average suggests that the lack of improvement is caused by faculty's low expectations, low standards, and lack of approachability. For example, a third of college students report that by the time they graduate, they have *never* taken a course that assigned more than 40 pages of reading per week.

    The thing is, in STEM, you can't just BS your way through your term paper. There are right and wrong answers. We can't just lower standards the way the humanities have done.

    A lot of students are urged by their parents to go into STEM because they think the kids will make a lot of money. Once the kids are in college, they often realize that if their only goal is to make a lot of money, they are much better off getting an undergraduate degree in business. Unless you're in particular subfields such as finance, business is by far the easiest major.

    • by ThorGod ( 456163 )

      A lot of students are urged by their parents to go into STEM because they think the kids will make a lot of money. Once the kids are in college, they often realize that if their only goal is to make a lot of money, they are much better off getting an undergraduate degree in business. Unless you're in particular subfields such as finance, business is by far the easiest major.

      Yes, and even that perception is a little misguided. Engineers have an initially higher return on their education, but additional years of experience and education don't enjoy constant wage increases. So, if you want your kid to be middle class, an engineer's career isn't so bad a choice. But if you want your kid to be able to shoot for the financial moon, medicine, the legal profession, or some similarly 'high peak-income' field might be more desirable.

      As for STEM, I wish people would realize mathematical

I THINK MAN INVENTED THE CAR by instinct. -- Jack Handley, The New Mexican, 1988.