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Enrollment In STEM Education Is Booming

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The numbers are in: enrollment at four-year institutions show an increase in students interested in pursuing a STEM education!

Since 2008, institutions are seeing more and more undergraduates gaining interest in fields like engineering and biology, as well as other STEM related fields. According to research by Jerry A. Jacobs, professor of sociology at the University of Pennsylvania, and Linda Sax, professor of education at the University of California at Los Angeles, these are signs of a boom in STEM fields in the years to come!

By using the “freshmen survey” conducted by UCLA on the pool of incoming freshmen students and surveys from across the country, Jacobs and Sax were able to determine trends in students’ interest levels about which areas of education they would like to study.

Their data, as Inside Higher Ed notes, suggest that from 1997 to 2005, interest in STEM fields declined, hitting a low in 2005 at 20.7% of students interested. But by 2008, the numbers began to turn around, hitting a peak in 2011 at 28.2%. That represents a 48 percent increase in just a few years!

The big winners in this boom were fields in Engineering (which saw in increase in interest by 57.1%) and fields in Biology (increasing by 28.2%). Physical Sciences and Math fields saw more modest gains of 11.1% and 12.6% respectively. The study also found that both male and female students were increasingly interested in STEM fields, which is great news for all the young women out there who are thinking about a career in a STEM field.

This increase in STEM education enrollment is not without its costs, it would seem. According to the study, there has been a decline in enrollment in professional and applied fields, like business and education. And while the news likes to make the comparison between STEM educations and Liberal Arts educations—making the assumption that a rise in one field means the decline in another field—Jacobs pointed out that a lot of STEM fields are in fact Liberal Arts disciplines.

As Inside Higher Ed reports, Jacobs says that those concerned about STEM education shouldn’t pursue that goal at the expense of the humanities. Those who want more STEM students should focus on attracting more female students, who may not feel encouraged in the area, rather than offering “criticism of the humanities.”

We here at Dream It Do It have been saying all along that STEM fields should be working to attract more and more students, especially young women. And it’s looking like the interest in STEM is definitely going up.

We hope that this trend continues in the coming years and that incoming freshmen will stick with their education choices all the way through graduation and into the future!

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