Colleges Move Toward STEM Majors

American College Students Are Swapping Shakespeare for STEM

The share of bachelor’s degree holders in the U.S. age 25 and over who majored in computers, math or statistics rose to 47% last year from 4.2% in 2009 -- an increase of nearly 1 million students over the period.

Follow the money. At least that’s what America’s college students are doing when it comes to choosing majors.

The share of bachelor’s degree holders in the U.S. age 25 and over who majored in computers, math or statistics rose to 47% last year from 4.2% in 2009 -- an increase of nearly 1 million students over the period, and 224,000 alone in 2017, according to Census Bureau data released on Sept. 13.

The proportion who concentrated in literature and languages meanwhile dropped from 4.6% to 4.2%, while the number who studied liberal arts and history was down 0.7 percentage point as a share of the total.

The changes may help the U.S. labor market amid a shortage of science, technology, engineering and math talent. The government projects faster-than-average employment growth in such so-called STEM fields.

The shifts may also reflect a growing awareness among students in the years following the 2007-09 recession about the value of a college degree and its relevance in the workforce.

The average published price of tuition and fees alone at public and private nonprofit four-year colleges rose to $9,970 and $34,740, respectively, in the 2017-18 academic year, figures from the College Board show.

Majoring in math and technology-related subjects leads to the biggest salaries, while the value of arts and humanities degrees is less clear, according to a report from Bankrate.com released on Sept. 10.

Among other findings, the Census data show that business remains the most popular field of study, consistently attracting a fifth of undergrads. The share of students who pursued education meanwhile took a sharp fall over the period, dropping from 13.7% to 12.2% of the total.

By Jordan Yadoo

 

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