Why are math and science majors worth big bucks post-college? In part, because they’re pretty darn hard — so hard that math and science majors have higher dropout rates than other courses of study.
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A working paper from the National Bureau of Economic Research surveyed 655 students at Berea College, a liberal arts college in Kentucky, asking them for their initial and ongoing beliefs about which major they would choose, how much work it would require, and what their GPAs would be.
“The researchers found that while math and science majors drew the most interest initially, not many students finished with degrees in those subjects,” writes Khadeeja Safdar in the Wall Street Journal. “More students dropped out of math and science majors and fewer students switched into them than any other area of study, including professional programs, social sciences, humanities and business.”
The higher dropout rate was usually due to grades rather than workload, the researchers found.
“Students knew science was hard to begin with, but for a lot of them it turned out to be much worse than what they expected,” said researcher Todd R. Stinebrickner. “What they didn’t expect is that even if they work hard, they still won’t do well.”
This research supports the findings of earlier studies, which found that 40 percent of STEM majors switch to other courses of study or drop out entirely.
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