A growing trend is appearing at college campuses like the University of Oregon. A recent study on college students found that fewer people are choosing health and science majors.
The study, entitled “The Economic Benefits of Postsecondary Degrees (PDF),” was conducted by the State Higher Education Executive Officers Association and found that the number of students going in to health and science majors is declining, even though these majors offer higher wages compared to humanities majors, who will earn about 40 percent less.
According to the study, as detailed in a Dec. 28 article by The Oregonian, the best-paying careers are in science, technology, engineering and math (also known as S.T.E.M.). The national average in 2010 saw a 9 percent increase, but Oregon saw only 4 percent, which would be an average pay of about $57,000.
“At the UO we do a much better job at preparing students in the sciences than this report suggests,” said Ian F. McNeely, Associate Dean for Undergraduate Education in the College of Arts and Sciences. “People often think of Oregon State as the ‘science’ school, but at UO, science is booming among our undergraduates and we are filling the pipeline for jobs in S.T.E.M. fields.”
McNeely also noted that bachelor’s degrees in S.T.E.M. fields increased by nearly 24 percent from the 2007-2008 academic year to the 2011-2012 year.
“Enrollments in the sciences are growing faster than in any other division of the University,” McNeely said. “Many of those who start off as science majors switch to other fields by the time they graduate, but we still are projecting that nearly a quarter (23 percent) of UO undergraduate degrees will be in S.T.E.M. fields in 2012-2013.”
The root of the problem could very well be the lack of science and math teaching tracing all the way back to elementary school, which now sees a problem in hiring teachers to fill those positions. The Oregonian writes that students are sometimes turned away from studying things like engineering and radiology because community colleges and universities can’t afford enough professors, laboratories or equipment to teach everyone who wants to go in to those fields.
“We do have a problem getting enough highly qualified science and math teachers in the K-12 system, and the UO has in fact begun a number of ‘outreach’ efforts so that our faculty can collaborate with local school systems to improve student interest in science,” McNeely said. “But once students get to UO, we definitely don’t steer them out of science majors. While we do face challenges in paying for science professors, labs, and equipment, just like any other university, these challenges are by no means so severe that we have to turn students away.”