Academics and policymakers have been debating the question for years: Is the United States doing enough to attract young people to study science and technology in college? But what these experts have failed to question more thoroughly is whether students of these disciplines do well academically and whether they work in these disciplines upon graduation. A new report from the Department of Education's National Center for Education and Statistics aims to fill that research gap, Inside Higher Ed reports.

The report, titled Students Who Study Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) in Postsecondary Education, outlines the demographic profile of the 23 percent of students who choose to major in STEM fields as undergraduates. These students are disproportionately male, Asian or of foreign descent, and of traditional age.

The study compares these students with their peers in other fields of study and finds that the STEM majors measure up favorably. Students who entered college in 1995 and majored in a STEM field sometime between then and 2001 earned a degree of certificate at a rate of 54.9 percent, while students who did not choose a STEM major did so at only 50.6 percent. Within the range of STEM fields, physical scientists, natural scientists, and mathematicians had the highest rates of graduation and certificate completion-as high as 68.4 percent. Computer and information scientists had the lowest rates.

The report also uncovered an oddity: 20.6 percent of students who majored in a STEM field at some point during their undergraduate careers had left STEM entirely, and 26.7 percent had left postsecondary education.

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