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Should I Stay or Should I Go? Students' Reasons for Leaving STEM

Mon, April 12, 11:10am to 12:40pm EDT (11:10am to 12:40pm EDT), Division J, Division J - Section 2b Paper and Symposium Sessions


Reducing attrition from STEM disciplines is an important issue for U.S. higher education. Only about 40 percent of the students that enter a STEM undergraduate program end up earning a STEM degree. Additionally, those who leave STEM majors are disproportionately underrepresented students, which contributes to the lack of diversity in industry and research fields. The goal of this paper is to better understand what aspects of STEM students’ college experiences shape their reasons for staying in or leaving their majors. By using focus group interviews, this study aims to unveil particular critical moments these students encounter that have a significant impact on these decisions. The paper stresses the importance of creating nurturing learning environments that enhance students’ sense of belonging.