The post-Baccalaureate Experiences, Success, and Transition (BEST) project has released a research brief providing updated four- and five-year degree completion numbers for students who entered college in the fall of 2004. The brief, Degrees of Success, focuses on the completion rates of students who entered college with an initial aspiration to major in a science, technology, engineering, or mathematics (STEM) field.

Trends from HERI’s Freshman Survey show that students entering college over the last three to five years have indicated a much stronger interest in pursuing STEM-related majors compared to their peers who entered college in the late 1980s and early 1990s. Additionally, these trends demonstrate that underrepresented racial minority (URM) students have reached parity with their White and Asian American counterparts in their initial interest as freshmen in majoring in a STEM discipline.

The new research brief suggests, however, that URM students who aspire toward a STEM major as entering freshmen have substantially lower likelihoods of completing a degree in STEM within five years compared to their White and Asian American peers. Among White and Asian American students who aspired toward a STEM degree as entering freshmen, 33% of White students and 42% of Asian American students completed a degree in a STEM field within five years of entering college. Comparatively, 22.1% of Latino students and 18.4% of Black students who intended to major in a STEM discipline as freshmen completed a bachelor’s degree in STEM within five years of entering college.

This brief represents the first comprehensive analysis of STEM degree completion rates since 2001 and provides comparison completion rates for students who intended to enter non-STEM majors. Researchers in HERI will collect six-year degree completion data on this cohort of students in the summer of 2010. The BEST project has followed the entering freshman cohort of 2004 with three HERI surveys: The Freshman Survey, Your First College Year (YFCY), and the College Senior Survey (CSS). The team will continue to follow this cohort of students as they enter graduate school and/or the workforce.

To download a copy of the brief, please go to: Degrees of Success Brief