Why universities treat their STEM programs with lower enrollments unfairly

It’s a general trend across the nation that STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) departments generally have relatively lower enrollments compared to non-STEM programs. The reason is clear, STEM programs constitute the hard sciences and a lot of students are repelled by these programs, either due to low SAT scores or inability to handle science and mathematics. Administrators, educators, and policy makers should keep this in mind during their decision making process. If we continue to view our students as customers and treating STEM-related disciplines unfairly due to their lower enrollments, we would be missing two important facts:

(i) The fact that STEM programs form the backbone of the most prominent universities in the world. Think of Harvard, MIT, Caltech, Princeton, Cambridge, Oxford, just to name a few. These schools are continuously being ranked year after year among the top universities in the world, and for the most part, its thanks to their excellence in STEM-related disciplines.

(ii) The fact that STEM-related programs have one of the best students on campus, and the most brilliant faculty members. Students in programs like physics, mathematics and chemistry have the highest SAT scores across campus.

Every student and every department deserves to be treated fairly and respectfully irrespective of the size of the program. Chopping off faculty positions or under-staffing STEM programs due to their lower enrollments is not the best route to take as limited faculty implies higher workload per faculty, leaving the faculty with limited time for research, development, and innovation. Instead, STEM programs should be strengthened, with more faculty members, cutting-edge laboratories, and more scholarships to students pursuing these programs. Success in STEM programs will lead to overall success of the entire university. Furthermore by strengthening their STEM programs, universities would be capable of producing more graduates with excellent background in science and technology who are capable of being part of the skilled technical workforce.

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Physicist, Data Science Educator, Writer. Interests: Data Science, Machine Learning, AI, Python & R, Predictive Analytics, Materials Sciences, Biophysics

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