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College completion slowing even as STEM studies grow

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While the demand for educated labor continues to increase in the U.S., new research from Economic Modeling Specialists Intl. suggests the supply of qualified candidates may not be keeping up with employer demand.

Looking at trends post-recession, nearly 500,000 more degrees were awarded in 2014 than in 2010, an 11% increase. However, nearly two-thirds of the new degree completions occurred from 2010-2011, as the Great Recession wound down. Growth in subsequent years was less than 1%. Here’s how the college completion rate played out over the most recent four years for which data are available:

  • 2010-2011: 6.9%
  • 2011-2012: 2.7%
  • 2012-2013: 0.3%
  • 2013-2014: 0.8%

Programs experiencing the greatest declines were heavily concentrated in humanities and social sciences.

On the other hand, degrees in STEM fields (science, technology, engineering and math) experienced the greatest growth.

STEM degree growth, 2010-2014

Percentage increase in degrees awarded

Science/technology   49%

Natural resources   45%

Math/statistics   35%

Computer science/IT   32%

Engineering   26%

Source: Economic Modeling Specialists Intl., September 2015

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