ASEE Prism Online = April 2002
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The American Freshman

The Higher Education Research Institute at UCLA has been conducting an annual survey of college freshmen since 1966. Among its most recent findings: Student interest in engineering careers reached all-time highs in the early 1980s but has declined by about one third since then. Young women have expressed a greatly increased interest in pursuing advanced degrees, and grade inflation in high school continues to soar.

 

 

 

Career Choice

Percentage of college freshmen who expressed interest in engineering careers:

1966
8.9%
1972
5.3%
1978
9.1%
1984
10.4%
1990
8.1%
1996
7.0%
2001
7.3%

 

Which Shall It Be?

Percentage of college freshmen in 2001 saying they plan to major in these engineering specialities:

Aeronautical or astronautical engineering
1.0%
Chemical engineering
0.6%
Civil engineering
0.9%
Electrical or electronic engineering
2.0%
Industrial engineering
0.3%
Mechanical engineering
2.1%
Other engineering
2.2%

 

Lake Wobegon Syndrome

Percentage of college freshmen who report having "A" averages in high school:

1966
15.4%
1971
15.0%
1976
19.7%
1981
20.6%
1986
22.5%
1991
23.5%
1996
31.5%
2001
44.1%

 

Staying in School

Percentage of college freshmen who plan to earn advanced degrees:

 
Women
Men
 
1966
2001
1966
2001
Master's
32.3%
43.3%
31.2%
42.8%
Ph.D./Ed.D.
5.2%
17.4%
13.7%
17.2%
Medical/Dental
1.9%
10.5%
7.4%
6.7%
Law
.9*
4.5%
5.6%*
4.8%

*Data from 1970 (1966-1969 not available)

Prism-Basic data: "The American Freshman: Thirty Year Trends," "The American Freshman: National Norms for Fall 2001," Cooperative Institutional Research Program, American Council on Education, University of California, Los Angeles.