New NSF Initiative: Graduating 10,000 New Engineers and Computer Scientists

September 19, 2012 at 9:35 am 2 comments

Interesting new initiative between the White House and NSF to increase the number of graduates in computing and engineering by focusing on retention. (I strongly agree, because retention is where we’ve been focusing our attention.)

This letter announces a cooperative activity between NSF and members of the Jobs Councils High Tech Education working group, led by Intel and GE, to stimulate comprehensive action at universities and colleges to help increase the annual number of new B.S. graduates in engineering and computer science by 10,000. Proposals for support of projects would be submitted under a special funding focus Graduate 10K+ within the NSF Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics Talent Expansion Program STEP, see

Studies have shown that retention during the critical first two years in a students major, or along the path towards declaration of a major, is an excellent predictor of eventual graduation with a STEM degree. Recognizing that the correlation between retention and graduation is particularly strong for students in engineering and computer science, we invite proposals from institutions that can demonstrate their commitment to:(i) significant improvement in first and second year retention rates in these particular majors, beyond current levels; and (ii) sustained, institutionally-embraced practices e.g. that lead, ultimately, to increased graduation. Jobs Council members anticipate providing support for this special funding focus, with the number of awards to be made contingent on the availability of funds.

via US NSF – Dear Colleague Letter – Graduating 10,000 New Engineers and Computer Scientists – A Partnership between the Presidents Jobs Council and NSF Graduate 10K+ NSF12108.

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2 Comments Add your own

  • 1. gasstationwithoutpumps  |  September 20, 2012 at 1:39 am

    I wonder if they have confused correlation and causality again. If you’ve got a bunch of students who’re in the right majors and likely to graduate, you’ll retain them to their second year. So naturally high retention and high graduation rates are correlated. But it doesn’t follow that methods developed to improve retention are necessarily going to improve graduation, if you retain students who aren’t going to pass the 3rd and 4th year courses. (Think of the fiasco that social promotion made of elementary and secondary schools in some areas.)

    • 2. Mark Guzdial  |  September 20, 2012 at 11:41 am

      I’ve been spending a lot of time with Mike Hewner’s dissertation lately, and I realize that his theory suggests (and note: this is grounded theory with 37 interviews, so it’s just a theory with strong support, not a broad survey) that retention in the first two years is causal for graduation. The algorithm/strategy by which students pick a major (or a specialization within a major) is to first try a course and decide “Did I enjoy that?” Success is actually less important than enjoyment — he talked to majors who picked CS based on enjoying a course that they got low grades in. Once students pick a major or specialization, they are willing to stick through rough classes (unenjoyable or poor performance classes), but they have to enjoy it at first. Mike totally agreed with me that this isn’t rational. It’s just what students told him that they did.


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