This article is published in the November 2019 issue.

What Helps Undergraduate and Graduate Students Continue in Their Computing Degree Programs?

Bar graphs of undergraduate and graduate students’ responses to what reasons helped them continue in their computing degree programs

If a student is contemplating leaving their computing degree program, what factors might cause them to consider continuing in the program? We asked students if they ever seriously considered changing their major (undergraduate) or leaving their program (graduate) prior to completing their intended degree. Of the 10,372 undergraduate responses, 16% reported seriously considering changing their major. Of the 4,021 graduate responses, 20% reported seriously considering leaving their program early.

The reported sample is comprised of students that ultimately decided to continue in their program. What were some contributing factors to that decision? The above plot shows the reasons students selected to explain why they persisted in their intended computing degree program.

The data indicate that students’ primary selected reason to continue in their program is the amount of time and resources they have invested, for both undergraduate and graduate students. Undergraduates’ next reasons were the promising job market and liking the field of study, while graduates’ next reasons were liking the field of study and receiving family support.

Independent samples t-tests revealed that undergraduate and graduate students had significantly different selection rates for the following reasons: “I had already invested too much time and resources”, “My family encouraged / supported me”, “The job market is promising”, “My friends encouraged / supported me” , “Professors or faculty encouraged / supported me”, and “Other”. There was no significant difference between undergraduate and graduate students’ rates of selecting “I liked the field of study”. [Note: Although the full results of the independent samples t-tests are not reported for space considerations, they are available upon request.]

Taken together, these results indicate that undergraduate and graduate students may give different consideration to factors that help them continue in their intended computing degree program.

The survey data used in this infographic were collected during fall 2018 by CERP via the Data Buddies Project. The plotted sample includes 786 graduate students and 1,618 undergraduate students in a computing degree program who indicated they seriously considered leaving their program at least once. Students were then asked to select up to three reasons to explain what helped them continue in their program while they were considering leaving.

horizontal CERP logoThis analysis is brought to you by the CRA Center for Evaluating the Research Pipeline (CERP). CERP provides social science research and comparative evaluation for the computing community. Subscribe to the CERP newsletter here. Volunteer for Data Buddies by signing-up here.

This material is based upon work supported by the National Science Foundation under grant numbers CNS-1246649, DUE 1431112, and DUE 1821136. Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation or CRA.