The Impact of High School Math and Science Coursework on Postsecondary STEM

Published: 
October, 2019

This study estimates the net effects of high school math and science coursework on a student’s college curricular outcome. The model estimates the likelihood of earning college STEM credits by taking into consideration mediating effects through pre-college academic performances from 3rd grade to high school. The key findings of this study are summarized as below:

  • In high school, completing a high level math course beyond algebra II or geometry and earning credits in physics/chemistry significantly impacts a student’s likelihood of earning college STEM credits.
    • Taking high-to-high math pathway increases the probability of earning college STEM credits by 11.9 percent, while taking standard-to-high and high-to-standard pathway increase the probability by 9.7 percent and 3.8 percent respectively.
    • A one standard deviation increase of the number of credits earned in physics/chemistry raises the probably of earning college STEM credits by 6.6 percent.
    • A one standard deviation increase in credits earned in biology increases the probability of earning college STEM credits by 1.9 percent.
  • Compared to science coursework, the impact of most high school math pathways on college STEM credit completion is highly mediated by pre-college academic performance, such as high school GPA, 8th-grade math score, and high school graduation status.
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