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Percentage of EECS Majors Falls By 46 Percent Over Five-Year Term

By Marissa Vogt

The percentage of freshmen declaring a major in Course VI (Electrical Engineering and Computer Science) has decreased and is now roughly half what it was five years ago, according to data from the Registrar’s Office. For other majors, the number of freshmen declaring each course remained relatively constant. The data include freshmen with sophomore standing.

Approximately 34 percent of freshmen declared a major in Course VI for the Classes of 2001 through 2004. That percentage dropped dramatically to 22.6 percent for the Class of 2006, and continued to fall to 20 percent for the Class of 2007. After a slight increase to 23 percent for the Class of 2008, it has fallen to 18.5 percent, the lowest in recent memory, for the Class of 2009.

EECS Administrator Anne M. Hunter said that Course VI would have preferred to enroll more students, but the “really good news” is that the percentage of women in the major has increased to 38 percent from the usual 24 percent. Hunter said that Course VI strives to “make it clear that we’re a welcoming department,” and mentioned the Women’s Technology Program and a preorientation program planned for the fall that are geared toward introducing students to EECS. The preorientation program is also intended to “form the basis of community” within the major, she said.

Course X-B (Chemical Biological Engineering) continued to have a high enrollment among freshmen. More than three times the number of students declared Course X-B in the Class of 2008 than in the Class of 2007. Course X Undergraduate Officer Barry S. Johnston said that the increase is “exciting” and that the high enrollment will continue in the future. “I personally suspect that the growth of biological science is such that it will make a lasting impression,” he said.

Julie B. Norman, associate dean for academic resources and programming, said that her office provides programming each year to help freshmen choose the right major for them. She said that most students have a sense of what they want to major in when they arrive at MIT and should not be easily influenced by outside factors because none of MIT’s degree programs is specific to only one industry. Changes in the economy may mean that students in majors like Course VI are “not going to the same employers as they did 10 years ago but they’re still employed.”

Norman also said that the number of students in each major is unlikely to change greatly, as less than 5 percent of each class switches majors, and those that do switch usually do so during their sophomore or early junior years. She also noted that the data do not include Course XX (Biological Engineering), which does not allow students to declare the major until their sophomore year.