Its not really clear that the number of engineering majors is correlated with funding for the program. It is not an 'impacted' major like it usually is at public schools, so it is not like they are stopping people from taking into classes.
From the words of my alumni interviewer: "76 students started out as Engineering majors. When I graduated, there were 17 of us with engineering degrees." (paraphrased of course)
But the point is, first of all engineering at Swat is HARD. Many students get into it without really knowing what to expect. Second, I would say it's the nature of the school itself as a LAC. Many people switch majors and find new things, because you are encouraged to expand your horizons at a school like that.
Because the engineering program at Swarthmore is a department, rather than a school, students do not enter having definitely declared engineering. I suspect that many of those saying they're starting in engineering, are stating an interest in the field--probably along with interests in other subjects. The students don't actually commit to engineering until sophomore year when they declare their major. When I was there I went in saying I was interested in chemistry and engineering. In true liberal arts style, I ended up a religion major. I don't see myself as "washing out" of engineering at all.
Thanks for the info. 17 graduates is definitely sub-scale. I understand engineering is hard but most schools don't have a >75% wash-out rate in engineering. Is this one of the smallest majors at the school? Of the 75% that switch out of engineering, how many go into comp sci/physics versus something like religion/russian history/etc.?
If you're that worried about "washing out" of engineering at Swarthmore and ending up in a humanities field, then you probably shouldn't go to Swarthmore. It offers a liberal arts engineering degree, not an engineering degree first. For example: one of my favorite Swarthmoreans, who recently graduated, was a double major in engineering and religion.
Swarthmore admits many prospective engineers for a reason: it expects that most will change their minds. It's hard to switch into engineering after the fact, although a few have done it, so of course there will be attrition.
There are a few humanities disciplines I can think of that have many fewer majors/minors than engineering, on the order of 0-2 majors per year.
There were 22 engineering degrees awarded in 2012. That's more in line with the historical averages.
When you are dealing with such small numbers (only 370 graduates), it's never wise to look at statistics for a single year. Very easy to get fooled by statistical noise, like last year's 14 engineering grads.
Engineering is the most common major mentioned on applications to Swarthmore. It's never going to be the most popular major by the time senior year rolls around because a) it's hard as hell and b) it limits how many non-engineering/non-science/non-math courses you can take. That's true of engineering degrees at any college or university.
Thanks for the info. 17 graduates is definitely sub-scale. I understand engineering is hard but most schools don't have a >75% wash-out rate in engineering.
You are confusing two numbers. It's not a 75% wash out rate of students who actually declare engineering as their major after sophmore year. It's only 75% relative to what high school seniors list on their application -- one of the most meaningless things imaginable. Basically nobody majors in what they think they might major in as a high school senior. Heck, they haven't even taken a college course. How could they possibly know what they might major in?
For one thing, college math is absolutely nothing like high school math. A very high percentage of excellent high school math students get to Swarthmore and find out that they really aren't suited to college-level math. As my daughter put it, "I think I like numbers in my math...." Of course finding out that Swathmore-caliber math isn't your cup of tea kinda puts the kabosh on the idea of an Engineering degree. That's OK. That's why Swarthmore doen't make you decide on a major until the end of sophmore year.
You'll find that even calculus is taught differently and at a more fundamental level than you were probably exposed to in AB/BC calc. As commentary, diff eq's is the most straightforward/applicable/enjoyable 'high-level' math. You can solve basic diff eq's (e.g. newton's law stuff) with techniques that you picked up in Calc I. It's not really a proofy class, if you will.
When people usually distinguish between high school math and college math, they're really drawing the line between computational classes (e.g. calculus) and proof-based classes (e.g. real analysis). There's a huge distinction there, no doubt, and a lot of grad programs (to the extent that I'm familiar with them, meaning econ) will look at your grade in real analysis in particular as indicative of your ability to handle high-level math because it tends to be difficult everywhere. But I'd go a step further and argue that there's a more rigorous and fundamental approach applied to maths at Swat - even at elementary levels, like calc - than what you've experienced before.
Swarthmore's engineering degree is a BS, not a BSE. All other degrees, including other science majors, are BA's.
And although I haven't taken it personally, I agree about the rigor of Swat's basic calc sequence. Especially if you place out with Calc AB but not BC--MATH 26 is almost universally disliked by non-mathy science majors because of its theoretical emphasis (and corresponding non-emphasis on application).