Higher education's average amount of delivered value has declined. The result? Waste, high costs, more debt, declining living standards. Only lower value (and easier) education has expanded.
Over the past 25 years the total number of students in college has increased by about 50 percent. But the number of students graduating with degrees in science, technology, engineering and math (the so-called STEM fields) has remained more or less constant. Moreover, many of today’s STEM graduates are foreign born and are taking their knowledge and skills back to their native countries.
So the number of students taking easier and lower value majors has soared while the number of native born taking the hard and most valuable majors has actually declined. Is it any wonder that living standards are declining? Plus, all these students in lower value majors are paying more to get a degree and entering the workforce (or trying to enter the workforce) deeply in debt.
This is not a recipe for prosperity and economic growth.
Consider computer technology. In 2009 the U.S. graduated 37,994 students with bachelor’s degrees in computer and information science. This is not bad, but we graduated more students with computer science degrees 25 years ago! The story is the same in other technology fields such as chemical engineering, math and statistics.
STEM (Science Technology, Engineering, and Math) majors have the greatest economic value.
The top 10 majors with the highest median earnings are: Petroleum Engineer ($120,000); Pharmacy/pharmaceutical Sciences and Administration ($105,000); Mathematics and Computer Sciences ($98,000); Aerospace Engineering ($87,000); Chemical Engineering ($86,000); Electrical Engineering ($85,000); Naval Architecture and Marine Engineering ($82,000); Mechanical Engineering, Metallurgical Engineering and Mining and Mineral Engineering (each with median earnings of $80,000).
Studying art or counseling is a recipe for very low pay and little or no generation of wealth.
The 10 majors with the lowest median earnings are: Counseling/Psychology ($29,000); Early Childhood Education ($36,000); Theology and Religious Vocations ($38,000); Human Services and Community Organizations ($38,000); Social Work ($39,000); Drama and Theater Arts, Studio Arts, Communication Disorders Sciences and Services, Visual and Performing Arts, and Health and Medical Preparatory Programs (each at $40,000).
Alex points to an article in The Nation where the writer bemoans the failure of the job market to create highly paid jobs for puppeteers. Leftism and common sense do not go hand-in-hand. What a bizarre and narcissistic sense of entitlement.
What astounds me is not that someone could amass $35,000 in student loans pursuing a dream of puppetry, everyone has their dreams and I do not fault Joe for his. What astounds me is that Richard Kim, the executive editor of The Nation and the author of this article, thinks that the failure of a puppeteer to find a job he loves is a good way to illustrate the “national nightmare” of the job market. Even in a wealthy society it’s a privilege to have the kind of job that Kim thinks are the entitlement of the middle class. And, as Tyler says, we are not as wealthy as we thought we were.
The Nation article is about Occupy Wall Street. One way to interpret it: the Executive Editor of The Nation thinks the US economy is failing (presumably due to evil bankers) because it does not generate high-paying jobs for people who choose to study solely for the pleasure they derive.
Studies have found that roughly 40 percent of students planning engineering and science majors end up switching to other subjects or failing to get any degree. That increases to as much as 60 percent when pre-medical students, who typically have the strongest SAT scores and high school science preparation, are included, according to new data from the University of California at Los Angeles. That is twice the combined attrition rate of all other majors.
The odds of getting more people to take hard STEM courses? Very low.
Other deterrents are the tough freshman classes, typically followed by two years of fairly abstract courses leading to a senior research or design project. “It’s dry and hard to get through, so if you can create an oasis in there, it would be a good thing,” says Dr. Goldberg, who retired last year as an engineering professor at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and is now an education consultant. He thinks the president’s chances of getting his 10,000 engineers is “essentially nil.”
What would raise the odds of more students doing STEM degrees: Cut out taxpayer subsidies for the lower value alternatives. No more loans or grants for students wanting to major in theater or art or communications studies.
|Share |||By Randall Parker at 2011 November 05 07:42 PM Education Returns On Investment|