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Should student financial aid be tied to "workforce needs"

 
 
Reply Mon 18 Mar, 2013 11:53 am
There is a bill in our Senate that would tie student aid to workforce needs, setting aside 50% of opportunity grants for students studying science, technology, engineering or mathematics.

I'm not sure what I think about this so I'd like to explore the idea a bit by hearing what you think about it.

I admit I'm kind of bothered by the fact that college has come to seem more like career training that what I always thought college should be and ideas like this seem to advance that notion.

What do you think?
 
DrewDad
 
  3  
Reply Mon 18 Mar, 2013 12:05 pm
@boomerang,
While I admire the idea of pure learning for pure learning's sake, I also understand investing in the future.

I absolutely think that ROI should be included in deciding where to invest government resources, although I also understand that's it's hard to put a dollar value on intangibles.
engineer
 
  4  
Reply Mon 18 Mar, 2013 12:07 pm
@boomerang,
It seems there is a move on to make colleges more like vocational schools. That was one of the first statements our new governor made (for which he got a lot of blowback.) Part of it seems to stem from the growing costs of state supported college education (we need to get more for our money!) and part seems to be a backlash against "liberal schools pushing a political agenda instead of educating our children!" To me learning how to think and how to question assumptions is one of the main purposes of college so turning them into votech schools defeats the purpose.
DrewDad
 
  1  
Reply Mon 18 Mar, 2013 12:27 pm
@engineer,
Science, engineering, and math are all worth-while pursuits, though.

I'd rather spend the money on that than on MBA programs....
engineer
 
  4  
Reply Mon 18 Mar, 2013 12:53 pm
@DrewDad,
While I personally like math and science, there are a lot of people for whom those fields are unsuited. My son is a math and science whiz and has absolutely no passion for it. He could pursue a career in that direction, make decent money and be miserable or he could pursue his passion (classical music) and end up as a music teacher somewhere. I'm glad he has the opportunity to do the latter since despite by best efforts, he has absolutely no interest in the former. The reality is that 50% of our high school graduates are not going to be engineers or scientists. We could try to force that and let the colleges flunk them or have employers sort those with a love for the work from those who couldn't care less but that seems really inefficient. We need those music, education, business, language, law, etc majors to have a well rounded society (and I bet if you look at small business owners, most do not have technical degrees). My experience is that engineers spend a lot of time learning material and not a lot of time learning to challenge the world around them. They were not the students protesting against social injustice or fighting US involvement in foreign wars. My belief is we need it all and all of it is worth funding.
boomerang
 
  1  
Reply Mon 18 Mar, 2013 12:57 pm
@DrewDad,
It just seems the more I read the more being able to cross reference different disciplines seems important -- like the neurologist who runs the athlete brain bank who credits her finding patterns and relationships to injuries and cognitive problems to her undergraduate degree in fine arts.

Or the book I'm reading now - "How Children Succeed" - which is mostly about the economist James Heckman but delves into all the others who helped make his ideas come clear. The numbers he had didn't mean much without a better understanding of the society that produced them.
boomerang
 
  1  
Reply Mon 18 Mar, 2013 01:01 pm
@engineer,
I agree! I think it's a real problem.

I get the point that "we need to get our money's worth" but it just seems we're digging ourselves a hole that we'll end up regretting. In my opinion, it's very short sighted.
0 Replies
 
boomerang
 
  1  
Reply Mon 18 Mar, 2013 01:03 pm
@engineer,
Well said!
0 Replies
 
DrewDad
 
  1  
Reply Mon 18 Mar, 2013 02:07 pm
@engineer,
engineer wrote:

While I personally like math and science, there are a lot of people for whom those fields are unsuited. My son is a math and science whiz and has absolutely no passion for it. He could pursue a career in that direction, make decent money and be miserable or he could pursue his passion (classical music) and end up as a music teacher somewhere. I'm glad he has the opportunity to do the latter since despite by best efforts, he has absolutely no interest in the former. The reality is that 50% of our high school graduates are not going to be engineers or scientists. We could try to force that and let the colleges flunk them or have employers sort those with a love for the work from those who couldn't care less but that seems really inefficient. We need those music, education, business, language, law, etc majors to have a well rounded society (and I bet if you look at small business owners, most do not have technical degrees). My experience is that engineers spend a lot of time learning material and not a lot of time learning to challenge the world around them. They were not the students protesting against social injustice or fighting US involvement in foreign wars. My belief is we need it all and all of it is worth funding.


I don't disagree with any of that.

The trouble is that while we need it all, and all of it is worth funding, we still have to make choices about what we fund.
0 Replies
 
DrewDad
 
  1  
Reply Mon 18 Mar, 2013 02:11 pm
@boomerang,
Believe me, I understand the need for allowing engineers to include artistic stuff in their educations. One of the reasons I dropped out of the engineering school was because they insisted that I only take courses required for the degree.

I think all of this is kind of beside the point, anyway. Online education is going to overtake traditional college campuses. People will be able to choose any course they want.
jespah
 
  4  
Reply Mon 18 Mar, 2013 02:18 pm
@DrewDad,
This is a problem that my father has noticed in the current engineering curriculum. When he was in school (he got his degree some time in the 50s), engineers had the opportunity to take a lot of other courses - he took Latin, Chemistry, just stuff that he thought was interesting.

Now it's gotten to be that, like you pointed out, you really only are able to take what's necessary for a degree. Hence someone coming in from another discipline (say, Political Science) is already behind if they think they might want to change their major to something in the engineering field. If it's too much of a hurdle, fewer and fewer people will want to try to go over it - and this hypothetical Poli Sci major is likely to not bother with engineering at all.

It's not just vo-tec; it seems as if this is almost an attempt to parallel the for-profit model. And that's really shortsighted. Problem is, there's no easy way to quantify things like learning how to become curious just for the sake of wanting to know how to solve problems, or learning critical reasoning. Art History and Philosophy majors aren't too easy to get an ROI on, either.
DrewDad
 
  2  
Reply Mon 18 Mar, 2013 02:20 pm
@jespah,
If I'm paying tuition, I ought to be able to decide what to take....
jespah
 
  1  
Reply Mon 18 Mar, 2013 02:38 pm
@DrewDad,
Agreed. Do you think it would make more sense for engineers to have a five-year stint as a matter of course?
DrewDad
 
  1  
Reply Mon 18 Mar, 2013 02:42 pm
@jespah,
No, I don't believe so.
0 Replies
 
engineer
 
  2  
Reply Mon 18 Mar, 2013 02:55 pm
@jespah,
jespah wrote:

This is a problem that my father has noticed in the current engineering curriculum...

Now it's gotten to be that, like you pointed out, you really only are able to take what's necessary for a degree.

I can second that. I took four elective courses in my four years in college due to ROTC sucking up my spare slots. (I think they were spanish I&II, a 300 level English course in science fiction, and psychology.) Add to that a job and I didn't end up very well rounded. I still wouldn't advocate a five year program. I knew a lot of poor engineering students. A lot of people just can't afford that extra year.
0 Replies
 
boomerang
 
  2  
Reply Mon 18 Mar, 2013 03:02 pm
@DrewDad,
When I was in school there were a LOT of students with undeclared majors who just took what they wanted. Most of them just kind of fell into degrees after accumulating enough credits and padding it out with required courses.

It almost seems as if college is a credential factory now.

Most of the kids I knew in college were completely clueless about what they wanted to do for a career and they spent a lot of time discovering what they were interested in. Is that not happening anymore?
JPB
 
  2  
Reply Mon 18 Mar, 2013 03:18 pm
@boomerang,
It's still happening in small liberal arts schools. College has gotten so expensive that most families insist that their children try to finish in four years. Many curriculums are pretty rigid when it comes to electives and getting into required classes can be difficult with some of the more popular programs.
0 Replies
 
roger
 
  2  
Reply Mon 18 Mar, 2013 03:21 pm
@DrewDad,
DrewDad wrote:

If I'm paying tuition, I ought to be able to decide what to take....


Absolutely, but if the subject is financial aid, that might be somewhat restricted. If financial aid includes student loans, can the loan be repaid by someone with an advanced degree in Gender Studies?
Ice Demon
 
  2  
Reply Mon 18 Mar, 2013 03:22 pm
@boomerang,
Of course it is happening. I've some friends who have changed major a couple of times, and once myself.
What you brought up regarding the redesign of the financial aid maybe a good idea, and will probably be paving a path to getting a better return investment. It's a kind of a known fact that unemployment numbers inherently favor degree holders. A person in a skilled trade is less likely to be counted as unemployed than a new college grad, for example. Unemployment among new college grads is terrible.
It may just come down to funding higher education and aligning productivity with the needs of the labor market.
Me myself, I hate distribution requirement in liberal studies in my degree. But it's not so bad as to start complaining about. Will this "liberal distribution requirement" help me when I join the labor force? I don't know, it might be one of those hit or miss things.
0 Replies
 
Ice Demon
 
  1  
Reply Mon 18 Mar, 2013 03:25 pm
@jespah,
Yay, one more year of torture/ goofing off! </sarcasm>
0 Replies
 
 

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