College has gotten expensive. Really expensive. Last week, aspiring students heard the fantastic news that Congress failed to extend discounted rates on subsidized student loans making loans either 1.) impossible to get without having to sell your leg and someone's kidney to pay for or 2.) just a bad idea.
Couple that with textbooks, a year's supply of Ramen and tuition, it makes understanding why the country's $1 trillion student debt sum isn’t that surprising of a number.
But this article isn’t meant to be about the ridiculous cost of higher education. No, there have been hundreds of stories, protests, angry Facebook posts and tweets on that. And as a big as a fan I am of every aspect of higher education, I’m going to make a very bold and probably controversial statement.
We’re getting the wrong kinds of degrees.
According to numbers by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, only 16 percent of degrees given out in the U.S in the year 2020 will in the areas of STEM (science, technology, engineering and math). This very sad and unfortunate number will not be able to fill the 1.2 million jobs that are expected to be created directly for STEM majors in the next decade.
So, where does that leave a majority of college graduates? Holding a four-year degree and struggling to find jobs in places that need them.
No, I’m not saying that everyone that graduates from an average four-year liberal arts university needs to become a master in the complexities of calculus. Nor does every graduate need to be able to synthesize compounds that will create the next breakthrough pharmaceutical. However, we do need to even out the numbers on how many of those people are even stepping foot into the waters of STEM fields. It’s estimated that out of 70 percent of students that graduate high school looking to enter a four-year university, only 36 percent of those students decide to enter a STEM related field.
So why? Well, frankly, I don't know. Maybe somewhere along the lines of that day in 5th grade when they learned about how volcanoes erupted all the way to dozing off in geometry, students lost interest in the fields of STEM.
It’s hard, it hurts and it’s boring. I get that.
But all that being said, you know what's not boring? Knowing that somewhere out there, locked in the mind of a curious child is the cure for stopping cells from uncontrolled replication, better known as cancer. Somewhere out there is someone who inside his or her brain will one day unlock the secrets of string theory in quantum physics.
I’m not saying the world doesn't need other aspects of education. We do. They add to the cultural and social value of the world. However, science and technology are undoubtedly the champions of important areas of study and employment in the upcoming future. A future that college graduates in America are not keeping up with.