STEM Beats - November 2017

Is College a Waste of Money?

November 16, 2017

"College for all" is so last decade. The school reform pendulum has been swinging away from the goal of universal college attendance since at least 2010, as career and technical education (CTE) gained new respect after years in the wilderness. A new report from Georgetown's Center on Education and the Workforce lends support to the CTE cause--but not without important cautions.

The resurrection of CTE was, in fact, long overdue. Researchers have shown that a two-year degree or strong technical certification can be a ticket to a good job, and employers like Dow Chemical have struggled to fill high-paying jobs that do not require a bachelor's degree. The most compelling evidence for CTE? Hundreds of thousands of young people who labor under crushing college debt without a degree to show for it.

The Georgetown study turned up some 30 million good jobs that do not requre a bachelor's degree:

30 million good jobs

In fact, Change the Equation research has found that STEM grads with a two-year degree or less have often fared better than non-STEM grads with a bachelor's degree:

Yet the Georgetown report also challenges the growing refrain that four-year colleges are simply a "waste of money." Yes, there are millions of good jobs that require less than a bachelor's degree, but those jobs make up a shrinking percentage of all good jobs:

Share of good jobs going to workers, by education level

The bachelor's degree is gaining ground in the workforce. College is certainly too expensive, and college majors aren't all created equal, but it seems premature to predict the demise of college.

One important concluding thought: Many pathways to good jobs do not run through four-year colleges, but all such pathways require very strong academic skills. A report from the Center on Public Education found that high school grads could earn as much as college grads, provided they do well in school, take advanced math and science classes, take CTE courses, and get a professional certification. 

College or no, you won't succeed without a strong academic foundation. The millions of U.S. high school graduates who lack this foundation have few pathways to prosperity.

Tags: higher education

The Other Gender Gap in STEM

November 2, 2017

Like most other STEM advocates, we have devoted a great deal attention to the critical shortage of women and girls in many STEM fields. A short article in Forbes magazine offers a timely reminder of another STEM gender gap that could have profound effects on our economy: the shortage of men.

Recent projections from the Bureau of Labor statistics underscore the stakes. Between 2016 and 2026, there will be almost 540,000 new jobs for registered nurses (median wage: $68,450), nurse practitioners (median wage: $104,610) and physician assistants (median wage: $102,090). Each of these occupations requires very substantial STEM knowledge and skill, and each is growing much faster than average. According to Economic Modeling Specialists International, more than 90 percent of registered nurses and nurse practitioners are female, as are 65 percent of physician's assistants. It will be much easier to fill these jobs over the next decade if we attract more men to the profession.

So far, so bad. The gender gaps are already enormous in high school:

In fact, the gaps are getting worse, not better:

In STEM CTE, the gender gap is growing

These jobs in health care pay very well, they're growing, and they're critical to our national well being as Americans age. We can't keep drawing the lion's share of our health care workforce from just half the American population.

Tags: women & girls, diversity, jobs & workforce