STEM Beats - higher education

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

STEMtistic on Display: Algebra II Doubles the Odds

May 19, 2016

If you're interested in increasing college readiness for all students, one way is to guarantee access to Algebra II courses during highschool. According to the National Math & Science Initiative, taking Algebra II in highschool makes students 50 percent more likely to finish college and earn four-year degrees.

Source: National Math & Science Initiative, STEM Education & Workforce, January 2014.

Tags: math, STEMtistics, K-12, higher education

Linda Rosen: Not Ready for College

April 27, 2016

I am delighted to rediscover my inner policy wonk as a first-year member of the National Assessment Governing Board (NAGB). But the fun of digging into data does little to mitigate my dismay over today’s release of the 2015 Mathematics Results at Grade 12 from The Nation’s Report Card. Only a quarter of the representative nationwide sample of 12th graders who took the assessment last year scored at or above the Proficient level of skill. Only a quarter of our high school graduates demonstrated what is defined as “solid academic performance”? Yikes--that is very worrisome. Equally troubling is the realization that 12th-grade math scores have remained essentially unchanged for over a decade, while reading scores have decreased by five points since 1992, the earliest year with comparable 12th grade data.

Achievement gaps appear in these newest NAEP results just as they have for other grade levels and subjects. Forty-seven percent of Asian students and 32 percent of white students scored proficient or above, compared with only 7 percent of black students and 12 percent of Hispanic students. Students from families with lower incomes persistently perform lower than those from families with higher income.

A quick look at results from the survey questions that accompany the 12th grade test reveals that a whopping 78 percent of 12th graders have never taken computer programming in high school. One bright spot given efforts to increase diversity in the tech workforce is that black students seem most likely among their peers to have taken computer programming, although this holds for only 29 percent of black 12th graders. 

But there’s more troubling news. In 2013, NAGB began using NAEP to estimate the percentage of grade 12 students who possess the knowledge and skills to be prepared for first-year college coursework. In 2013, an estimated 39 percent were ready to succeed in credit-bearing coursework. In 2015, an estimated 37 percent were prepared for first-year college mathematics courses. It doesn’t say much for our education system when just over a third of our high school graduates are ready for post-secondary education, whether it is a certificate, a two-year institution or a 4-year college.

Change the Equation was launched in 2010 with the goal of helping ensure that all young people graduate from high school STEM literate. They don’t all have to become engineers or computer scientists or chemists, but they need STEM knowledge to pursue whatever career is most enticing. We know that nearly every career paying a living wage requires some post-secondary education. Seeing that the majority of our high school graduates are not prepared is more bad news. The business community often thinks about its progress in terms of quarterly reports. Does the education community think about progress in terms of quarter centuries? Yes, we have to take the long view when we try to improve something as complex as America’s education system, but at some point the nation’s patience will understandably run out. 

Tags: computer science, math, standards, higher education

Return on Investment from Your College Degree

March 30, 2016

There’s been a lot of discussion in the presidential campaign about the high cost of college education.  It goes without saying that pursuing a master’s or a PhD adds even more to the cost.  After spending all that time and money, how much are you likely to earn?  How can a prospective college student make an informed choice of major recently published their College Salary Report 2015-2016  They ranked college and graduate school majors from best to worst in terms of pay potential, using median early-career and mid-career annual earnings.  This is the eighth year they have published such a study.

The results are unequivocal:  STEM majors lead to the most remunerative careers.  Payscale surveyed recipients of the three hundred nineteen undergraduate degrees, and those that led to the top twenty-five earning potentials were in STEM subjects.  The top twenty five graduate degrees also were in STEM disciplines.  These majors run the full gamut of STEM subjects, including various types of engineering, physics, computing, mathematics, health care, and natural sciences.

A quick glance through Payscale’s past reports confirms that each year STEM disciplines dominated the top twenty-five list of “majors that pay you back.”

Why do we at CTEq care about this news?  It illustrates that a lot of rewarding, well-paying jobs are out there in the STEM fields; in fact, we know that corporate America is struggling to find enough talent for business to continue to grow and thrive.  Though demand is high, supply is insufficient.

Are we doing enough to encourage young people to pursue these careers?  Too many children in the U.S. have limited access to high-quality STEM education.  Furthermore, those same underserved children often do not know any adults in STEM careers who can serve as role models for them.   

Change the Equation, with its corporate coalition members, is working to improve STEM education in grades K-12, extending access and inspiration to more and more students.  Additionally, we offer guidance and support to help our members embrace skills-based volunteering programs for their employees, allowing students the chance to connect with professionals in STEM careers.  Together, our efforts can give all young people the chance to pursue rewarding careers that are tickets to prosperity.

Tags: higher education

STEMtistic on Display: Tough Classes Pay Off

July 22, 2015

Being a successful in your STEM major requires a strong K-12 foundation in science and math. We’re seeing a disappointing number of unprepared college freshmen who get discouraged and end up switching out of STEM majors. Giving kids a good start in STEM is the answer –  let’s make it happen. 

Don’t forget to check out our all of our STEMtistics to find more facts on STEM!

Source: Achieve, Rising to the Challenge, 2014.

Tags: math, higher education, STEMtistics