Education Executive - Summer 2012 - (Page 20)
Finishing the Job
From the students’ perspectives, the real key is to finish their majors and have the skills to succeed professionally. This means their long-term earning power will be enhanced. It also means that colleges and universities are going to have a tougher time selling their programming to students if their graduation and job placement rates are low. And if they are sinking money into STEM facilities, equipment and faculty, they better be seeing high success rates. “If the students aren’t succeeding, they may end up transferring into a liberal arts major,” Briggs says. “It is tough for the institution to recover that money without bringing in more students. “It is difficult to say what colleges and universities can do to guarantee improved graduation and job placement rates,” he adds. “They can broaden the view for students and give them a long-term plan and more options, perhaps tying STEM programming into business or communications classes so they have a broader view of what’s available after graduation.” No matter what the emphasis that is placed on practical STEM studies, the more artsy majors won’t simply disappear. Liberal arts programs are an important part of education. The trick is to weave liberal arts subjects into components of STEM studies, which should help
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ensure that education is well rounded while also improving graduation and job placement rates. But there can also be no denying that practical majors are an important part of the 21st-century economy that today’s students will eventually enter. Colleges and universities know that more successful practical major graduates means more alumni funding that can go toward programs for future students. They also know they must fight to keep the student loan interest rate as low as possible so more students have access to college. Although more of the higher education experience is going online, colleges and universities will be required to constantly update learning technology and ensure adequate resources for field study in laboratory and hands-on settings. And while more corporations may provide grant money toward students’ higher education endeavors, there also needs to be more work/study opportunities so students gain realworld experience while earning their degrees. It is only through a comprehensive approach to longrange planning that higher education institutions can ensure they aren’t spending more than is required to provide practical majors, and that students can ensure that they aren’t spending more than they need to earn their degrees. ◆ —Eric Slack
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