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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


More STEM gen-eds would improve students job prospects

If you asked someone outside the UA what the difference between Individuals & Societies and Traditions & Cultures is, there’s a strong likelihood they wouldn’t know.

Are those two general education categories really that different from Art and Diversity the way they’re different from Natural Sciences? Not really. Our current Gen ed requirements are far too homogeneous.

While the liberal arts provide a holistic education in post-secondary institutions, nine courses solely in liberal arts is more than enough when there are a total of 11 Gen ed courses to complete. When a graduate enters the workforce, they sometimes find out their liberal arts knowledge won’t get them the job – their STEM — Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics — education will.

There are 26 million STEM jobs in the United States, making up 20 percent of all U.S. jobs according to the Brookings Institution. The Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce shows that STEM majors make more than non-STEM majors across many fields including education and managerial professions amoung others. The same report also shows 63 percent of people with an associate degree in a STEM subject make more than those with a bachelor’s degree in a non-STEM profession. It’s a revealing statistic showing how important STEM knowledge is within the free market.

In short, STEM knowledge is valuable, and needed.

Due to a lack of STEM education among half of their employees, certain businesses are actually re-training their employees in STEM disciplines, as reported by Change the Equation. That training creates extra financial and opportunity costs for those companies when they have to pick up the tab that the university left them.

With more STEM education for all students across the board, via Gen ed requirements, the UA can prepare students to be better employees in their future careers.

Companies are hungry for employees with degrees in science, technology, engineering, and math. Facebook and Google probably aren’t on a hunt for liberal arts majors—most companies probably aren’t.

Within STEM occupations, there are about two job postings for every one person seeking work compared to all occupations where there are almost four postings for every one person seeking work, according to Change the Equation. With an education in STEM, or at least a basic understanding of STEM disciplines, graduates can enter the workforce with a competitive advantage in terms of pay, position, and promotion.

However, STEM is not solely about the money—it’s also about creating innovative solutions.

Both STEM college students and K-12 parents are in agreement that STEM should be taught more frequently and will better prepare students to become the inventors and innovators of tomorrow, according to a Harris Interactive study.

Despite all of this, courses in technology, math, and engineering may not count for much outside of STEM majors. With a STEM based approach to Gen ed requirements, that problem would be resolved.

A combination of STEM and liberal arts courses would help students to not only have the holistic education liberal arts proponents argue for, but also the future-leaning and skill-focused STEM education needed for success in the 21st Century.

A possible restructuring of Gen ed requirements could look like such: liberal arts — three courses, science and math — three courses, technology and engineering — three courses. There could even be two exploratory classes to find interests in other majors and minors or to continue with more Gen eds.

Certainly there is a plethora of information, facts, and statistics supporting the value of STEM education. And while the details of how STEM focused gen ed requirements still need to be worked out, the point is that STEM should be present in a student’s academic career and one of the best ways to do that is through the Gen ed requirements.

The UA advertises “Bigger Questions, Better Answers” across the campus and across the country. The private sector is asking a big question: Can you provide STEM workers to better meet demands of today and of tomorrow? The university should give a better answer: Yes! And they should start by bringing a STEM based approach to Gen ed requirements. 

Follow Connor Gilmore on Twitter.

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