Friday, August 30, 2013

The Roots of STEM

There's an increasing amount of chatter amongst the chattering classes about how universities are spitting out too many Arts graduates and not enough STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics) graduates.  The chatter has picked up as a study by CIBC confirmed what Arts graduates already understand: a BA gets you very little in the workplace.  Maclean's has a piece today arguing that students should be more aware before they go into university about what their degree will get them.

There's one important factor that has been ignored in all of the discussion that I've read: arts programs pay for STEM programs.  STEM programs are expensive.  They require the maintenance of expensive labs which have to be kept up to the highest standard to remain current.  On the other hand, Arts courses are cheap.  One prof a few TA's and some PowerPoint slides can take care of a 500 student Intro Sociology lecture.  Sure that course may not be the most useful thing in the workplace but it's of huge importance to the university who can clear hundreds of thousands of dollars on the course. While STEM students will generally pay more than Arts majors, the difference doesn't pay for all the high priced equipment they use.  The way universities keep STEM tuition down is by having a large majority of their students in Arts.  That's why the easiest programs to get into are usually Arts programs.  An extra Arts student doesn't put a huge strain on university resources. For programs that cost more, universities try to be more selective with the candidates they admit.  They can only admit so many students because they only have so much laboratory space. 

We can sit on the sidelines and chastise universities for not giving the economy the workers it needs but as long as university economics remain as is, there's no incentive for the universities to change.
All views expressed in this blog are those of the author and the author alone. They do not represent the views of any organization, regardless of the author's involvement in any organizations.

All comments are the views of the individual writer. The administrator reserves the right to remove commentary which is offensive.

The author is not responsible for nor does he support any of the advertisements displayed on the page