University wants to give 2-year degrees

Kent State University wants to award two-year degrees to students on their way to four-year degrees. Dropouts would have something to show for their time in college — and the university would get more state funding for awarding more degrees.

Two-year degrees in nursing, allied health fields, mechanics, construction and welding increase earnings significantly. Child care degrees do not.

Is the STEM shortage a myth?


On the Big Bang Theory, physicist Sheldon visits neuroscientist Amy in her lab.

The shortage of scientists and engineers is a myth, writes Michael S. Teitelbaum in The Atlantic.  If there were a real shortage, wages would be rising, he writes. To the contrary, “real wages in many—but not all—science and engineering occupations have been flat or slow-growing, and unemployment as high or higher than in many comparably-skilled occupations.”

U.S. students earn mediocre scores on international exams because large numbers of high performers are balanced by lots of low performers, he argues. 

. . . there continues to be a large pool of top science and math students in the U.S. OECD data on “high-performing” students suggests that the U.S. produces about 33 percent of the world total in this category in the sciences, though only about 14 percent in mathematics.

“Every high school graduate should be competent in science and mathematics — essential to success in almost any 21st century occupation and to informed citizenship as well,” he writes. But that doesn’t mean there’s a huge unmet demand for scientists and engineers.  

The STEM shortage myth is a myth, responds Robert D. Atkinson in the Washington Monthly‘s College Guide. Science and engineering graduates are finding jobs — not just in tech-based industries — at higher wages.

As the Brookings Institution’s Jonathan Rothwell shows, the earnings premium for STEM skills (controlling for experience, education and sex) has grown from around 22 percent in 1990 to 30 percent in 2012. Dartmouth’s Matt Slaughter and UC San Diego’s Gordon Hanson found that “the inflation-adjusted wages of major STEM occupations grew over the last decade while real wages for most other U.S. occupations fell.” Hardly evidence of surplus.

STEM shortage denial is rooted in a desire to keep out high-tech immigrants, Atkinson argues.

You can’t go wrong with a computer science major, writes Yahoo’s Rick Newman, looking at PayScale’s 2014 College Report. 

Only two of 288 schools that offer computer science — Indiana University-Purdue and Virginia Commonwealth — produced a return below the median for their graduates. At the top of the scale, meanwhile, more than a dozen computer-science schools returned $1 million or more over 20 years, making this the top-performing field.

By contrast, the return-on-investment for business majors varies depending on the college, he points out. “At nine schools, including Fayetteville State in North Carolina, the University of Montevallo in Alabama and Colorado Mesa University, students studying business actually earned a negative return, according to PayScale. That means they would have done better, on average, if they went to work right out of high school and never spent money on college.”

The earnings data relies on self-reporting, so be wary.

In This is Not Your Father’s STEM Job, Jessica Lahey looks at women who are “forging novel, interdisciplinary, STEM-based careers that blur categories and transcend agenda.”

But are they typical of female STEM workers? Probably not.

Texas shows college options, pay-offs

What will it cost to major in anthropology — or dental hygiene — at nearby colleges? What do graduates earn one year and 10 years out? Texas has created a searchable, customizable site that helps prospect students browse possible majors, careers and college options. It also includes a “reality check” to help young people estimate how much they’ll need to earn to support their lifestyle.

The college premium is growing, but higher education’s benefits vary significantly by “individuals, types of credentials, occupations, and geographical locations.”

Charter grads go farther, earn more

Charter high school students go farther in school and earn more as adults, concludes a Mathematica study. Researchers followed Florida and Chicago charter eighth graders for 11 years, comparing those who attended a charter high school and classmates who went to a traditional high school.

Charter students don’t earn higher test scores, on average, unless they attend “no excuses” charters, previous research has found. However, they’re significantly more likely than similar students to complete high school and enroll in college. 

. . . students attending Chicago and Florida charter high schools were 7 to 15 percentage points more likely to graduate and 8 to 10 percentage points more likely to enroll in college than comparison groups of students who attended charter middle schools but matriculated to traditional public high schools.

The former charter high students earned more at age 25 than the control group, Mathematica found. That suggests charter high schools “are endowing students with skills, knowledge, work habits, motivation, and values that are important for long-term success but are not fully captured by test scores.”

Pew: Not going to college is costly

The cost of not going to college is rising, according to a Pew Research Center analysis. Four-year college graduates ages 25 to 32 who are working full time earn about $45,500, while high school-only young adults average $28,000. The $17,500 gap is a record. College graduates aren’t earning much more than they did in 1986, but wages are sliding for workers with only a high school diploma.

For-profit college students like their schools’ teaching and guidance, but not the high costs, a survey finds.

Florida’s low-cost degrees pay off

Academics sneer at cut-rate college degrees, but Florida’s low-cost degrees pay off for graduates. The Florida College System (formerly the community college system) offers workforce-oriented bachelor’s degrees that cost $13,000 or less.  Graduates earn $8,000 more in their first year after graduation than state university graduates.

Job certificates raise earnings

More than 50 million U.S. adults, or one in four, have earned a vocational certificate or license, according to a new Census report on alternative credentials. For workers with less than a bachelor’s degrees, certificates and licenses provide an “earnings premium.”

College bubble will pop

The college bubble will pop, predicts an economist. The “college premium” is falling as tuition keeps rising.

College pays — $11

30-Year-Old Has Earned $11 More Than He Would Have Without College Education headlines The Onion. It’s a parody that’s all too close to reality.

“After accounting for the cost of tuition, four years of lost earning potential, and the minimal increase in salary an undergraduate degree provides,” 30-year-old Patrick Moorhouse of Dublin, Ohio has raised his earnings by $11, reports The Onion. Moorhouse’s more prestigious first-choice college would have led to $54 more in earnings, said researcher Ken Overton.

“If Patrick had started working straight out of high school, he would have had slightly fewer job options than he does now, but living at home instead of a dorm or student apartment even just those first two years would have added at least $16,000 in total savings, which pretty much evens things out.”

However, it’s impossible to “put a price on the 12 Post-WWII European History lectures Moorhouse attended junior year,” the study noted.

‘Skill builders’ succeed without a degree

Community college “skill builders” who complete a few vocational courses can raise their earnings by as much as 15 percent, a new study finds.

North Carolina has launched a four-year plan to improve success rates at community colleges. The system has created “stackable” credentials that let students earn a vocational certificate, work and then return, if they wish, to add a higher-level credential.