Florida may raise tuition for non-STEM majors

Florida wants more engineers and scientists. Would-be poets, actors and anthropologists? Not so much. A state task force has recommended lowering university tuition for STEM majors while charging more in humanities and social sciences, reports the Sun Sentinel.

It usually costs more to offer science and engineering classes, but it’s worth it, says Dale Brill, who chaired the task force for Gov. Rick Scott.

Florida used to pay 75 percent of the cost of educating students in public colleges and universities, but that’s dropped to less than 50 percent in recent years because of the weak economy, reports the Sun Sentinel.

Microsoft engineers teach high school

Microsoft engineers are teaching high school computer classes (with the help of regular teachers) to encourage young people to pursue technical careers, reports the New York Times. The company, founded by education philanthropist Bill Gates, has issued a report on educating young people for science, math and technology jobs,  A National Talent Strategy.

There are likely to be 150,000 computing jobs opening up each year through 2020, according to an analysis of federal forecasts by the Association for Computing Machinery, a professional society for computing researchers. But despite the hoopla around start-up celebrities like Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook, fewer than 14,000 American students received undergraduate degrees in computer science last year, the Computing Research Association estimates. And the wider job market remains weak.

“People can’t get jobs, and we have jobs that can’t be filled,” Brad Smith, Microsoft’s general counsel who oversees its philanthropic efforts, said in a recent interview.

Microsoft pays engineers a small stipend to teach at least two high school classes a week for a full school year.

Google funds a programming summer camp for incoming ninth graders as well as computer science workshops for high school teachers, the Times reports.

Fewer high school students are taking computer science, according to the U.S. Education Department.  However, the number of computer science bachelor’s degrees has been rising for four years, after years of decline.

In 2012, a new graduate with a computer science degree started at $58,300, according to the National Association of Colleges and Employers.

Stanford: Too worldly? Too useful?

Is Stanford Too Close to Silicon Valley? asks Ken Auletta in the New Yorker.

The campus has its jocks, stoners, and poets, but what it is famous for are budding entrepreneurs, engineers, and computer aces hoping to make their fortune in one crevasse or another of Silicon Valley.

Innovation comes from myriad sources, including the bastions of East Coast learning, but Stanford has established itself as the intellectual nexus of the information economy.

A former engineering professor, Stanford President John Hennessy also was a Silicon Valley entrepreneur and serves on many corporate boards.

Stanford’s entrepreneurial culture has created a “gold-rush mentality,” writes Auletta. Both faculty and students seek “invention and fortune.”  A quarter of undergrads and a majority of graduate students are engineering majors, roughly six times the percentage at Harvard and Yale.

Some ask whether Stanford has struck the right balance between commerce and learning, between the acquisition of skills to make it and intellectual discovery for its own sake.

David Kennedy, a Pulitzer Prize-winning historian who has taught at Stanford for more than forty years, credits the university with helping needy students and spawning talent in engineering and business, but he worries that many students uncritically incorporate the excesses of Silicon Valley, and that there are not nearly enough students devoted to the liberal arts and to the idea of pure learning. “The entire Bay Area is enamored with these notions of innovation, creativity, entrepreneurship, mega-success,” he says. “It’s in the air we breathe out here. It’s an atmosphere that can be toxic to the mission of the university as a place of refuge, contemplation, and investigation for its own sake.”

Gerhard Casper, the former president and now a senior fellow, thinks top research universities have become too focused on solving real-world problems rather than “the disinterested pursuit of truth.” He fears “ever greater emphasis on direct usefulness,” which might mean “even less funding of and attention to the arts and humanities.”

I don’t spend much time worrying about a university’s enthusiasm for innovation, creativity and solving real-world problems. Perhaps my husband — a former engineering prof, a Silicon Valley entrepreneur and a friend of Hennessy — has influenced me. On the other hand, I once took a class from David Kennedy and my daughter spent a summer as his research assistant. And I was a liberal arts major. I learned that “poets are the unacknowledged legislators of the world,” according to Shelley, but I never believed it.

 

 

Steve Jobs: Train factory engineers

Manufacturing could move back to the U.S., if community colleges, tech and trade schools trained enough factory engineers, Steve Jobs told President Obama. According to Jobs biographer Walter Isaacson:

Apple had 700,000 factory workers employed in China, he said, and that was because it needed 30,000 engineers on-site to support those workers. ‘You can’t find that many in America to hire,’ he said. These factory engineers did not have to be PhDs or geniuses; they simply needed to have basic engineering skills for manufacturing.

Also on Community College Spotlight:  Community groups are teaching basic skills as a bridge to job training at community colleges.