Underemployed grads regret their choices

Most college graduates are underemployed and wish they’d made other choices, conclude two different surveys of young Americans. Not surprisingly, young people who majored in health and STEM fields are doing the best, while liberal arts majors are the most likely to be working in retail and restaurant jobs that don’t require a college degree.

Students who are the first in their families to go to college need help to untangle an increasingly complex financial aid system.

Obama: Educate for high-tech economy

High schools should put “our kids on a path to a good job,” said President Obama in the State of the Union speech.

Right now, countries like Germany focus on graduating their high school students with the equivalent of a technical degree from one of our community colleges, so that they’re ready for a job. At schools like P-Tech in Brooklyn, a collaboration between New York Public Schools, the City University of New York, and IBM, students will graduate with a high school diploma and an associate degree in computers or engineering.

We need to give every American student opportunities like this. Four years ago, we started Race to the Top – a competition that convinced almost every state to develop smarter curricula and higher standards, for about 1 percent of what we spend on education each year. Tonight, I’m announcing a new challenge to redesign America’s high schools so they better equip graduates for the demands of a high-tech economy. We’ll reward schools that develop new partnerships with colleges and employers, and create classes that focus on science, technology, engineering, and math – the skills today’s employers are looking for to fill jobs right now and in the future.

Many high schools offer “dual enrollment” courses that let students earn college credits — usually through a local community college — while completing high school. (The sinister Gates Foundation has been a major funder of dual enrollment.) Moving to a German-style apprenticeship system, which explicitly prepares students for skilled jobs, not for higher education, will take a lot more than money. It will take a major attitude change from college for all to competency for all. (Competency for most?) President Obama, whose administration cut funds for career tech programs, could lead the way.

“A Race to the Top-style grant program for high school curriculum” may raise hackles, notes Ed Week. Conservatives — and some liberals — are unhappy with the administration’s use of funding power to push states to adopt Common Core standards, which was supposed to be a state initiative.   Now Obama’s admitting that’s what Race to the Top did and asking for more money and power over curriculum.

Community college profs help train teachers

Community college instructors are partnering with high school teachers to train a new generation of teachers, especially in science and math.

California bill seeks $10,000 degree

Following Texas and Florida, California could be the next state to try to develop a $10,000 bachelor’s degree. A bill in the state legislature would tell high schools, community colleges and California State University campuses to collaborate on low-cost degrees in science, math and engineering fields.

College payoff is exaggerated

Going to college and choosing a technical major will increase your earnings — but not as much as you think, argue two American Enterprise Institute scholars.  Confusing correlation and causation exaggerates the college payoff.

Health care pays the greatest “wage premium” for both associate and bachelor’s degrees.

Asians dominate Silicon Valley jobs

Asian-Americans hold half of tech jobs in Silicon Valley, according to an analysis of Census data by the San Jose Mercury News. Asian tech workers grew from 39 percent in 2000 to 50.1 percent in 2010, while white workers, once a majority, are now 41 percent of the Bay Area’s high-tech workforce.

The dramatic shift in the changing composition of the high-tech workforce represents a new generation of homegrown and imported workers drilled in science, technology, engineering and math studies. But the shift in workplace demographics — at least among tech companies — fails to reflect the gains of California’s Hispanic and Latino population, which lost ground in tech jobs along with African-Americans.

The “failure of STEM education” has created a “crisis,” writes Dane Stangler in Inc. CEOs can’t find skilled workers because young people aren’t learning science and math well enough to learn technical jobs or succeed in STEM majors. And there’s not much economic opportunity for young people who can’t use math or understand science.

Majors that pay: STEM — and government

Payscale’s Majors That Pay You Back starts with engineering majors: Petroleum engineers start at $98,000 and earn a median mid-career salary of $163,000.  Then comes other STEM majors such as applied math, computer science, statistics and physics.

Government is the top-earning non-STEM major, as measured by mid-career pay, at the 14th spot. Government majors start at $42,000 and hit $95,600 by mid-career, according to Payscale.

Economics is 15th and international relations is 16th. Then it’s back to STEM majors till urban planning pops up at #40.

Education is #110 with a median starting salary of $37,200 and mid-career median of $55,000.

Some of the lowest-paying majors — special education, Biblical studies, social work and child and family studies — make the list of Majors That Change the World.

Most new jobs don’t require a college degree, notes Cost of College. However, most of the fastest growing jobs — retail sales, home health aide, personal care aide, clerical worker — pay poorly.

Big Bang’s Bialik: Science is fun

Math, science, engineering and technology aren’t just for geeks — or guys, says Mayim Bialik, who plays a neuroscientist on The Big Bang Theory — and in real life.

As a child actress on Blossom, Bialik was turned on to biology by a tutor. The actress earned a doctorate in neuroscience at UCLA. She met her future husband in calculus class.

Being a scientist is a wonderful and creative way to live your life,” she says. “It’s a creative life and opens up tremendous opportunities. It’s a cool way to look at the world. It’s a beautiful thing to know how waves keep crashing and what it means to see a shooting star.”

Seventy percent of jobs require math and science knowledge, says Bialik.

In search of STEM students

Universities are turning to community colleges in the search for potential STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) students who are black, Hispanic and/or female.

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.