A Matter Of Degrees
5:00 am
Mon May 5, 2014

Question Of The Day: You Weigh In On Higher Ed In New Hampshire

Credit The Education Doc via Flickr CC

All this week, NHPR's reporters and programs presented A Matter of Degrees. This special series examined the uncertain future of New Hampshire's colleges, and how they are trying to stay relevant, competitive, and worth the cost.

Here’s today’s question for you:

With all you’ve heard about rising tuition, high student debt, and the push for colleges to innovate, would you choose to go to school in New Hampshire?

You can comment right here, visit our Facebook page, or send an email to comments@nhpr.org

Yes. - Thomas, on Facebook

Thursday:

Old-fashioned STEM tools.
Old-fashioned STEM tools.
Credit Wendell via Flickr CC

On Thursday, Emily Corwin looked at the increasing focus on STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) programs in higher education, and whether that focus is producing results in New Hampshire. 

 

Thursday's Question of the Day: With colleges and policy-makers so focused on developing STEM programs, is the traditional Liberal Arts degree being devalued?

An intelligent approach would be to integrate the two. - Rosemary, on Facebook

      

 Liberal arts has devalued itself - William, on Facebook

The LA degree programs have been hurt by their own making. And that's sad because I see the value in a LA education. Unfortunately many employers don't... - Walter, on Facebook

        

  But, historically (19th century) the liberal arts education wasn't meant to have a value in the job market. It was designed for those people who could afford to be the "thinkers" (the priests, scholars, writers, and professors). It was not intended for the education of the majority of the work force. The current emphasis on technical skills along with the cost of education may be pushing us back in that direction...

These issues raise a lot of interesting questions: do kids really need college degrees? or would job training do as well? have we lowered our expectations of high school by assuming that kids have four more years of education? have we instilled a culture in which kids aren't really adults until 25? and at what cost and debt burden? - Melissa, on Facebook

Yes. I think the STEM focus is misguided. 
71% of STEM hires are in computing, 16% traditional engineering, 7% physical sciences, 4% Life Sciences, and 2% mathematics (myCollegeOptions-STEM connector). 
Nearly 1/4 of STEM jobs are in computing science, which I think a lot of people in Silicone valley itself will suggest that a traditional college education is not necessary. Between job training on the side and asking employees to be creative and think of the next apple product or next big app, a traditional college is not necessary for these things. I took a lot of classes in high school that were certifed by CISCO and were meant to prepare students for immediate work in the IT field. I ended up choosing a different route.

As someone in the environmental sciences I think a lot of STEM students are being misled about greener pastures on the other side with their degree when STEM largely means computing science. When we have this shift to getting a lot of graduates towards computer and engineering skills we are missing out on more of the basic questions and everyday life that people are quickly forgetting as we become more technology oriented. What good does a tablet with fancy apps do when the West is drying up of water, or there is no clean water to drink, or climate change affects crop production. While technology will be a player in answering some of these questions, an app won't fix everything. A liberal arts degree or other undervalued STEM jobs will be on the front line of answering these questions. My big questions is: If we want workers to be answering the questions I outlined, how do we expect that to happen when science funding has dropped or levelled off over the past few decades? - Chris, via Email

The market will decide. Too early to tell - Steve, on Facebook

I think they are, and that's a bad thing, because it detracts people from the real problems. Policy wonks, for instance, frequently claim that a divergence of tech/science skills is the reason for rising inequality in the country, which is entirely untrue: the roots are much deeper. By pretending that the working/middle class is falling behind because it lacks tech know-how, we divert our eyes from the real problems of our economy. - Adam, on Facebook

Lumping all technical education into one bundle is a mistake. A technical curriculum can be structured to achieve different goals -- to produce graduates ready to contribute immediately upon graduation with current technology vs. producing graduates taught to take highly complex, real world problems or systems and apply existing models or develop new models to predict behavior of the system and solve the problem. The latter approach absolutely produces "thinkers" like Maxwell and Newton. - Larry, on Facebook

Wednesday:

As part of our series, Digital Journalist Brian Wallstin examines how Dartmouth is coping with the intense scrutiny triggered by a series of highly publicized sexual assault cases. At the same time, UNH is being praised for its sexual assault prevention policies.

Credit Rachel Patterson via Flickr CC

Wednesday's Question of the Day:

Would a school’s sexual assault policies/record affect your decision to either apply or attend?

From a father of three daughters: YES - Henry, on Facebook

Yes. - Jen, on Facebook

As a kid probably not, but as a more enlightened adult - absolutely! - Marianne, Facebook

As a Mom, yes, it would affect my thinking for my young adults - Trish, Facebook

I'd say your decision would likely not be based so much on your age, but rather on whether you have a history of sexual assault. I can't imagine anything that would carry more weight in that choice - not even the enlightenment that comes with adulthood, particularly one that has been blessed with shelter from that particular storm. - Kate, Facebook

Sorry - could not negotiate around that - absolutely - positive and negative  - Molly, Facebook

Tuesday:

On Tuesday's Exchange, paying for college. With skyrocketing costs and fewer scholarships and grants available for the taking, parents and students are faced with the dilemma of how to finance higher ed.

Tuesday's question of the day:

Assuming you're not a millionaire, how would you pay for a college education today?

I have a daughter attending Dartmouth as a freshman in the fall, and unfortunately, I have too much to be able to actually afford it. I am one of the people who have been financially responsible over my entire life, delaying immediate gratification and listening to elders and advisors telling me to save for college, retirement, etc. Now that I have saved enough to put towards college and my own personal retirement, I find that I have saved too much. I have accumulated just enough wealth to not qualify for any financial aid, and I also have a job that pays me too much (slightly) to qualify. So now I am left footing the entire Dartmouth college bill which will be over a quarter of a million dollars myself, leaving me with nothing in just 4 short years. So much for saving for retirement, travel, life, etc. Had I known that if I had just been reckless with my money and spent it all impulsively buying extravagant things over the past 18 years, I would have then gotten some help with her education, AND I would have been able to enjoy my money. I would advise everyone to not save for college and blow through all of their money as soon as they get it because if you are responsible when the kids are little, you will be severely p[enalized when they go to college. Don't make the quarter million dollar mistake I did!  - Skeeter, Facebook

I am a Marine Officer.  I can tell you a great way to pay for college these days is through the GI Bill.  The GI Bill covers 100% of State tuition as well as a housing allowance and other stipends.  Another benefit of the post 9-11 GI Bill is that it can be transferred to dependents.  I already have a B.A. and will earn a M.A. at a War College so I chose to transfer my GI Bill benefits to my daughter.  The post 9-11 GI Bill can also be used for other professional certifications other than a degree producing program which is a benefit the Montgomery GI Bill did not provide.  There are many opportunities for young people to serve and earn this education benefit. - Andrew, via Email

I'd set my sights on a college with a big endowment. When I started at St.A's in 1974 it was $3400 per year. My father was a cop and he borrowed it from the credit union every August, had it paid off by the following July. It was 10% of his income. Now, to do the same and send his kid to St. A's, or virtually any private college, a cop would have to make $500K a year. The average Harvard student pays about $5K per year, because of the endowment. - Jack, Facebook

I'm told only some of my internal organs are technically "necessary" for my continued survival. Be it a transplant for a wealthy patient or some daring new sort of restaurant in midtown Manhattan, I imagine a few of my innards would be worth enough to pay for at least a text book or two.  - Nick, Facebook

Have my kids establish residency in the state where their desired STATE university/ school is. I did that in California many years ago. If they want private I would go with the endowed school deal as above!  - Molly, Facebook

 I got a job at my school and they'll pay for my classes.  - Jake, Facebook

Parents of young children should learn about the uPromise credit card program--works like any affinity credit card program--u get 1 or 2 percent back from card-issuing company plus contributing merchants--in our case, pennies back over the yrs has amounted to almost $7k, now helping to put 2 daughters thru college. UPromise.com for details  - Jamie, Facebook

 

Have generous parents.  - Steve, on Facebook

Monday:

Reporter Sam Evans-Brown looked into the cost of university research and increasing competition for government and private grants to fund it. This is putting colleges in the position of balancing the value of research with the needs of students. 

Credit jisc via Flickr CC

Monday's Question: Is it reasonable for universities to charge higher tuition so they can hire top minds to conduct research?

Students should not have the cost of university research in their tuition, as it is society at large that benefits from this research - not just the students.

That being said, I do think universities are a good place for doing research - especially basic research.  The problem is that, for the most part, universities are very inefficient in organizing the way they do research.  Here are some suggestions on how to make it more efficient. 1)Universities should have two divisions - their teaching division and their research division.  Each division should financially self-sustaining.  For the teaching division fund can come either from either tuition or from government support.  For the research division funds can come from grants that are financed either privately or from government. 2) The proportion of each faculty member’s time spend in either division should negotiated individually and reviewed from time to time.  Criteria for a faculty member being hired by the research division should be how will the proposed research he or she is doing contribute to the research division’s efforts to secure funding.  Criteria for a faculty member being hired by the teaching division will be how effective is he or she at teaching. - Glenn Meyers, Deerfield (Note: Glenn is a Ph.D. and retired reseacher.)            

It really depends. I've had professors who were great researchers and terrible teachers, and then I've had professors who were both. I find it's more important to engage the mind of those who you are imparting knowledge than it is to produce a paper.  - Tina, Facebook

             

No. The students never receive the benefit. Four years of college followed by grad school and I can count on one hand the number of full professors that taught a class in which I was enrolled.  - David, Facebook

           

Well sure...doesn't mean real human families can afford it.  - Hope, Facebook            

I think it's less reasonable for the students applying. Likely the business side is stating: Get a top mind - have that recognized or better yet, they pull something off to get the school some publicity, driving up demand to get into that school, further driving up cost due to demand, providing them the capitol budget to build newer infrastructure to make the institution more desirable... and it goes on. The other side is higher costs more debt out there, which is a larger systemic issue to our macro economy. As students struggle to pay off high interest student loans and find jobs that might keep them above water. I am certainly not in favor of higher school costs as I will have a couple of kids to go through that cycle, I hope. However, I get the reasoning behind it all. Gotta bet big to win big.  - Jeff, Facebook