I have to agree here - there is very little rigor in high school and I believe it is hurting the students. I am constantly amazed that my teenage boys do not have homework and I am afraid they will be ill-prepared for college. The growth of charter schools is compounding the problem. My son was in a charter school for seventh grade that did not have any textbooks for the science class - the teacher was just scrounging for material. I took him out and wound up homeschooling him the rest of the semester. We do have some good STEM options at the high school level which is encouraging. I think options are important in high school so that kids have an opportunity to explore what they are interested in, to see if that is something they want to pursue after graduation.
You're right about the admissions preference, Dave. I stated it very poorly. Given students of equal background, the Illinois student will always get the nod over the foreign student. However, the frequent complaint has been that foreign students are getting admitted at a higher rate at the University of Illinois than at other Illinois schools. According to U.S. News & World Report, U of I has 8% international students, while Southern Illinois University has 2%, Northern Illinois has 1%, Western Illinois has 1%, Eastern Illinois has 0%, etc. This is because the University of Illinois is a better school, academically. It's where the good foreign students want to go. But it's also where the good Illinois students want to go. The complaints occur when good students who are Illinois residents (i.e., Illinois taxpayers) get bumped by students who aren't Illinois taxpayers, and who may or may not remain in the country. Clearly, U of I's policies are part and parcel of what makes it a better school, but it's hard to blame taxpayers for wondering. Sorry for the way I stated it in my earlier comment.
What the government needs to do to point more people to the technical side is to return to closer regulation of the financial side. The financial folks make a lot more money thann the engineers do, and for actions that don't benefit society nearly as much.
About the engineering salary surveys: it seems obvious that data from the southeastern Michigan area is not included, or else that a whole lot of folks are simply lying! A whole broad spectrum of engineers don't get anything near that big pay.
Really, the prime way to get more people into our area is to make it pay better, a huge majority of folks will select careers based on how much they pay, which is probably a reasonable means of making a choice. So if the financial industry is regulated a bit more so that they are a bit less profitable, those incomes will drop and engineering will have a better chance. Of course, the added benefit is that the financial weasels might not be able to damage our economy like they did a couple of years back. WE are still not recovered form that disaster.
@RaceTruck: I was able to work my way through college from 2001 - 2005 without taking on any debt, starting in a community college and moving to a four-year private university. Having a 4.0 GPA through two years of community college allowed me to get a 50% tuition scholarship. Government grants (state and federal) paid for another 30% or so of my tuition. I was able to pay for the remainder myself by working full time and living with my parents.
I'm not sure whether this would be possible even now, less than a decade later. The cost of college attendance has gone up a lot in the past few years. I suspect that more students chosing to go to community colleges will exert a downward pressure on tuiton costs of four-year institutions.
@ Dave Palmer I also went the JC route, infinitely cheaper and at least in today's world probably better instructors.
Only problem I saw with foreign students was they tend to form teams to do homework. I parially supported myself by being a reader for engineering classes after I took them. It is pretty obvious when homework is done by a team. Most Prof's didn't penalize them, saying the penalty occurs naturally on the Midterms and Finals.
How can we lower cost of an Engineering degree? I worked my way through by working a summer + a semester and going to school for a semester. Doesn't look like you could do this currently.
@RaceTruck: According to the last Design News salary survey, engineers aren't doing too bad for ourselves. Compared to most people in this economy, I can't complain. Could I use more money? Sure. But, like you said, I enjoy the opportunity to solve complex challenges every day. I'm able to provide for my family while doing what I love. How many people are able to say that?
@Chuck: Is it true that the University of Illinois gives preference to international students? I live in Illinois, and I'd never heard that, nor was I able to find any news articles about it. My understanding is that preference for both admissions and financial aid is given to Illinois residents -- especially (until recently) friends and family of influential politicians.
Many incoming freshmen are admitted into the university, but are not admitted directly into the College of Engineering. They need to prove themselves in another program before they can transfer into the engineering school.
A much smarter, and less costly, option is to start out in a community college. Most Illinois community college engineering programs allow you to transfer directly into a four-year university with third-year status after completing your associate's degree. The cost is at least 5 times less.
Of course, universities like international students because they pay more tuition. Also, because of the conditions of their visas, they provide universities with a captive labor force. On the other hand, it's also true that they tend to be much more serious about academics and have better study skills. They don't tend to share U.S. cultural attitudes about going to school to party or to "find themselves."
I don't think that it's necessarily true that international students are displacing domestic students. If international students raise the academic level of the university and attract additional research funding, this should result in growth of engineering programs, which should provide more opportunities for both domestic and international students. It's not a zero-sum game.
I entered engineering at the beginning of the space race. Reason was simple. Invest 4 years of hard work and get a top paying job for life. Bonuses were the challenges and intellectual growth that came with solving hard problems. But the key was I could make good money.
THe best and the brightest aren't stupid they go were the money is. Want cheap engineers? Then you will get dumb engineers.
Eric Niemi raises a good point when he says, "The U.S. educates the world, why not give our own students an edge?" In Illinois, there's ongoing debate over the fact that the University of Illinois gives admission preference to smart foreign students, while many students of Illinois taxpayers are unable to get into the engineering school. The upside of this policy is that the university's engineering school is rated in the country's top five by U.S. News & World Report, year after year. The downside is that U.S.-born students who grow up in Illinois often end up going out-of-state to study engineering because they can't get into U of I's program.
Functional illiteracy is a problem, but fixing it will not be enough. We may not need everyone to be an engineer, but we do need widespread scientific and technical literacy as well as functional literacy.
"Routine jobs" going away isn't a good thing, I don't think there is any question of that. It will be terribly hard to create the millions of specialized jobs needed to replace the jobs displaced by automation. But it is also economically inevitable. Unless we can come up with a successful economic model that is non-competetive, they will go. That being the case, we must prepare our children for a world without them, and we must prepare a good world without them for our children.
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