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Gov. Rick Scott to reallocate funding to STEM majors

Senior staff writer

Published: Saturday, October 22, 2011

Updated: Sunday, October 23, 2011 17:10

rick scott

Andy Newman/Central Florida Future

Florida Gov. Rick Scott addresses attendees at the Florida Governor’s Conference on Tourism Monday, Sept. 26. Last week, Scott made statements that some degrees are less valuable to the job market than others.

UCF's liberal arts programs may experience deep cuts this upcoming year due to the governor's plan to reallocate university funding.

Last week, Gov. Rick Scott made several statements implying that degrees such as anthropology are less valuable to the job market than other majors and should not receive as much state funding as science, technology, engineering and mathematics programs.

These fields of study are commonly known as "STEM" disciplines, and they have received boosts in funding since Scott has taken office.

"Do you want to use your tax dollars to educate more people who can't get jobs in anthropology? I don't," Scott said in a speech for a business group luncheon in Tallahassee earlier this month. "I want to make sure that we spend our dollars where people can get jobs when they get out."

Scott has also suggested that degrees such as psychology and journalism are also non-beneficial to the state's economy, according to the Sarasota Herald-Tribune.

Arlen Chase, chair for the UCF anthropology department, said that Scott most likely wants to make these these changes because he has been unable to create the jobs that he promised would materialize once he became governor.

"He's grasping at straws," Chase said. "The truth is, it's not that easy to get a job with a math degree or a physics degree, either."

But according to an article by Reuters, manufacturing companies such as Motorola, Caterpillar and Siemens are having difficulty filling positions, more than half of which require STEM-related skills.

Glen McGhee, director of the Florida Higher Education Accountability Project, said that Scott might be responding to the mismatch between degrees being produced and the apparent need for STEM majors in the workplace.

"As an engineer, as a scientist, I definitely am for more funding for STEM," said Essam Radwan, interim chair for the UCF department of civil, environmental and construction engineering. "We need to replenish the number of scientists in this country and compete with science in China and India and Brazil."

According to its website, the National Science Foundation recognizes anthropology as a STEM discipline under "social, economic and behavioral sciences," which contradicts Scott's desire to shift funds away from the field in favor of the STEM-related majors.

Florida universities require all students to graduate with a solid liberal arts background through their general education requirements, and Chase said that these disciplines receiving decreased funding could threaten the STEM accreditation process.

"He'll kill STEM," Chase said. "All of the university is interconnected. It's the totality of what you're getting through different classes. You can't break them into parts."

Anthropology is the study of humans, past and present. Chase said that an anthropologist's role in the job market is versatile and that many businesses are currently hiring those with anthropology degrees to study weaknesses within the workplace.

"He's set the parameters incorrectly," Chase said. "If workforce demands are for an intelligent individual that understands people, anthropology majors meet that need."

UCF currently has 3,767 undergraduate psychology majors and 407 anthropology majors.

"It's not as if our anthropology department has the most funding to begin with, so the fact that even more money would be allocated elsewhere doesn't bode well for future students," said Dave Birnbaum, senior anthropology major and president of the UCF anthropology club Hominids Anonymous. "More incoming freshmen are going to have less lab classes and less personal interaction with professors."

In a statement released to the Central Florida Future regarding Scott's proposed changes to university funding, UCF Provost Tony Waldrop said, "[We] strongly support allocating additional resources, as they become available, to the STEM disciplines and related fields. They are important to our university.

"We also believe that anthropology and the social sciences are equally important to the university and to society and should be fully supported," Waldrop said in the statement.

Birnbaum said that Hominids Anonymous members, as well as several other non-affiliated anthropology majors, are currently drafting a letter to the governor that outlines why anthropology is important to our state economy.

"I think that he is driven by the bottom line, and that has taken over his ideas about everything," senior anthropology major Rhae Royal said. "[Universities] and schooling were not founded on those sorts of ideals; they were founded on liberal arts. Everyone should have equal [opportunities]. Education is not a business."

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Tue Oct 25 2011 00:14
@Pauly K: I'd like to echo Colin's statement. I've no doubt that certain liberal arts majors provide a forum for critical thinking -- but those skills aren't worth much if you've got no relevant expertise with which to apply them. Not to mention that fact that every single Engineering, Computer Science, Physics, and Math degree at UCF provides those same critical thinking skills, if not more so.

Contrary to what my position may be interpreted as, I'm not arguing that liberal arts degrees are worthless to society. In fact, we would lose a very valuable perspective if the world had no Anthropologists. The issue is about return on the investment, not the merit of the degree. It's simply the case that jobs aren't available in certain fields, so investing in a person to pursue a career that they will invariably be unable to find in the private sector is a bad business decision.

As for the loan argument, as Colin said, I don't see the bearing on the discussion. In fact, the only correlation I can see between the amount of student debt accrued and available jobs is opposite your argument. If a student is spending more money to be educated, that indicates they are in school longer (likely due to the pursuit of a graduate degree). This means that they're unable to find jobs at the B.A/B.S level and thus need to pursue an M.A/M.S/PhD.

Mon Oct 24 2011 23:33
"Who's to say in the digital 21st century that a job like anthropology that teaches you critical thinking, writing, and compositional skills wont be exactly what we need in the new economy?"

You're right that those are necessary skills and high in demand, but ideally to be paired with technical skills like programming. You can fit both into a degree but the way our gen eds are structured doesn't help.

Also, student debt doesn't mean you aren't getting help from the state. Compare those figures to private school debt.

Pauly K.
Mon Oct 24 2011 21:44
@Shane give me a break. I love how conservatives are all for "free markets" and "less regulation" unless it doesnt fit into their narrow wold view. Students aren't getting a free ride for anthropology, the average student is graduating with $24,000 in debt, thats hardly putting the "taxpayers on the line". Its been shown in study after study that liberal arts students are some of the most educated upon graduating. This is why Steve Jobs said he prefers to hire Liberal Arts degrees over any other major, because they are the best workers.
Rick Scott is living in the past, where you learn from a degree and get a job doing that your whole life. In the world we live in now the jobs were going to be doing arent even created yet. They're jobs based off rational and creative thinking that will use the ever changing world of technology to create. Who's to say in the digital 21st century that a job like anthropology that teaches you critical thinking, writing, and compositional skills wont be exactly what we need in the new economy? Definitely not Rick Scott, who so far has proven himself to be pretty terrible at making decisions on what is best for Floridians.
Mon Oct 24 2011 17:32
@Fred: Very much so. That would mean that Florida (and the United States) is becoming increasingly competitive in the international technical market. Our success as a nation has been innovation, something that we're exporting with diminishing frequency.

I would argue, however, that, as it pertains to Florida, I won't have to worry about competition even if there's a wild growth of STEM majors. A surplus of technical professionals means that companies will be more incentivized to set up shop in Florida. More companies in Florida translates to more jobs and a better local economy.

Mon Oct 24 2011 15:32
Apparently Shane wants more competition for jobs in his field.
Mon Oct 24 2011 12:44
When will people wake up to the fact that getting a degree in music is a waste of time and money? Majored in (Psychology|English|Art|Music|the Humanities) and can't find a job? How surprising! How surprising that a degree in Women's Studies with a minor in Theater Tech can't be used at a Fortune 500 company.

Getting a college degree is a privilege, not a birthright. The State pays money to help students go to college with the hope they'll enter Florida's workforce and contribute to the local economy. A college graduate sitting at home with a Philosophy diploma on their wall isn't going to do much for stimulating financial growth. A college graduate in a technical discipline, however, will.

If you want more money from the state to pursue your education, then invest your time in a degree that will allow you to pay that debt back to society. If you want to pursue your own self actualization, that's perfectly fine -- but realize you're going to need to pay for it.

David Kearns
Sun Oct 23 2011 19:19
When will people wake up to the fact that this man is an enemy to the state of Florida? I spent some time in Honduras and watched corruption, both ours, and theirs, eat away at the fabric of Honduran society. This man works more like the dictator of a successful coup d'tat that a governor. No one is more uniquely unqualified to change our education system that this man. Name one governor who has made it one of his first orders of business to remodel public and higher education after the corporate structure? You can't Bob Graham commented on the sweeping nature of these proposed changes recently. Everyone so polite. Everyone using muted calm statements of "concern." We have a major problem in this state in the form of Rick Scott, who gained his position via computer election rigging, and who now sits as figure head to the Koch agenda. Those lock-step Louie's who now fall in line have been given assurances from the Koch chest that if they sell the rest of us down stream, their political war chest will be filled to the brim. This is a corporate take-over. Wake up people.

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