At a higher education conference in Kentucky, Governor Kevin Matt Bevin told public universities to “Find entire parts of your campus … that don’t need to be there…Either physically as programs, degrees that you’re offering, buildings that … shouldn’t be there because you’re maintaining something that’s not an asset of any value, that’s not helping to produce that 21st-century educated work force.”
His goal is to graduate more students with STEM degrees and other degrees that will fill the workforce. But as Inside Higher Ed reports, this is yet another controversial statement from the governor who also said in the conference, “If you’re studying interpretive dance, God bless you, but there’s not a lot of jobs right now in America looking for people with that as a skill set,” and in the past has said that schools should drop French literature degrees because they aren’t useful. Somewhat ironically, he himself studied East Asian studies in college. Bevin has also in the past threatened teachers to retire due to their worry about pension plans.
A controversial figure as a whole, Matt Bevin is addressing a very real issue with his newest claim, but maybe he isn’t doing it the right way; for one, telling a school what to offer and what not to offer is overbearing, which is something also true of his nature; last year, the Supreme Court found that he had overstepped his rule when he cut $18 million from the state’s community college and university budget. According to the Associated Press, he approved a $40 million cut from the same budget last year as well, and as a response schools were forced to raise their tuitions.
Lee Blonder, a professor at the University of Kentucky’s college of medicine, told Inside Higher Ed, “I think the comments are shortsighted and a bit naïve…I think they show a lack of understanding of how innovation, creativity and productivity are nurtured by faculty in an institute of higher education. Not everybody wants to go into a STEM field or engineering.”
As I have mentioned in a previous piece, students do need to evaluate a degree’s potential for landing a job, and too often universities don’t do enough to make sure their students become valuable workforce members. A more detailed approach from state governments and their schools are needed to address this issue, but cutting money from their budgets and demanding their students study engineering isn’t the answer.
(Painting of "River." Courtesy of Joy Garnett)
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