Editorial: STEM doesn’t have to mean college
A good job. A good paycheck. A balance between work and home.
These are the things most of us want, and the things most of us want for our kids.
They aren’t things that have to come with a college degree.
Maybe your child really wants to go to college. They have a plan for their future at the tender age of 17 and they want to fill out the forms and make it happen. They have the grades to get in and the $80,000 or so that four-year degree is going to cost. And a dream.
They should do that.
But if the thing they want to do at 17 is look at becoming an electrician? How often is that getting encouraged?
Because it should be.
There is nothing wrong with going to college, figuring out who you are, changing your major once or twice or five times, learning how far you can push the human body between late-night parties and early morning classes and coming out with a bachelor’s degree. (Except it doesn’t automatically mean you can get a job.)
There’s also nothing wrong with deciding to put your foot on the first rung of a career right out of high school.
Today, the big buzzword is STEM — science, technology, engineering and math. Every school, from kindergarten to college, is telling us that STEM is where the jobs are, STEM is the future.
What they leave out is that STEM doesn’t have to mean a degree in civil engineering. It might mean a stint in the military as a petroleum laboratory specialist. It might mean studying sports therapy and exercise science at a career and technology center. It might mean a two-year computer technology degree at a community college.
It might even mean a job with a company that provides its own training.
According to the Pew Research Center, 40 percent of adults younger than 30 have student loan debt, and according to CNBC, the amount is ballooning. Last year, it was about $1.5 trillion.
Taking a different direction right out of high school doesn’t mean someone might never go to college. In fact, time in the “real” world might help that newly-minted adult figure out some goals and dreams without paying tuition.
A nursing assistant might realize she wants to be an RN, and her employer might help her cover the cost. That’s a lot better than spending four years in college and then realizing you hate hospitals but still have to pay back $50,000 in loans.
It doesn’t cost us anything to make sure kids know what choices are out there. But knowing that there are more options than funneling into a college that isn’t one-size-fits-all might keep kids from making choices they aren’t ready to make.