How much STEM education should Minnesota be offering?

Kelliher (MHTA)

Minnesota State Colleges and Universities (MnSCU) system trustee Margaret Anderson Kelliher has Chancellor Steven Rosenstone's back when it comes to his big push for workforce development.

Kelliher, who is president and CEO of the Minnesota High Tech Association, argues in the Star Tribune for more spending on education in science, technology, engineering and mathematics -- the so-called STEM fields -- so Minnesota can do well economically.

She calls for an extension of a state tax credit for science and tech businesses, and put in a plug for this:

The association created, with the state of Minnesota, an internship program to connect STEM students with small science and technology companies. The “SciTechsperience’’ program has placed more than 130 students in the past two years and will help place at least another 225 this year. These internships provide students with on-the-job and entrepreneurial skills before they graduate from college.

Her commentary came a day before a piece in the Chronicle of Higher Education that casts doubt on the idea that STEM education is as critical as supporters say it is:

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"If there truly were an across-the-STEM-spectrum labor shortage … we'd be seeing an overall rise in wages in technology and science fields. And that isn't happening.

Ron Hira, an associate professor of public policy at the Rochester Institute of Technology who frequently testifies before Congress, has argued that companies, including Microsoft, have advocated for more federal money for STEM education and more visas for foreign IT workers—even as they lay off thousands of American employees with comparable skills.

"The Washington consensus is that there is a broad-based shortage of STEM workers, and it's just not true," he says.

The Chronicle article a long piece that doesn't necessarily come down on one side of the too-much-or-not-enough debate -- and even calls it a "muddle":

"Should colleges prepare more people for a specific subset of work that may soon be obsolete, or create well-rounded STEM thinkers? Is emphasizing one type of education over another enough to keep the United States the leader in technology? Is focusing solely on science and tech as an economic driving force dangerous?

You can read Kelliher's piece here and the Chronicle piece here.