There is no STEM shortage
The university system is falling apart in America. All the money flows to the top, to admin, to athletics while academics get less money all the time.
This morning, I read a deeply depressing story by the formidable Rebecca Schuman, detailing how two colleges are opting to cut academic programs rather than the administrative or facilities costs that actually drive college costs. (Schuman’s recent work for Slate has been excellent, in general.) The decision is curious on a number of levels. Faculty salaries have been more or less stagnant for decades, with much of the growth attributable to the few star professors in prestige fields who generate a great deal of grant money. (This is without even discussing the deplorable, flatly immoral treatment of adjuncts and contingent faculty, whose low pay and lack of benefits are to my mind the great moral failing of the American university system today.) The spending on dorms, gyms, and food courts in a stagnant economy is, well, insane. Administrative costs have absolutely skyrocketed, as universities stuff more and more deans, assistant deans, provosts, and all manner of directors and coordinators into their buildings. Athletics departments, despite reputations as money makers, are enormous financial drains on the system as a whole. And yet academic departments— you know, the purpose of a university— are on the chopping block. Why?
I can’t help but think that a big contributor to this phenomenon is the continued perception that the Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics fields are facing a shortage of graduates, and that the reason to cut other programs is because they fail to produce the kind of job opportunities these practical majors do. The problem is that there’s no STEM shortage. In fact, there’s evidence of a STEM surplus. I’ve been arguing this point for years, and have been seeing it get more and more traction culturally, and yet the idea endures. I don’t think I go a day without seeing the notion of a STEM or computer science or technology shortage asserted without evidence. The facts simply say otherwise.
. . .