Science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) degrees are going up at Michigan colleges; Business graduates are down, records show

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“I’ve been talking about it for a long time. It’s been slow going,” said Sarah Gammans, director of counseling at Northview High School in Kent County in western Michigan.

Gammans said she’s noticed the uptick in STEM students — and the growing interest among young women and minorities in engineering and other fields of science and technology.

“I think we’ve been doing a better job of exposing (students) to a variety of STEM careers,” she said.

Part of the driver, Gammans and others say, is the desire to have a sure job after graduation. More students—and their parents—view college as an investment and want a well-defined return. She said few are interested in programs that don’t offer a clear path to employment, such as an English major or an emphasis on history or art.

“This has definitely been a shift,” said Jennifer Drake, dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences at Grand Valley State University, who has seen an increase in interest in biology and related fields.

Janet said the school awarded 461 bachelor’s degrees in biology-related areas in 2022, up from 208 in 2018. Part of that is a change in the ranking of majors but it’s also a result of increased interest in wildlife biology and environment-related fields. Vigna, chair of the school’s biology department.

Liberal arts degree value

But Hurley and others are sounding a warning bell. They say there is still value in liberal arts programs and the “breadth and depth” of a degree that encompasses a range of subjects, from social and hard sciences to languages ​​and arts.

Hurley said the change toward more STEM careers reflects “workforce demand” but additional employers are finding they also want liberal arts graduates and the skills they provide as well. Hurley warned that if the shift becomes too technically heavy, it will “come back to haunt us in the future”.

To address some of these concerns, Grand Valley urged students to add “the arts” to their STEM careers—they call it STEAM—and created a program in which liberal arts students Paired with a local business owner.

Under the university’s Laker Accelerated Talent Link program, a student, who may be a major in psychology, history, or education, takes a few semesters in a specific area of ​​business or technology, such as data analysis. That student then interns for the company while in school and agrees to work for another year for them after graduation.

Five companies have agreed to accept 25 students, including Amway and Corewell Health.

Give lower scores

State data used in Bridge’s analysis also shows a decline in the number of overall degrees awarded, although the drop — only about 1 percent — is much smaller than the 10 percent drop in enrollment that stunned some four-year Michigan public universities.

An even more pronounced drop occurred among those pursuing associate and certification degrees, with a 10 percent drop in associate degrees, from 23,300 to just under 21,000, and a 21 percent drop — from 10,000 to 7,900 — in certifications such as those offered for nursing and justice criminal and skilled trade programs such as metalworking.

Those declines worry Ryan Viewnes Place, executive director of the Michigan College Access Network. He fears that the small drop in bachelor’s degrees could widen as the drop in enrollment leads to smaller graduating classes.

“I think (the subsidence) hasn’t been felt yet,” he said.

Wages have gone up in many areas and this may discourage some students from spending money on college or a degree. That can be shortsighted, Fewins-Bliss said, and everyone will need—or be rewarded with—acquiring additional training, whether that’s a bachelor’s degree, associate degree, or certification.

For example, five years after receiving a high school diploma (nothing else), the The median annual wage is $27,400 in Michigan. For someone with a certificate or associate’s degree, it’s over $46,500 – and for someone with a bachelor’s degree it’s $58,000.

He said it is a “myth” that further education is not necessary or that “college is not worth it”.

“He made me love STEM”

At Michigan Technological University in Houghton, first-year engineering student Macie Cornish is confident that focusing on science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) will be worthwhile for her.