Education: Reinvesting is STEM and Civics
Critical Investment in Higher Education
America may have the best institutions of higher education in the world, but increasingly the students who attend our universities are not from America, and do not stay in the US after they obtain their degrees. Reducing the cost of higher education, and investing in STEM education through primary and secondary school are essential for maintaining a skilled workforce in the very near future.
This is multifaceted problem. The biggest barrier for Americans to enter American universities is financial. There are two parts to this. First, there is the simple fact that most working-class and middle-class Americans cannot afford college tuitions and have to balance taking out loans with their desire to attend university. The second problem, however, is a bigger and more complicated one. International and out-of-state tuitions are often significantly higher than tuitions for in-state students. This is mostly the case in public universities, though a few private universities have similar policies for international students. At the same time, these public universities are more affordable for in-state students, meaning that for students who have to take out loans to attend school or for those who need to rely on financial aid, public universities are the best option.
For the last five decades, the state and federal funding for public universities has dried up, while these universities have climbed the ladder of global university rankings. Our public universities have thus become more attractive to wealthy foreign students who can afford the exorbitant international tuitions at universities like UC Berkeley and UCLA. There is, of course, nothing wrong with having international students attend US schools. Indeed, the diversity and mixing of cultures is a fundamentally good aspect of higher education. However, public universities have been increasing the percentage of international admissions to make up for the cutting of state funds that has been the norm for the past few decades. Those higher tuitions, then, have been subsidizing state and federal cuts in education funding all over the country.
It should be fairly easy to spot the problem with an increasing share of college graduates being international students who plan on returning home after they graduate. America is facing a programmer and engineer shortage even now. A large part of our high-tech design and manufacturing is already outsourced to China and Taiwan. Even then, we have a shortage of high-skilled STEM workers.
For America to maintain and increase the size of its high-skilled workforce and its economy, it is essential that we invest in state and federal funding for our public universities so that they are not forced to increase international admissions to make up the difference. While some level of international admission is good and even necessary, too much can lead to domestic economic catastrophe. We must take that into consideration, and invest properly.
Primary and Secondary Education Reform
The continual decrease in Americans' enrollment in US higher education programs is mostly due to the aforementioned factors, most especially the financial barriers to entry and admission. However, there is also the simple fact that American K-12 education not only ranks dead last among developed countries, but also lags behind many "3rd world" developing countries who have been investing in education in order to revive their economies. The fact of the matter is that if our top American universities were to look at the highest level of secondary education in their admission processes, they would not find it in most American high school graduates. Every other developed country has fully nationalized their K-12 education systems, curriculums, and advancements. We have tried every trick we could come up with so that we could maintain local control of education. It is time we admit defeat, and centralize our K-12 education.
Having a shortage of scientists and engineers is both and economic problem and a national security problem. This country needs experts for research, engineering, computer programming, and further advancements in various fields. At a time when both warfare and economics are based entirely on scientific progress, not being the best could cost us in a very real way.