Higher Education and non- STEM programs Are Still Relevant

College education itself is a major decision, especially with the continuous rise in cost. According to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, the United States spends more money on college than any other country. That finding aligns with the rising amount in student loan debt acquired by individuals, regardless of degree level. Crazy, right?Conversations are being had about how beneficial post-secondary degrees may be within the next couple of years. A common caveat of the conversation is the decision between STEM and Humanities pathways. After reading an article of Inside HigherEd on Liberal Arts Graduates in the Long- Term , it brought to light several issues that are being discussed due to COVID-19.

Does one job industry outweigh another?

“Yes” BUT yes depends on the lens or perspective you use.

Student A focuses on Black maternal and child health, you may gravitate towards midwifery, nursing, or medical services. Why is that? Your experiences shape your perspective. Math and science clicked for you, regardless if you were in school or not. You had black, latinx or minority health professionals growing up. You consistently interacted with stories and experiences of minority medical professionals or read about older, holistic practices within your lineage or community. Student A is understanding the world around them with these guiding questions: How does this complication present itself differently between races? What are some aliments that could be more prevalent in Black families than Native American or native Hawaiian families? What diseases in the family history should be top of mind throughout this pregnancy to have the best and safest outcomes?

Now, Student B also focuses on Black maternal and child health. However, the perspective they use has different guiding questions. What makes this person psychologically or mentally safe? How might family structures or relationships affect this person’s own view of maternal or child health? What resources might this person need in order to provide the best environment for this child and themselves. What does family look like to the individuals involved? Are there any past experiences that may dictate behaviors from individuals in this family unit?

Different perspectives for Black maternal and child health. Degree programs are actually set up the same way in a sense. Student A goes to school for Nursing. Student B goes to school for Human Services. Stark differences in degree programs, but they end up in the same birthing center. The journey is different.

Student A’s journey: ADN in Nursing > BSN in Nursing > Becomes RN > works for 2 years > MSN in Nursing with a specialization in midwifery > works in Birthing Center

Student B’s journey: BS in Psychology and Human Services > works in Department of Family and Children Services for 3 years > ABSN in Nursing > Becomes RN > Works in Public School system for 6 years > switches to NeoNatal Nursing > MSN in Nursing with a specialization in NeoNatal Care > Graduate Certificate in Midwifery > Works at Birthing Center

Many people automatically think about the amount of student loans for Student B because historically, human service careers do not pay as highly as STEM programs, especially in the beginning years. But the interdisciplinary approach through non- STEM majors can be beneficial and provide non-technical skills.

Is Higher Education really going to be worth it in 10 years?

Higher Education’s impact and landscape may be changing due to more opportunities to learn skills for free or on your own. However, impact and exposure is something that people underestimate. I believe that relationships and networking can put people in places that they never dreamed of; however, some if those relationships or networks are not easily accessible or people don’t know what communities they are interested in, college education that is also financially achievable for individuals opens those doors. Higher Education is an investment and any degree program can be beneficial depending on the individual’s goals. Big name or “elite” schools should hold more weight than other schools; individuals are more than the school they attend. We need just as many engineers and doctors as we need social workers and family therapists. We need just as many mechanics and HVAC specialists as we do teachers. Does one industry really outweigh the other?

Want to read more about the trajectory of Higher Education?