As part of a semi-off-topic discussion of the current unemployment problem on an earlier thread, one commentor brought up an issue I have been wondering about:
1) All of those eager beaver foreign engineering students? Dollar to a doughnut, most of those students have their education being paid for by their governments. This is more than likely not the case for many of the supposedly “lazy” American potential engineering students. Remember these are people who CAN do the math. Incurring a disabling level of indebtedness to have only SOME chance of working in their field while likely, as a consequence, being forced to delay starting up households and families because of that privately-held indebtedness serves as a powerful disincentive to embark upon that career.
2) Coupling this with the easy availability of foreign H-1B engineers in THIS country, it looks as if going into engineering could easily be seen as a sucker’s game. Not only do you go deeply in the hole to get qualified, but when you emerge saddled with debt, the CORPORATE LOBBYISTS have guaranteed that you will have to compete with what are essentially modestly-paid indentured servants for a job.
3) One might hope that universities would make more of an effort to recruit more American students for the engineering department, but if the cost of doing this is to pony up ever-scarce scholarship monies THEMSELVES, as opposed to merely holding out their hands to receive scholarship monies supplied to their foreign students by THEIR GOVERNMENTS, well, the answer is right in front of your face.
And the trajectory for a declining standard of education in productive occupations for American citizens is ever more firmly entrenched.
Y’see, the “Most Popular” article on Slate for most of the long weekend was an article by Chad Harbach, “MFA vs. NYC“, about the immediate future prospects for professional fiction-writers in America. I do not think the article spoke well for whichever advanced degree program credentialed Mr. Harbach, because it was rambling, repeatative, and not very well written. But presumably the fact that it served as high-value link-bait for the Slate audience (upper-middle-class meritocrats with a bias for faith-based bipartisanship?) indicates something about the current Coventional Education Wisdom, which is why I keep coming back to Harbach’s casual announcement of certain key numbers…
… MFA programs themselves are so lax and laissez-faire as to have a shockingly small impact on students’ work—especially shocking if you’re the student and paying $80,000 for the privilege. Staffed by writer-professors preoccupied with their own work or their failure to produce any; freed from pedagogical urgency by the tenuousness of the link between fiction writing and employment; and populated by ever younger, often immediately postcollegiate students, MFA programs today serve less as hotbeds of fierce stylistic inculcation, or finishing schools for almost-ready writers (in the way of, say, Iowa in the ’70s), and more as an ingenious partial solution to an eminent American problem: how to extend our already protracted adolescence past 22 and toward 30, in order to cope with an oversupplied labor market…
There were 79 degree-granting programs in creative writing in 1975; today, there are 854! This explosion has created a huge source of financial support for working writers, not just in the form of lecture fees, adjunctships, and temporary appointments—though these abound—but honest-to-goodness jobs: decently paid, relatively secure compared to other industries, and often even tenured. It would be fascinating to know the numbers—what percentage of the total income of American fiction writers comes from the university, and what percentage from publishing contracts—but it’s safe to say that the university now rivals, if it hasn’t surpassed, New York as the economic center of the literary fiction world. This situation—of two complementary economic systems of roughly matched strength—is a new one for American fiction. As the mass readership of literary fiction has peaked and subsided, and the march of technology sends the New York publishing world into spasms of perpetual anxiety, if not its much-advertised death throes, the MFA program has picked up the financial slack and then some, offering steady payment to more fiction writers than, perhaps, have ever been paid before.
I suppose it makes James Frey’s scam a little more explicable, but still. Whatever you think about the war of market-based versus degree-certified fictioneers (which is, of course, just a new subset of the ‘genre hacks vs. lit’ry aesthetes’ that’s been going on since at least Dickens, if not Jane Austen), the raw data raises a whole rat’s nest of questions…
Does modern America really need the professional certification of some-multiple-of-854 new Creative Writers every year?
Why would anybody with sufficient resources to be approved for both the program and the loans see $80k worth of value in achieving such certification? There can only be so many trustafarians and MRS-degree wanna-bes in even the nicest gated community. Conversely, the percentage of best-selling fiction writers with creative-writing MFA… isn’t very large. Harbach makes the argument that a creative-writing MFA has become a necessary credential for a position teaching future creative-writing MFA students, but he also off-handedly notes that those who obtain such slots hold them “ferociously” and well beyond the age of civil-service retirement restrictions.
What do you do with an MFA in Creative Writing, if you can’t snag one of those precious teaching positions?
I’m as math-phobic as the next person, assuming that person had to take third-year high-school algebra three times, but I’m genuinely curious as to what the rising generation of the American workforce is going to do with so many relatively high-IQ, creative individuals who are looking at 20 or 30 years of paying off student loans for certification in something that, in a great many cases, doesn’t qualify them for a position more remunerative than administrative assistant, copyshop night manager, or barista…
West of the Cascades
Some foreign-born engineering students here in Oregon spend their time getting entrapped by the FBI. Better to have pursued an MFA, apparently.
I will have to go back and read that thread I think I tangentially was participating.
nm, apparently lazy american engineering students is a common topic!
My daughter has a friend from college who got an MFA in poetry from an Ivy. She got a full ride because she belongs to an ethnic minority even though she’s completely assimilated and grew up in a very wealthy LA suburb. Then she couldn’t figure out what she wanted to do in real life and fiddled around for a couple of years. Then the recession hit and she’s found another MFA program, in computers or the internet and poetry or some such thing, and she’s doing that for a while. Sounds like a scam to me, but it’s nice work if you can get it.
Exactly. There’s only one writing credential that matters, and that’s a signed contract with a “real” publisher (for some value of “real”).
Yeah, yeah, ebooks POD the web blarg wazoo, but editors matter (not to mention all the other forms of expertise that go into publishing, whether dead tree or electronic).
RE: The run off election for all you Athens ex-pats
You can’t survive as a major in the hard sciences or engineering and be lazy. I don’t understand what your country of birth has to do with it.
I’m not convinced. Most engineers work after their undergrad. Under the H1B-is-pricing-out-American engineers story, you should should then expect that American students drop out of college entirely because they can’t afford schooling relative to the starting salaries of engineers.
But that’s not what we see. What we see instead is that a) college enrollment rate has gone up steadily and b) the percent of Americans becoming engineers decreasing. Since the 4-year cost of getting a degree in English vs EE is basically the same and a EE will get you a higher starting salary compared to a degree in English (even with all the foreign engineers), or any other degree for that matter, the proposition that an American engineer saying to herself: “you know, all those H1B students are pushing down engineer wages. I think I’ll be an English major instead” simply doesn’t sound right to me.
I love how the punditry all says there are no engineering students from the USA. Say that to me and many other graduates at my school who were engineering majors and now having a hard time finding an entry level engineering job. It is somewhat funny though; at the same time, we discourage our own citizens from taking engineering majors (or anything technical) in the first place, but when they do get them we can’t compete with the 3rd world since they can get paid more cheaply. Thus at the same time, we don’t have enough majoring in such fields here AND we have too many who are looking for a job. Horray for USA policies………we’re so fucked.
A couple things to note:
A typical US undergrad in math or the real sciences knows about 1/2 to 2/3 as much as his or her euro or asian or Indian counterpart. Basically, the concept “smart” has been dumbed-down drastically in America – starting with education majors (our worst and dimmest) in k-12 who typically know next to nothing of intellectual value about the subjects they
teachruin. History, for these people, is generally a bunch of what’s-where’s-when’s; math is a disconnected sequence of meaningless algorithms, and so on.
Of course there are always a couple of kids who are simply too bright for their idiot teachers to ruin – and some of them make it up the scholastic ranks into our graduate schools. For this reason at the Ph.D. level, the intellectual horsepower disparity between American and other students is much, much less (if there’s any). But at the undergrad level, the bulk of our kids would (rightly) be considered a bunch of illiterate retards by anyone with a genuinely significant education.
Similar things may be said about all of those zomgi’msodeepisimplymustmustmustbetehawesomezwriter fucktards in our universites.
This idiocy has been largely entrenched at the generational level. Idiot parents (who think they’re smart) raise their kids to be precisely the same. This aspect becomes hilarious when the idiot parents’ specialsnowflake idiot kids get a bad score on a test at uni, and the idiot parents bitch and moan at the prof, dept chair, uni President, etc. until the grade is changed. It’s ok with parents for their idiot kid to be stupid – JUST DON’T EVER *SAY* HE OR SHE IS STUPID.
Hilarious and sad.
In short, idiot parents raise idiot kids, taught by idiot teachers. Hence the the very ability to so much as tell the difference between idiocy and not has been mostly lost in America.
There is little possibility of changing things. Americans love nothing so much as their own stupidity, and proudly proclaim their “math phobia” and stupid shit like that. Any suggestion that people can actually know more is met with disbelief (because every idiot knows that no one could EVER be smarter than THEM – lols).
So yah – when I interview candidates for mathematical programming positions, I know going into it that the people I need are almost certainly not going to be from this country. I give everyone a fair shake, but the answer is usually thoroughly guessable ahead of time. Not always, but usually.
I can comment on the engineering degree. One older family member who went to college on the GI bill did succeed in getting his engineering degree. His 2 children and his granddaughter tried to major in engineering and could not succeed.
My own observations on my campus have clearly shown the extent to which the foreign students are dedicated to the task of learning. They do not join the party scene. They are the first and last to be found studying in the libraries. They are the only ones to be seen on campus during semester breaks. Yes, the majority are Asian students. They definitely are admired by those of us who see them daily.
I want to sign up for the most prestigious blogging certification program, preferably at an Ivy League.
Is there a program specializing in ‘blog commenting’?
I was thinking about going for the designing, running or posting blog programs, but those look like work. And probably have to learn something.
Seriously, if an MFA program would teach people how to write, or at least not be terrified of writing, that would be useful.
But from my jaded experience teaching undergrads, they are afraid of anything other than multiple choice tests (except they are afraid of good multiple choice tests, but they don’t know whether the professor has taken a ‘how to write a multiple choice test’ course or not).
Professional students are not afraid of math or figures, or diagrams, or flowcharts, or protocols, or puzzles, but they are afraid of writing.
My question, and this is from a ‘practical person’, if you count statistics as practical, is this: does education have to be practical to be useful, or worthwhile?
I am tired of the ‘whatsitgoodfer’ question regarding education. Too much of that attitude has landed the U.S. in the undereducated mess that it is in.
And I know that there is an applied economics literature that claims to have empirical evidence of some sort or another that there is over investment in education. I don’t believe it, and do not care for it. It is so assumption driven I doubt that it means much of anything.
Amanda in the South Bay
Someone can correct me if I’m wrong, but there was a post on Slashdot not too long ago about this, and the consensus seemed to be that foreign STEM majors were crowding out the domestic competition, simply because they are cheaper (and not necessarily better). Over the long run, I fail to see how that cannot depress domestic STEM majors.
We just had a big fight in Georgia to get an engineering program approved for the University of Georgia. Georgia Tech fought it tooth and nail but it was narrowly approved.
Undergrads in your typical state school will be Americans as far as I’ve seen.
Its the Graduate level where the US student participation drops off. Its very easy for a BS to get a job and enter the workforce. The cost/benefit ratio of a MS is very out of whack for a US student I think. I like to think most BS students are smart and realize a MS from your local also rate state school, while cheap, isn’t worth it. Even then I don’t know if its worth it.
I know a ME MS who graduated from MIT a few years ago and I’m certain she’s not making enough that it would make sense for her to have paid for her own MS from even the local state college.
This is an actual topic we talked about while she was making her decision. She wasn’t just weighing if she could get into a good program and do interesting research. Her decision was also predicated on their waiving the fees and being able to provide a stipend.
Don’t even get started on PhD programs. I’ve never worked with a PhD in any of the Engineering disciplines.
@Cat:” Its very easy for a BS to get a job and enter the workforce.”
What planet are you on?
Amanda in the South Bay
I’m in the same boat-currently working on a CS degree, and yeah, a lot of the East Asian students are hard working, but, well, IDK. I don’t think its a matter of native born American students not working hard enough, as it is there’s simply not enough native born students becoming STEM majors to begin with. And I’m certainly not convinced that all of those foreign CS students are budding Alan Turings or Bill Joys either.
Welcome To The Real World 2010 College Graduates – Nobody Wants To Hire You
Read more: http://www.businessinsider.com/welcome-to-the-real-world-2010-college-graduates–nobody-wants-to-hire-you-2010-5#ixzz16pAdpCeN
As an Australian who had a lot of American students come to my university on exchange we always used to laugh when they would complain about the marks they recieved over here. It appears that anything less than a Distinction (D) or B, whatever grading system was being used was unacceptable, and that everyone shuold recieve that grade if you spent a couple of hours on a paper and handed it in. They didn’t seem to realise that we were graded on a bell curve, only a certain percentage of students could get a HD – A, and D – B.
Maybe i misread it but it did appear expectations for a good mark where high from US students even when they handed in crap.
The products of Indian universities tend to be pretty solid (but many of them are staying in India these days). However, Asia has serious quality control problems. I am in a top 5/top 10 CS department (depending on your rankings), and the students we see from non-India Asia are never as good as the US students.
There is a growing cottage industry in writers building….fake web sites. In the past, these fake Web sites have plagiarized existing Web sites, but they are easily found via Google search. So now there’s a growing trend to innovate, in the sense of having moderately plausible original text.
What is the business model for these Web sites? Apparently it is showing Google ads…. I am of course ignoring all the fake porn sites that only exist to deposit worms in your browser…..
The Web is evolving in very strange ways under the ministrations of e-commerce and advertising….
From the OP:
Brick Oven Bill
Thomas Edison-less than one year of education period, like when he was seven.
Bill Gates dropped out of college after two years.
Steve Jobs dropped out of college after six months.
Then there is Rush Limbaugh. Articulate without teleprompter.
George Bush advanced degree from Yale. Can barely speak without a teleprompter.
Barry advanced degree from Harvard. Cannot speak without a teleprompter.
The observations of an American engineering graduate who can speak without a teleprompter without no skoolin’ in talkin.
I’m talking to my friends now. I think we stumbled across the problem.
Math is Fucking Hard.
Differential equations make baby Jesus weep and is probably still a requirement for almost any engineering degree.
@Brick Oven Bill: Hey jackass, how ya doin tonight?
Help me count the 3’s the Illini are raining on the Heels!
Amanda in the South Bay
The introductory DiffEq class I took was ridiculously easy-its was just “here is this type of DiffEq, and here’s how to solve it” the end. Just mind numbing algebra. Never will take partial, but I assume all of that is harder. Of course, I took mine at a normal university, not an engineering school, so experiences may vary.
The planet with jobs for engineers. Must be a regional thing.
Sorry, Anne, I just couldn’t resist.
Brick Oven Bill
I love working in a warehouse selling sex toys stuckinred. That Obama recovery summer was really something to behold. So I am doing great.
Not like we should have electrified the railroads, or anything like that.
@Cat: No, it’s a specificity thing.
Amanda in the South Bay
My experience with the non-Indian Asian crowd in CS is, well, based on my little bit of experience in school, most of them just want to figure out how to get As-not that that’s bad, but there’s no real interest in the subject, and I think its the kind of mindset that says “show me how to write a program that does blah blah blah, I’ll do it well, then forget about it” type of mindset. Eh, the wine is kicking in, so I may not be the most coherent here.
@Amanda in the South Bay:
I think it’s a matter of native born American students not getting the preparation (education) in prior schools they attended to be ready for the grueling courses in engineering. At least that’s basically what my relatives who did try engineering told me after they dropped out of the program.
The biggest issue with engineering in this country is the pay isn’t as competitive as with other white color professions, such as IT, so people start as engineers but jump to other professions.
I really don’t know why engineering jobs don’t pay what an SAP consultant can earn, but I don’t know any engineers who can get paid a $100/hr for their work and very few who can pull down six figures.
Anyway, I really don’t know why engineers can’t command the big bucks versus other professions, but until that changes I think fewer people will stick with engineering as a long term career option.
Creative writing vs. engineering: It seems as if the educational system is focusing more on the one-in-a-million chance that someone actually breaks through the creative noise and becomes a multi-millionaire by his writing than on the formation of an educated massive workforce. Once again, it’s more about the top 1% than about the rest.
There needs to be some system of mid-level education, a combined theoretical and practical education that doesn’t force students into debt. Students might be able to pay for their studies by low-level work in their future field of expertise.
Brian S (formerly Incertus)
I’m one of those MFAers, and I’m a teacher at a university–not tenure track, but full-time, with bennies and retirement. I don’t get paid enough, but that’s hardly surprising in academia. I only mention this to point out that I know a little about the subject in general.
And the main point I want to make about the screed that appeared in Slate is that while there are indeed some people paying $80 large to get an MFA, most people aren’t. The vast majority of MFA programs fund all or most of their students if they’re willing to teach a section or two of comp while they’re in classes. I went into debt, but that was because I had a child to raise and I didn’t want to pull a second job, but if it had just been me, I could have lived on the stipend and fellowship money I received.
And the suggestion that the classes don’t do anything to improve the writing of said students is also pretty fucking stupid. Like any university program, the students are going to get out of it what they put in, and sometimes that means the main thing they learn is that they’re not going to be writers. That’s not a bad thing. Of the 20 people in my MFA class, probably half of us are still writing and publishing. Some didn’t finish; some went back to the jobs they had before they decided to give writing a try. I don’t know a one of them that regrets the experience.
What an MFA gives you is time to be an artist and enough competition and criticism to decide if you’re going to be willing to put up with the shit your fellow artists are going to throw at you. The notion that you’re walking into a community of people who want to help you with your work is generally dispelled after the first couple of workshops, and you either get over it or you get out.
Sure smells like Euro in here. ;)
As a foreign born engineer from India who came here to do grad studies and is now well established, I can vouch that Americans are not really getting anything close to what they pay for education/taxes. When I went to grad school here just after coming here, I was shocked to find my American colleagues(all very nice people) to be below average(I still dont understand why they use a calculator for basic things). It was a rare sight if an American passed Phd qualifying exam; by far 80-90% were foreigners.
I dont know why education here is expensive. Our education back home was essentially free and it works. Hard part was getting into school. If we have more Americans graduating with professional degrees the need to hire foreign born engineers will go away.
Few years ago I looked at the list of interns(50+) who were joining our company for summer here(basic requirement: professional degree). The list comprised of all foreign sounding names (american kids of foreign born parents) and there was not a single Smith or AmeriKan sounding name. The cycle is repeating here as well.
My kids are few years away from college and I dont really want them to go here mainly because they will have these loans that they would be paying for life and education is not really upto what I would like. Unfortunately I wont have any choice.
Amanda in the South Bay
I honestly don’t know, its been a while since high school. I think one problem can be that students can get held back on math from quite an early age.
In fucking 6th grade I took a math placement test for junior high, and scored low enough that I ended up taking general math for two years in junior high, without any pre-algebra or regular algebra. Finally took pre-algebra my freshman year of high school, and at that rate, would never have had the ability to have taken calculus at my local high school. Ended up taking pre-calculus at a community college over the summer, and actually aced calculus my senior year-but going by the book, I should’ve never have had that opportunity, because of my wonderful school district growing up fucking me over as early as 6th grade. And yeah, I’ve also taken the usual college level coursework as well-diff eq, vector calc, discrete math, blah de fucking dah.
Its part of my beef with talented student programs-some really smart students mature a bit later, and all too often I think are prematurely (and disastrously) held back at quite early ages.
EDIT: Its obviously a bazillion times easier to get a STEM degree if you’ve taken calculus in high school than if you don’t. I guess that’s my point.
@Amanda in the South Bay: Why were you taking a high level math course at a non-engineering school? For Fun? Crazy talk! :-0
@Brian S (formerly Incertus): Nice
Amanda in the South Bay
Nah, introductory diff eq is pretty much everywhere-regular unis, community colleges, etc. First iteration through college was an econ major with a shit load of math credits. Now working on CS.
Well, I should get hammered both ways in this thread — I work at MIT, where we train a few engineers, I’ve been told, apparantly to no good purpose, and I run a graduate writing program (admittedly, science rather than creative writing, but still).
FWIW, here are some numbers on foreign and domestic students in science and engineering at MIT: In 2010, MIT surveyed its graduating Ph.D students. With an 85% response rate, the sample totaled 468: 250 US citizen, 190 foreign national, and 28 permanent resident. Of those, 394 (84%) indicated that their first job would be in the US — 233 US (94%)/137 foreign (72%)/24 (86%) permanent resident. (The percentages for 2009 were basically similar, though the raw number of doctorates granted was lower.)
(Note, those numbers are for all doctorates granted by MIT, which would mostly fall into STEM fields, but would include some in social science/humanities disciplines like Econ and Philosophy.)
What to make of them: No obvious brain drain, yet; we aren’t producing a lot of research scientists at MIT who are simply planning on heading back to home countries — rather, given that better than 2/3rds (so far) of foreign national grad students stick around for at least a first job, it looks like one of the US hidden advantages over the last few decades remains. We get the benefit of the world’s smart folks working in our research establishment.
The percentage of foreign graduate students is much higher than the percentage of foreign undergraduates at MIT, which doesn’t surprise me much. But even though it is at a much higher level than in past decades, it would be wrong to say that foreign nationals dominate. They are in a minority — a large one, to be sure, but still, a minority.
Beyond that — the data are too coarse and I’m too ignorant to say more.
@Brick Oven Bill:
Y’know, to show John some gratitude for unbanning you, you could at least get some new material.
1) In the post-industrial areas (i.e. Buffalo and Rochester, NY) education is becoming the largest employer in the area. Its ‘big business’ to attract foreign students who pay full tuition.
2) In the same area, we have openings for engineers that we can’t seem to fill. These are entry level in semiconductor manufacturing and test. I’ve interviewed two foreign individuals who both found other jobs.
3) We used to get qualified minorities, two great people during the nineties. Something has changed. Thanks Ron Raygun.
I went to two state schools, have a manageable $25 grand in loans, am a geologist, and work for an engineering firm. I also experienced a cross-section of American and foreign students both as an undergrad, in graduate school, and as a teaching assistant.
Why do all these allegations of cheap smart foreign students wiping out the Americans seem so untrue to me? Most everyone who was there for an education seemed about evenly matched to me (i.e. there was a Bell Curve of quality with regard to both classes). Sure there was probably a larger number of undergraduate American students wasting their time, but one supposes that any foreigner who just went to college to party didn’t have to travel across the ocean to do so.
The only negative charge written above that my experiences support is that elementary education majors are (mostly) really, really, dumb. I taught a geoscience for non-majors class and the elementary education majors couldn’t even do simple arithmetic with fractions.
@ronin122: Businesses have become much more competitive. If Company A is having their CAD work done in Poland for $2/hr, while Company B is having it done in the USA for $10/hr, Company B will not be able to price its services as competitively as Company A and will lose out on business.
Something similar happened in the U.S. auto industry in the early 1980’s, when they started losing market share to the Japanese. The Japanese had already automated their factories with robotics, so they could save costs and build better cars. The U.S. manufacturers had to let go a lot of people in their factories, while putting in automation, in order to compete.
If one business finds a way to cut costs and you don’t match them, you will get screwed. It doesn’t matter whether its now or any other point in history, that’s just the way it is. Right now we just feel the pressure more.
As far as competing with third world labor goes, fuck it. The only reason some high school drop out in India or China has to live in a slum and make $1/hr (if they are lucky) isn’t because they are some how less valuable as humans than the same high school drop out in America. It’s because India and China and most other Third World countries ended up on the losing side of a battle with Europeans in the 19th Century and got royally screwed as a result.
The vast differences in wealth between the First World and Third World, that dominated the 20th Century wasn’t good and produced a very volatile world, from Communist insurgencies / civil wars, to two World Wars.
The best path to peace and prosperity is going to be much of the wealth that was stripped out of the Third World to flow back from First World countries.
The issue facing the USA isn’t whether improving Third World economies are a threat or something to dread, but rather creating a labor policy that will ease this period of a shifting economic landscape for the American workers. So far our government views a serious investment in making things easier for the non-wealthy as class warfare, which must be fought at all costs.
Well, I can directly address the engineering questions.
1) No, foreign governments are to a very large degree *not* funding engineering students, and if they are, they’re doing it to a MUCH smaller degree than the US government is funding domestic engineering students.
H1B is a whole fucking pile of conspiracy theories that I won’t touch, but suffice it to say that bottom line, there are not enough engineers to go around, and yes, H1B engineers will almost all work for less than resident ones, but that’s not the main reason why H1Bs are happening.
I wanted to quote this in order to make this adequately clear.
US universities are fighting two competing trends.
1) In most regards, they would LOVE to fill their ranks with domestic students. Two immediate benefits: 1) they can all work as teaching assistants because they all have adequate english skills. 2) because graduate engineering students should have their tuition paid under a teaching or research assistance, domestic students are MUCH easier to support through grants because at public universities their tuition is MUCH lower.
2) Unfortunately, state budgets being fucked as they are, squeezing dollars out of the state has become much more difficult than squeezing dollars out of NSF and other granting bodies, so public schools are focusing much more of their efforts on non-resident students so that their tuition doesn’t need to come out of state budgets. But in these cases, schools would still prefer out-of-state citizens over international students.
The real problem with domestic engineering students is twofold:
1) The number of students earning BS degrees in engineering is woefully small. Not all universities have engineering programs, and the ones out there tend to be rather selective. Engineering being a professional degree is consistently the hardest or among the hardest degree to earn. As a result only a small percentage of students are willing to put the work in earn the degree.
2) For those that do earn the degree, starting salaries are quite high. At the low end, engineers start in the 40s with benefits. At the high end, 60-ish isn’t uncommon. That’s anywhere from $10K to $60K more than what their non-engineering counterparts are earning. In a climate when students are complaining about the mountain of debt they’re accumulating to earn their french lit degrees, engineers are sitting pretty. $100K in debt is pretty damn easy to pay down when you’re earning $10K or $20K more than your peers. It’s damn near one of the best investments they’ll ever make, but those early salaries are attractive. Making those salaries more attractive, I don’t know of an engineering firm that won’t at least give an engineer leave to earn a MS, MBA, or JD and many will pay for that degree outright.
So right out of the gate, only about 10% of the already small population of domestic engineering students head right off to grad school. Much more come back later for an advanced degree, but almost never a PhD. The bread and butter for most large engineering schools are the professional MS programs that bring in employer supported students for a streamlined degree.
By comparison, almost 50% of PRC students that earn an engineering BS go on to pursue a PhD. The incentives for them are huge. For one, there is a much greater chance they’ll be able to emigrate from China with that degree. No nation is going to turn away PhD engineers – especially ones educated in the US. For those that don’t want to emigrate, returning home with that PhD will lift their family out of poverty forever. It’s the golden ticket in China, and rightfully so.
Bottom line, we’re getting the outcomes that we are rewarding young people for. We’ve been telling teenagers for decades that ‘it doesn’t matter what degree you get, just get a degree’. Quite frankly that’s bullshit. The food service industry is littered with the wreckage of students that got useless BA degrees. And nationally we’re not providing the kinds of support to change the direction of things. Engineering programs are really fucking expensive. There’s just no getting around that, and so it’s the last place that many universities can afford to invest to expand – particularly for public schools that often have enrollment mandates from the state. Industry has done, frankly, a decent job of funneling money and equipment to prop the system up, but it’s slowly failing. Engineering programs have to almost continually retool to address industry advancement, and if we as a nation want to do this on the GOPs budget, we’re going to end up with a shitload of poly sci and lit crit degrees and not many of the ones that directly shove the economy forward.
China is eating us alive at our own hand, out of a failure to invest in our own population.
That doesn’t fit the narrative very well.
Hrm. How to spin it!
An MIT degree is worth going into debt for? MIT because of its name attracts enough outside money they can afford non-paying US students in their graduate programs? They have government grants that require US only students working on their projects so they have to have a good supply?
It would be interesting to see how the US students paid for the MIT degree vs the non-US students.
I think that education in USA a freaking racket. And I find myself agreeing with many of the comments above. But my main beef has been with the relentless irrelevance of our schools.
Example: How many times did you hear a student ask “Why do we have to know this stuff?” and get an utterly bullshit answer like “Because you need to pass this course to get into college” or something equally meaningless.
Think about that–our schools employ teachers who cannot give a good reason for why someone should learn something–even their own speciality.
I am an amateur historian who has been called on over the years to give speeches and guided tours of some of our local artifacts. Because I grew so angry at teachers over my life ducking the “why” question, I address this subject up front.
In case you ever need to answer the “Why do I hafta learn history?” question, here’s what I found has worked.
1) Learning history solves an essential navigation problem. If you don’t have a pretty good understanding of how the world you live in got to be the way it is, you cannot know where you are. And if you don’t know where you are, you have no way of plotting where you can go.
2) Until you have a grasp on your history, there is no way you can think as an adult. Know no history, and you are forced to believe that the world was fully formed at the time of your birth. This is the magical thinking of a child.
damn good mr. jam
Works as long as there are students who hope to land one of those jobs teaching students who hope to land one of those jobs.
In general, there are more engineers who are not in engineering than those who are. Most entry level engineering jobs are crap and they can usually find better work on the business/commercial side where they can often get paid better and have better work conditions.
Most employers claim there is an engineering shortage. Not true, there is a shortage at the price they want to pay. Funny how the free market works. If they paid them better and treated them well, generally, they would not have any trouble attracting talent.
Foreign students do work hard. They have nothing else to do.
Right now I’m a post-bac, which translates to “taking grad courses but not getting a degree out of it”. I’m in no-man’s land. I don’t really try to socialize with my classmates because I won’t be here long (finishing my third and final semester) and I’m not really in the loop anyway. I’m just here to get some grades. I might as well be a dark-skinned guy who speaks no English.
But you know what? My grades are good. Better than, um, the dark-skinned kids who barely speak English. It wasn’t that way when I got my bachelor’s, partly because I got it at Georgia Tech, partly because I had a job and a girlfriend and stuff. Now I study all day until I know every damn thing in the textbook, and do every homework problem again and again. Why not?
It is depressing to live this way, and I do mean that in a clinical sense, but I’m doing what I have to. I certainly never felt this sense of urgency in college, and I ascribed the success of my Indian classmates to some genetic predisposition to studying. That might still be the case, but anyone can study if properly motivated, e.g. “if I get a B on this test then I get a B in this class and there is no way I am getting into med school” or “if my GPA gets below such-and-such my government scholarship gets cut off”.
Incidentally, the latter applies to a great many American students, although states are cutting back on scholarships in our Age of Austerity.
Interesting. I just finished my MArch, and I took some extra classes with some graduate engineering, business, and sustainability students. We had an incident on a group project with a graduate engineering student from India; one of the other members of the group caught him quoting sources without attribution and accused him of plagiarism. It turned out that the Indian student wasn’t intentionally plagiarizing, but had never written an essay before, never mind something approximating the 30-page research project we were doing, and didn’t know how to properly quote, cite, or footnote. I discussed this incident with a few of my fellow students who were foreign nationals, and every one of them said that they never had to write anything or take any sort of humanities course at any point in their collegiate careers since they were engineering and architecture students. So it’s very clear that the kind of education we get here is quite different in its scope and concentration than in other countries.
I got an MFA almost two decades ago at the American Film Institute. At least there was a glimmer of hope that there was a professional opportunity afterwards, and several of my classmates DID go on to impressive things, especially Darren Aronofsky.
I eventually wound up teaching history. I earnestly wish I had gotten an MA in history or even an MEd, just because I and everyone else knows my degree is a joke.
I mean my thesis was a comedy about modern day pirates…
Still, I have a “master’s degree” which allows me to wear slightly cooler regalia at graduation ceremonies.
I concur with Martin, above. Having taught a few semesters’ worth of both Tech Writing for Engineers and Creative Writing at, er, Best Western Preserve U, I can tell you that the Engr peeps are told early on they’ll do fine, just fine, thank you – and that the prevailing winds headed towards entrepreneurship and start-ups. Which seemed slightly contradictory to me. Still, having them come back from coops with Boeing left me emasculated enough that it wouldn’t matter what I thought.
CW, though, hahaha. Whenever I get a Prof. Writing student at my current gig asking to switch to Creative Writing, I always have to ask what, exactly, they think they’ll be doing differently.
@Tom Levenson: I’m actually quite familiar with this data nationally. At the undergraduate level, foreign nationals account for a very small percentage of engineering students in US schools – well under 10%. The privates bring in some numbers, but the publics bring in almost none – and the publics have most of the engineering seats out there. Most 3rd rate engineering schools have more undergraduate students than MIT/Caltech/Stanford/USC/etc do. Bottom line, with the exception of a few elite schools like MIT, undergraduate engineering programs in the US are relatively weak. They’re seriously underfunded and most entering students are much less prepared in math and science than their international counterparts.
At the PhD level, your domestic/international breakdown is pretty much the norm. I mean, one of the best metrics of how many US students earn PhDs is by looking at the faculty ranks. Far fewer than half of the MIT engineering faculty are US born. That’s pretty normal nationally. That tells you something.
My daughter got her BA in Journalism last May and is currently working towards a MA in Journalism. She works as a TA, which covers her tuition and a small stipend. We are helping her by paying her rent and medical insurance, but she also works as an Account Executive with the school newspaper to earn money to cover her other needs. She will graduate with absolutely zero in student loan debt.
While skeptical of the benefit of a Masters in Journalism, her Dad and I were in agreement that, with the job market sucking as hard as it does, hiding out in grad school for a couple of years was probably a good idea. In hindsight, it was a good decision. Almost none of the friends she graduated with have been able to secure decent employment. Most are now looking at post-grad programs to go into next year.
I just hope that she is able to get a job once she finishes school.
American grad schools in math, science, etc. don’t take many Americans, not for money reasons, but because most Americans are really terrible at math. Most undergrads I teach barely understand fractions (and many don’t understand them at all). FRACTIONS! If you let them into grad school and all of a sudden have a professor rambling on about Hessian matrices and eigenvalues, they’re going to fail. Most Americans think that calculus is “advanced math” when its actually quite simple (and something my Korean friend had mastered by age 13) and have no idea whatsoever what something like real and complex analysis, linear algebra, or vector calculus entails, when those are pretty basic prerequisites for many math/science fields.
Just look at the TIMMS data. The US lags. And, that data doesn’t even include India or China.
Most Americans have NO IDEA what the following even means and you wonder why we suck at engineering?
@techno: Excellent point. Someone is lucky to have you as an instructor. As an engineer, I would rather hire a humanities major and train them in the technical requirements. Most of the humanities teach people how to think. I know a lot of socially dysfunctional people with physics and engineering PhDs.
@Cat: At the graduate level, virtually nobody at MIT should be paying for the degree (domestic or international). They should ALL be on grants/fellowships. They certainly bring in enough grant money annually to cover all of their graduate student tuition.
Doesn’t matter whether your science/engineering degree gets paid for by the government. If you get a science/engineering degree today and you’re an American, you’re stupid.
Because your job will be offshored. To a Chinese or Indian or Taiwanese PhD who is delighted to work for $5 an hour…since $5 an hour is a fortune where they live.
You people really, seriously don’t get it. High-skill high-pay knowledge work is being offshored. Every highly-educated expert American engineer or programmer or molecular biologist or roboticist or material scientist or physical chemist or biochemist or device physicist is in the crosshairs. Companies large and small are firing these super-high-skilled American scientists/engineers and hiring their counterparts in Asia or India as fast as they possibly can.
Source: Newsweek international edition, “The Big Squeeze,” May 30, 2005.
And it’s not just giant companies that are firing the American engineers and programmers. Take a look on ebay: do a search for “printed circuit fab” and “circuit design.” You’ll find hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of tiny fab works in coastal China that will design your circuit for you, turn out prototype printed circuit boards, and then assemble and wave-solder the printed circuit board for you…and all at a tenth the price of any American PC fab. They’ll turn out the product in quantities as low as 3 or 4 units for $30 or $40. Just try getting a quote on printed circuit boards from an American company and see what the starting price and starting quantity is. Thousands of dollars, 1000 units minimum. American PCB fab houses just can’t compete with their Chinese counterparts.
Price a USB mouse on ebay. American-made: $10, plus $5 shipping. Chinese-made, direct from the factory in Guangdong, $2.45…qty 1, including shipping.
How can Americans compete with that?
How can anyone compete with that?
The only viable jobs left in America are gruntwork service jobs like emptying bedpans for people with Alzheimers or cleaning rich peoples’ houses or xerox clerk or dog groomer, and high-end had-to-go-to-Yale-and-have-a-rich-roommate-who-was-the-CEO’s-son-to-get-the-job corporate lawyer or Washington lobbyist or foreign policy thinktank wonk.
Don’t believe me?
Think I’m exaggerating?
Read Don’t Become A Scientist by Jonathan Katz, professor of physics.
Oh, but that Katz guy was a loser, right? Wrong. He graduated at age 19. Got his PhD at age 22. This guy is as smart as they come. He was a prodigy. He was stone-cold brilliant. And he got fucked.
Did you graduate from MIT at age 19? Did you get a PhD from Caltech at age 22? No? Then what makes you think you’ll wind up any better off than Jonathan Katz?
[Katz, Jonathan, “Don’t Become A Scientist!” op. cit.]
Or take a look at the article “Do We Need More Scientists?”
Source: ‘Do we need more scientists?’ Michael S. Teitelbaum, The National Interest, Fall 2003.
Or peruse the article “The Real Science Crisis: Bleak Prospects For Young Researchers,” Chronicle of Higher Education, Richard Monastersky, 21 September 2007.
Or take a look at “Having Hollowed Out IT in the US, Indian Outsourcers Complain Re Difficulty of Finding US Staff,” from nakedcapitalism.com: original source, The Financial Times of London.
Which is where we’re at right here, right now, in America.
Here’s Robert X. Cringley on how corporations are shedding older experienced tech workers and transferring their knowledge to younger foreign tech workers offshore:
Source: “Logan’s Run,” I, Cringley website, September 2009.
Fact: only 9.4% of the adult American population has an advanced degree (masters or better) or a professional degree (doctor, lawyer, CPA).
Fact: only 27% of the adult American population has a four-year college degree.
Fact: most Americans are not suited by training or temperament to get a college degree. Read “In the Basement of the Ivory Tower,” June 2008, Atlantic magazine.
The two nostrums confected by pseudoscholars when faced with the wholesale collapse of the American economic system (which is presently offshoring all the American high-pay low-skill manufacturing jobs and all the American high-pay high-skill knowledge work jobs until our tax base hollows out and our society disintegrates) are: “retraining” and “more education.”
As the above stats show, more education is useless. PhDs like WyldPirate can’t find work already. What’s he supposed to do — get an MBA? Then he’ll be even more overqualified and even more unemployable.
As for retraining–let’s think about that for a second. The big job categories in the coming decade are: security guard, elder nursing home caretaker, prison guard. If you have a masters degree in history, are you really going to be able to spend the rest of your life emptying bedpans at a nursing home? If you have a physics PhD, do you really think you’re going to cut it as a prison guard? If you graduated from an MFA program with a writing degree in contemporary literature, do you actually think you’re going to be able to fit in as a security guard in a mall dealing with rowdy Latino gangbangers?
So the standard answers, “retraining” and “more education,” are horseshit.
So what’s the answer?
The answer is global wage arbitrage. Wages in America for all but the elite had-to-go-to-Yale-and-room-with-a-senator’s-son-to-get-the-job professions are going to drop until they become competitive with the wages for workers in Mumbai: namely, fifty cents an hour.
And to survive on a wage of fifty cents an hour, the bottom 95% of American workers are going to have to live like workers in Mumbai — in huts with dirt floors and no running water and no toilets.
Welcome to the globalized economy, chumps. America is over. Capitalism is broken, and all the king’s horses and all the king’s men can’t put it back together again.
Interesting old link….
STEM Defection Seen to Occur After High School
The Best and Brightest stopped going into the “sciences”.
Well, that’s bullshit. Foreign students work hard because they know what the alternative is. American students have an ever-rosy disposition that no matter how hard they party, they’ll land on their feet once they earn that degree. They’ve been lied to that the hard part is getting into college, and it’s all downhill from there. Getting in is easy. Doing well enough to earn that job over the students studying 40hrs/week is what’s hard.
Yes, that’s true. They are far more focused, and the cheating/plagiarism problem is extremely widespread among foreign students, in part because they haven’t been exposed to proper respect for IP, but also because the stakes for them have been higher. China and India are far more cutthroat for limited seats in top technical schools, and the consequence of failure is much higher.
I don’t know the guy personally, but that describes the people I know who get canned in short order because they can’t interact with other people in any kind of positive way. They’re god’s gift to science, they expect that they can do whatever they want to, and will not participate in any project that requires them to interact with other humans. I had one of those a year ago and wanted to throttle him every day.
So take what he says with a grain of salt.
I had an argument the other day with a dude who was, like, 34 years old and bitching about not needing to know history because it “didn’t matter.” As a history minor while an undergrad, I naturally resented it and bitched at him for about half an hour to relate, essentially, what you put into two bullet points.
Brian S (formerly Incertus)
My foreign students seem to spend about the same amount of time partying as my native-born ones do. The reason that my foreign students tend to get better grades than the average isn’t because they work harder but because they were top tier students in their home countries, good enough that they can come to another country, pick up a new language, and excel in it. It’s a case of elite or near-elite students from elsewhere competing with average US students, nothing more.
Excellent. You think the guy is hard to get along with, therefore American universities don’t train twice as many science PhDs as there are jobs for.
This kind of scrambled thinking and garbled logic (“start with the desired conclusion and ignore or distort the facts until you reach it”) proves popular in America with global warming, Peak Oil, our failed lost wars overseas, our broken health care system, our collapsing political system…so why should we expect anything else on this forum?
Start with the desired conclusion. Ignore or distort the facts until you arrive at that logical endpoint. Obama’s presidency has failed because he refuses to reach out to the Republicans. Cutting taxes for the rich will kick-start the economy because it will reduce government revenues. If someone is homeless, it’s because he wants to be. Forest fires have caused more pollution than all the smokestacks in America. The Russian language has no word for “freedom.” We don’t need to conserve natural resources like our forests or our oceans, because God will return in the Second Coming before the last tuna gets fished from the seas and the last redwood gets chopped down for kindling.
Great points. I’d add a third bullet point:
3) Knowing history lets you see warning signs that you wouldn’t otherwise recognize. History doesn’t repeat, but it does tend to rhyme.
Vietnam 1965? Afghanistan 2002? Ring a bell?
How about economists argue for paying off the WW I debt in America circa 1930 vs economists argue for austerity to reduce the deficit circa 2010?
Getting a clue now, are we?
@mclaren: You seem to have absolutely no idea that science and engineering are different disciplines.
There are 854 MFA programs in this country because MFA programs are cash cows for universities. There are thousands, if not millions, of Americans who think they can write creatively, some of whom don’t actually read books or know anything about literature at all. Many of these people will pay a lot of money to get MFA degrees from no-name schools, and some of them might even get published in journals nobody will ever read.
I got my Master’s in Computer Science about a year and a half ago. (Of course, it made fiscal sense for me to get it. Not only did my company PAY for it — everything but fees, so I was out a grand a year. Total — but they also gave me 10k in stock as a graduation award. It would have been dumb not to get it.).
The school I went to is fully accreditted, but not exactly big name — it’s a satellite of University of Houston, and I picked it because…accreddited, close to work (very close), and chock-full of people involved in my field (NASA, NASA contractors, etc).
But mostly because it was close and fully accreditted.
Anyways, I’d say a goot 70% of the master’s class was foreign students. Minimum.
My anecdotal take was that they were workmanlike, but..uninspired, for lack of a better term. They seemed, in all honesty, more focused on memorization and repitition than deep understanding. I worked with several on a number of projects, and while they had an excellent work ethic, their understanding of the subject matter always seemed shallow. Good enough for tests, but their ability to synthesize and extend was sharply limited.
That could be experience bias — they were all in their 20s, and I’m 35 and did mine after 10 years working as a programmer for a living.
Nonetheless, I’d chalk them up as effective technicians if working from detailed requirements. Few, if any, could have handled an agile development environment.
There was very much a ‘this is the example I have, this is the way to do it’ mindset. *shrug*. Probably one reason I had slightly lower marks on average (only a 3.25 — but heck, I worked full-time and advanced DB really kicked my butt), but had much higher marks on projects.
I had a much easier time piecing multiple ideas together, whereas they tended to be a bit myopic, focusing on the last taught technique.
Ironically, almost all of them went for capstone projects — and I did a thesis.
Brian S (formerly Incertus)
I’m going to repeat this a bajillion times if I have to. Most MFA students don’t pay for their degrees. They’re covered by stipends and fellowships and assistantships the vast majority of the time. Whether they’re getting a good deal for the amount of work they’re providing for a university is a matter for legitimate debate, but the suggestion that most MFA students are paying a lot of money for their degrees is grade-A bullshit.
@Brian S (formerly Incertus):
In my undergrad days, I had designs on being a writer, and as such, I wound up hanging out with the MFA students my junior and senior years, mostly through working as an editor on the school’s journal of fiction and poetry. Every one of those MFA students was covered by a stipend, did work teaching English 101, or otherwise defrayed the cost of the degree; none of them paid out of pocket.
As I neared graduation, I started asking the MFAers for advice about pursuing an MFA. All of them suggested taking some time between graduation and grad school to gain some experience, to work on writing, etc. They all pointed out that the MFA program is pretty intensive, and if you aren’t prepared to spend a couple years of your life focusing on writing and little else, then you shouldn’t pursue an MFA. That turned out to be great advice. I never did pursue an MFA, and I think that was the right choice for me. But I reject the argument that the degree itself is of little value.
Interesting subject. My son is an EE student at University of Buffalo in his freshman year. Now, we never looked at non-state schools for engineering, so I can’t really compare, but UB graduates a lot of engineers who work in regional businesses. When we toured the Engineering Dept., we got to see some of the ongoing alternate energy research projects. The student guides were a mix of guys and girls, US students and international. The price is reasonable, and the faculty we saw were interesting speakers. So far, so good.
Our daughter is getting her BFA this Spring but ambivalent about pursuing an MFA. I was an Art major too, a billion years ago, and had wanted to get my masters, but never went back to school. An article in Art in America last year posed the question to working artists and teaching professionals: do artists need a Ph.D? Because one is being offered out there somewhere.
My son has a Vietnamese classmate who is working his way through school. He’s a great student; he has “photographic memory” which is a big help. He tells my son that education in Viet Nam is based on heavy memorization. While he sees the benefits of committing so much to memory, he thinks the education he has in the US offers more opportunity for innovation, and he prefers learning here.
Really, who knows what careers to promote these days? Nursing is good, but it can be as tough as any manual labor work at times. The trades aren’t yet outsourced, but in some areas there is no work. I’d say it’s time for a new WPA but the chances of that happening are about as great as Republicans agreeing to raising taxes on the upper 2% and treating cap gains as regular income, right?
I have a MFA from a big name NYC art skool, received in the early 2000s, and where I met my wife, a furriner. She clued me onto the reason why there were so many foreign students, including many who’s skills were not up to the level; it was the fact that these students all paid (from the university’s standpoint) in cash, up front.
Contrast that with me, the midwestern shlub, who got a piddly scholarship, but ended up on the financial aid hook. If anything, the higher education loan scam is like the mortgage scam, but the amount is so much lower, that its easier to keep the bleeding going without the patient going dry.
I had to declare bankruptcy soon after graduation (it was post 9/11, which dropped the NYC economy in the shitter). Guess which loan was ‘special’ and wasn’t included at all? Yup, student loans.
Now, i’m in San Francisco, looking for work again after being downsized, and guess what? A BFA is all anybody wants, so I have a ‘special’ resume that lists my MFA as a BFA.
I highly value my education, but yet, I think the system around it is closer to a Wall Street scam than anything.
You know, calling H1B engineers “indentured servants” is not really nice. I was a H1B engineer in the US between 2000 and 2005. Let me list out my payscale, so that this stupid argument stops.
2000-2001 – $65,000
2002 – 2003 – $72,000
2003-2005 – $85,000 + bonus
2005 to return – as an independent consultant – $96,000
In between I switched jobs 2 times.
If the above is the definition of being an indentured servant, I don’t think you understand what that word means.
By the way, I am in India now, working from home, with IT companies in the USA. I don’t need your damn visa, and I still make more than a $100,000 an year.
Go “indentured servants”!!!
Excellent third bullet point.
I used to have four of them but I cut them down–I am trying come to the point more quickly in my old age.
I really doubt that you read this, mclaren, but i just wanted to let you know that Jonathan Katz absolutely nailed all of the reasons why it’s not worth the effort to get a PhD in the sciences; particularly the biological sciences like I did.
I started my PhD at 33, so that was a handicap in many ways as I had a life going on at the time and ended up much like the student that “had a wife” that got sick and tired of husband being expected to work 16 hours a day for years on end (stuck with me through most of the postdoc though). I bailed after one postdoc and took a non-tenure track position teaching. That lasted until last year when the “big crunch” hit my state. The funded us adjuncts on unfilled tenure-track slots and were threatened with losing them if they weren’t filled. Four of us were dumped. I had the least time in the position. one guy had 17 years in and he got canned.
Competition is brutal out there for the biological sciences. The pharmaceutical industry has shed jobs through mergers, recession and offshored R&D like mad in recent years. Companies that are hiring can–and have for years–practically been able to custom write–and get applicants with the exact skill set and expertise that they want. Funding levels from the both NSF and NIH have been shrinking for a number of years and the cutoff scores/success rate for funding have gotten ridiculous. I know labs and colleagues that were funded for years that have lost funding/students and have shrunk to barely functioning. It’s an epidemic of malaise. I wouldn’t suggest anyone go through it unless they were just aching to learn for the learning sake and loved the research part. Much better to go do an MD than the PhD. The sick fuckers aren’t going to get offshored.
As for the quality of the foreign students vs American at the PhD level, I noticed very little difference in the quality of the students as both a grad student and a postdoc levels. Maybe the only difference being that the foreign students, particularly the Asian students, spent more time in the lab overall. The American students absolutely smoked the foreign students in communication abilities as they well should have. Hell, many of the foreign born grad students, postdocs and faculty of Indian or Asian descent have such poor language skills that they are barely functional, although there are some surprises here and there.
@Ramiah Ariya: Breaking another lance in favor of H1B folks, of which I was one for a little over four years (I’m green-carded now).
MsC in computer science, started at 50k, over 90k more. Probably could get more elsewhere since this is Government Contractor land and I’m not a citizen so for a better job I’d need to move, but I’d rather build my experience a little more and wait for my wife to get her PhD in Art History so she can become the most overqualified barista EVER.
Spoken like an ignorant kook. Go argue with Ludwig Plutonium on usenet, you clueless crank.
Felanius Kootea (formerly Salt and freshly ground black people)
@Cat: Since he was talking about PhD’s, I’ll bet the number (domestic or foreign) that paid for engineering/science PhDs was zero. At least that was the case at my institution – it was not uncommon for history or literature PhDs to emerge with near-six figure debt, while engineering or computer science PhDs had none. If there was no money for you, you simply didn’t get admitted into the PhD program, period. NSF, DARPA and other grants plus research assistantships supported most. My department made being a teaching assistant (unpaid) a compulsory part of getting a PhD. That would not fly in a history or literature department where teaching assistantships were one way to pay your way through grad school/reduce debt.
We give people second, third, fourth, fifth, etc. chances to go back to school and better themselves. This is the biggest reason American schools will never compete well with other countries.
In most country, Europe included, if you don’t go to college right after high school, you will never be able to attend college.
The sense of doom other nationalities have at 17 yrs old about not getting into college doesn’t exist here. An unmotivated 17 yr old here can always work or hang out or whatever for a couple of years, go to a community college and then go to a four year college and presto chango they are a college graduate.
If you really want American school kids to compete with international students in any subject, we have to eliminate giving people the chance to go to college at a later date in their lives, so our kids will be forced to become more focused like their international counterparts.
please support a fellow bj commenter and check out my article on the mfa/frey flap at Huffpo:
Here’s a longish excerpt that addresses the creative/commercial divide Anne Laurie mentions:
I also recommend self-publishing as a way to reclaim power in an essentially decadent publishing industry.
Thank you for the compliment. You MIGHT be overestimating the value of the humanities major but yes, that is what those disciplines are for–to provide context for whatever else we are supposed to know.
Thank you for this story. Yes, I have been frustrated by folks who think that learning history is optional. And considering the goofy stuff they teach in most schools, you can hardly blame them.
However, I have noticed that there are very few folks who even try to argue with my “bullet points.” Because its true–historical illiterates really are lost in the night.
I didn’t read the Slate article you mention but I have read
Mark Slouka’s most excellent article in the September 2009 issue of Harper’s about education: “Dehumanized: When Math & Science Rule The School.” It really was a very good look at this topic. I think Harper’s is subscription only but I excerpted some interesting bits in my blog post about it, “The Business of Dehumanization.” My post was mostly about healthcare, so scroll down to the end for the part about education.
Slouka’s point was that by focusing all of arguments about education in economic terms, and valuing things like math and science education (or engineering) at the expense of the humanities (or creative writing) we are creating a society of good worker bees, perhaps, but not good citizens.
What do you DO with an MFA in Creative Writing? Well, for one thing you can teach our young people how to challenge the status quo through the radical act of the creative arts. One doesn’t necessarily need an MFA in Creative Writing to become a literary rabble rouser (God I hope not because I don’t have that precious piece of paper) though I daresay it helps to be so credentialed when trying to bring your work to the world’s attention.
Anyway, I urge everyone who can to read Slouka’s article.
Pretty much what Martin sez.
I’ll add a little bit about the job market for infrastructure-related engineering. The field is predominantly civil engineering and very little of the work can be outsourced. Hard to outsource a licensed surveyor going to the site or on-site resident engineer during construction. Bridge and highway design codes vary state to state and all the work needs to be signed by a professional engineer licensed in the state. Some states even require that the design work be done by a percentage of personnell domiciled in the state.
Foreign nationals working at some firms might make less than comparably experienced US citizens, but there tend not to be a lot of them. As Martin said, most of the foreign nationals go on to get PhD’s while most Americans only get a BS. The infrastructure industry is dominated by US professional engineers.
The employment issue for our industry is that the states are cutting back on infrastructure spending. The stimulus was nice, but as Krugman and others have argued, it was way too little and spread out over way too short of a time.
Even here in South Carolina, most firms are doing okay despite the inadequate state spending. I went from a small office of multi-national firm (where there was never any talk of sending work overseas) to the HQ of a medium-sized regional firm who was then taken over by a large national firm. All three firms have open positions.
New CE grads should be able to find work in infrastructure engineering companies. It isn’t the happy hunting grounds of five to ten years ago, but there are lots of well-paying jobs out there.
Also, irt education, most engineering cirrcumlums require a decent amount of courses in the humanities. However, it is difficult to require too much. A typical engineering BS degree is 135 credit hours vs 120 for the typical arts, business or physical science degree.
@Brian S (formerly Incertus): Either the university gets cheap labor from MFA students, or they pay tuition. Far more MFA students pay tuition than you’re apparently willing to admit. I can tell you as a university professor that the number one response of any English department to a request for more revenue is to start an MFA program.
If one were sending a post to a blog that bemoans some US educational problems relating to scam degrees and the impoverishment of many degree aspirants, wouldn’t that posting be run through a spell checker ?? Ya no – just ta sho we is edukated?
They give advanced degrees in fiction for economics, physics, history, sociology, psychology, geology, anthropology,political science*… Why not for writing, as pathetic as it may be.
* I can’t even type ‘political science’ without cracking a smile.