Kentucky colleges should ignore Bevin’s advice


Matt Bevin

Editorial Board

Continuing with his trend of attacks on public education, Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin is encouraging university officials to cut programs that don’t produce money-making graduates. In other wo rds, focus on STEM programs that produce engineers and doctors, and ignore liberal arts majors such as interpretive dance and French literature.

At the Governor’s Conference on Postsecondary Education Trusteeship earlier this month, Bevin said, “Find entire parts of your campus…that don’t need to be there. Either physically as programs, degrees that you’re offering, buildings that…shouldn’t be there because you’re maintaining something that’s not an asset of any value, that’s not helping to produce that 21st century educated workforce.”

The Governor’s remarks are aimed at having postsecondary educators steer their students toward jobs that are more in demand. The problem with this, however, is America’s job market is constantly changing. While there will always be a need for people like doctors and nurses, the countless other jobs Bevin sees as unnecessary could fit a need somewhere in America. Unless he is a psychic who can see the future, it is unrealistic to predict what specifically students should be preparing for the workforce 20-plus years down the road.

An even more important thing to note, is that this attack on liberal arts programs is unjustified because of who it targets. The simple fact is that students who choose to take courses that will graduate them from a major Bevin is not fond of, are paying to go to school just like a STEM program student. If there was not a program for them here, they would go elsewhere and that is a subset of students that universities, such as UK, would lose.

Another of Bevin’s comments suggested Kentucky public universities should be producing large amounts of STEM students.

“I challenge you to say to yourselves, ‘If we’re graduating 250 people out of our engineering school…why is it 250 and not 1,000?’” Bevin said.

This logic is littered with flaw, for one simple reason. If we are using the scale he has presented, the fact is that not 1,000 students want to be engineers. If you take away a dance or art program, those students are not going to magically decide they want to become an engineer. Shifting funding away from certain programs and shuffling them to others does not shuffle the minds of students as well. It simply creates a larger number of would-have-been students who settle for minimum wage positions.

In life, students will find that they have a calling. If that is to be an engineer or save lives, they have every right to follow down a path to make that happen. If they want to be a dancer or study literature, they should have the right to study what they choose, regardless of whether our governor approves.

Bevin, who received his undergraduate degree in East Asian studies, wants to turn Kentucky into an engineering and manufacturing epicenter. This is fine and dandy, until he starts taking aim at cutting programs that also encourage creativity and innovation from students. Public universities should target students with a range of talents and continue to encourage diverse and well-rounded college campuses. There is so much we can learn from one another when we aren’t all robots learning the same curriculum.

One overarching thing, if nothing else, all should take away from Bevin’s actions and remarks regarding public education is that these decisions should be left to the school’s themselves. Keep the governor and his crystal ball out of our classrooms.

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