ASUM reintroduces revised STEM Initiative

The Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) Initiative is an effort by the Associated Students’ to meet increasing demand for STEM graduates, to increase interest in STEM fields among tomorrow’s students, and make an education in these fields more accessible. Specifically, the STEM Initiative will do the following:

  1. Provide Missouri companies with an incentive to provide internships and employment to Missouri’s students and recent graduates.
  2. Provides scholarships to students who enroll in STEM degree programs or are currently studying in a STEM field.
  3. Increases youth experiential programs available to elementary and secondary students, to expose students to STEM fields outside the classroom and stimulate interest.

We believe this is more important than ever. While STEM degree programs often have some of the brightest career outcomes*, they are also often the most costly programs to enroll in (even within a flat tuition model, in which one degree program’s tuition is the same as any others’, supplement fees circumvent this). Sustained decreases in state appropriations to higher education have also forced universities to consider adopting a differential tuition model, in which most expensive degree programs (i.e., STEM programs) cost more than other programs per-credit hour.

Let’s be clear: We don’t fault institutions for considering differential tuition. It is a legitimate and reasonable lever to pull. But we also want to make sure that students who may be priced out of higher cost programs—those who could benefit most from the high placement rates and higher average earnings—continue to have an opportunity to pursue them. In fact, that’s why this year we have added a stipulation that sixty-percent of all funds used through this program go to students demonstrating financial need.

The STEM Initiative is a win-win proposition. It encourages economic mobility, provides businesses with an incentive to invest in today’s and tomorrow’s innovators. It will make Missouri a better place to do business; a better place to work; and a better place to learn.

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The Missouri Science & Technology (MOST) Fellowship takes its cue from the California Council on Science and Technology (CCST) Fellowship, a program which—if implemented elsewhere—would provide two-way benefits for graduate and doctoral students, as well as governmental decision-making. Here in Missouri, the MOST Fellowship would provide opportunities for graduate and doctoral students in the STEM fields to work in Jefferson City and provide sound, objective advice to lawmakers on issues relating to those fields. Having spoken with several lawmakers about this idea prior to adopting it as a platform, we believe this would not only be a needed—but a welcomed—step by many lawmakers who do not feel they have the time or expertise to adequately evaluate every issue.

This year, ASUM’s efforts with respect to the MOST Fellowship will be to shore up legislative support for the idea. This is a largely supplementary role, with other student groups working to secure partners in the private sector who will provide funding for this program. We’re excited to collaborate on this new idea and to contribute to good policymaking.

*Bureau of Labor Statistics: STEM 101: Intro to Tomorrow’s Jobs. Hyperlink.

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