“ASUM has consistently pushed legislation in the state legislature to make sure students have the opportunity to pursue [STEM] degrees if they so choose.”
ASUM values higher education for a myriad of reasons, but one is undoubtedly a university’s capacity to prepare the future work force with the skills they need to be successful and to meet the ever-changing demands of our society. Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics fields are emblematic of this, and the demand for STEM-educated students is immense (1). That is why ASUM has consistently pushed legislation in the state legislature that aims to make sure students have the opportunity to pursue these degrees if they so choose.
There are a number of components to this. First, students need high-quality science and math teachers in grade school, not only so that they learn the content well but so that they are exposed to the fields in a way that resonates with students. Second, they need quality professors who ensure that future scientists, mathematicians and engineers coming from Missouri public universities are among the finest. Third, some need financial support to make pursuing these rigorous degree programs a possibility. And finally, students should have the opportunity early in life, before college, to engage in experiential programs outside of the classroom to see what STEM fields are really all about.
That is why ASUM lobbied successfully for the creation of the STEM Fund in 2012, which created a place in the state budget for (a) career enhancement programs for elementary and secondary STEM teachers, (b) endowed STEM professorships, (c) scholarships for students seeking a STEM degree at any public university in our state, and (d) experiential youth programs for elementary, middle, and high schoolers.
The problem is that not a single penny has been placed into the fund since its inception. The STEM Fund needs a new initiative to ensure that, from year to year, independent of any one institution, STEM degrees get the attention they deserve. The STEM Initiative, which you can learn about in detail here, would allow businesses to invest in their future workforce without spending another dime. Students win because their horizons expand, businesses win because they have higher-quality workers, and the state wins because Missouri becomes more attractive and economically competitive with surrounding states.