GOP lawmakers: UW should emphasize ‘degrees that pay’Several GOP lawmakers pressed the University of Wisconsin (UW) recently to emphasize degrees that pay as they prepare students for the workforce, but UW leaders say it is important that students have wide array of options.
By: By Shawn Johnson, Wisconsin Public Radio, Superior Telegram
Several GOP lawmakers pressed the University of Wisconsin (UW) recently to emphasize degrees that pay as they prepare students for the workforce, but UW leaders say it is important that students have wide array of options.
During a recent meeting of the legislature's budget committee, several Republicans, including Assembly Finance Committee Co-Chair John Nygren, suggested that the solution to student debt might be steering students into different majors.
“How can we at entrance to a University sit down with a student and say, 'You want to get a philosophy degree? You want to get one of these other degrees? There's not a lot of jobs out there. Here's what your debt's going to look like in four years. You might want to rethink that,” Nygren said.
Ripon Republican Senator Luther Olsen voiced a similar concern.
“I hear people saying, ‘Well you know, I got all this student debt, and I can't pay it off.’ I look at them and say, ‘Well, what kind of degree did you get?” Olsen said.
UW System President Kevin Reilly told lawmakers that guidance counselors do sit down with students to help them weigh the pros and cons of majors. But Reilly said a liberal arts education was important.
“These are things that enrich our lives,” he said. “And we would be poorer, not in dollars and cents necessarily, but poorer in many ways if the university wasn't there to supply some of those interests as well.”
Rebecca Blank, who will likely become UW-Madison’s next chancellor, says she strongly supports the “breadth” of courses at the University.
“I would certainly not want to pick and choose among majors at the University of Wisconsin and say some are better than others,” she said. “I suspect if you look at where students go, you're going to find students from the humanities or the social sciences or the sciences all going to a variety of long-term careers.”
Blank, who is the Acting U.S. Commerce Secretary, said she knows a lot of CEOs who are English and Philosophy majors, saying those degrees teach people how to think critically.