STEM: Competent People Reply

Lets Help Our STEM Students While They're Still Students

By Tony Verheggen

I read with interest your commentary on the "League of Competent People" [Apr. '12, p. 9]. It dawned on me that one way to increase the science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) students in North America is by helping them when they're still students. Right now, universities, banks, and government and alumni are the primary source of student financial aid. But, the bill of goods they've sold to students is that they'll be able to pay back their student loans when they go to work. Without jobs to go to, there will be no way they can pay them back.

We've created another debt bubble that will burst in the future. What will that do for increasing STEM students? We have to think out of the box here. What if industry sponsored student loans and scholarships in the STEM area and then, like ROTC, promised a job upon graduation in return for a minimum number of years' commitment by the student to that job. Industry gets more STEM qualified graduates, and students get a promise of employment upon graduation along with the ability to pay their debt. You get what you reward and provide incentives for. (The above is my private opinion and not necessarily that of my employer.)

Tony Verheggen
Air Products and Chemicals