College Education And Wages In Portland!

I was in a meeting today with other Faculty when I heard about an article written by Betsy Hammond in the Oregonian. The article starts, “The Portland metro area’s young college-education white men are slackers when it comes to logging hours on the job, and that’s one reason people here collectively earn $2.8 billion less a year than the national average.” Hammond’s article discusses conclusions resulting from a new study released today by local business groups, as it seeks to explain why Portland’s per-capita income has fallen 5% below the national average.

It appears that Portland has a high-share of humanities majors, and “a notable lack of business majors.” This, according to the study, leads Portlanders to pursue lower paying careers than business. The article then quotes Scott Dawson, dean of the business school of Portland State University, “major in accounting and finance and you’re almost sure to find high-paying job.” He also states that “Portlanders are not thinking of IPOs and making millions of dollars. They want to aim their business mind-set at social problems.”

This article attempts to paint a negative picture of liberal arts education. “I’m not going to say that liberal arts majors are bad, all college education is really, really, good.” It finishes with the comment, “we’ve got to get more strategic to get more people with finance, management, science, technology, engineering, and math.”

On the contrary, combining liberal arts with business is the best of both worlds. What are the biggest complaints of employers when discussing college graduates? Usually their complaints are around the topics of writing and critical thinking. What are the main reasons for a liberal arts education? Critical thinking, writing, philosophy, and science are all academic endeavors that help prepare students for future careers, especially business.

A society is made up of many different types of people. Some are business people, some are teachers, others doctors, etc. To say that we need to focus on one group of another misses the point. Diversity is a wonderful thing, leading to a healthy culture.

The referenced article is disturbingly short sighted. There is nothing wrong with wanting to use business skills for the good of humanity. If fact, I think it is the right use of business skills.

And that is my thought for the day!


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