Should We Pay Students to Become Engineers?

Posted by Nikhil Swaminathan

nullIn this weekend's New York Times Week in Review, several prominent political players offered advice for how President Obama could improve his approval ratings, which have fallen to roughly 40 percent.

Whereas most of the respondents discussed addressing the unemployment rate and making the average American feel as though the economy is turning around, former California Governor Gray Davis zeroed in on the topic of innovation and applied science.

In addition to setting up so-called "public-private partnerships" between universities and companies to foster job growth and create all manner of new technologies, Davis also offers an idea for getting more young talent into the arena:

As President Eisenhower, after Sputnik, rallied a generation of young people to become engineers and paid for their education, President Obama should challenge our youth to study math, engineering and science, forgiving all the student debt for those who do so. America’s prosperity and innovation depend on the next generation. By rewarding rigorous study and investing in our youth, President Obama could reignite America’s spirit of leadership.

The Obama administration has made no secret that it wants to get more people into the talent pipeline for science and engineering jobs via its STEM program. Could this monetary incentive, as proposed by Davis, help put the effort over the top? And is it fair to students who choose to study other disciplines?

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