Following is a guest blog from Dr. Lee M. Miringoff and Dr. Barbara L. Carvalho from Marist College. Results of the Marist-IBM study can be found here on ibm.com.
President Obama said this week that education is key to the U.S. regaining its competitiveness. Speaking to the United States Hispanic Chamber of Commerce in Washington D.C., he said that four out of 10 jobs will require at least some advanced education. He also pointed to health care reform and adopting energy efficiency processes as critical to the future of our country.
There are high expectations that the $787 billion stimulus package will provide unique opportunity to invest in new and emerging industries by supporting innovation and moving technology education forward.
In partnership with IBM, the Marist College Institute for Public Opinion is studying how technology should extend horizontally throughout college curriculums to prepare students for the future.
The first part of the research was an online study of 1,613 college enrolled undergraduates nationwide last fall and the results are valuable to inform today’s agenda. Let’s take a look. Nearly three-quarters, 73%, of American college students are inspired by computers and technology. More than seven in ten, 71%, value technology as “the future.” In addition, the students’ welcome mat extends to a view of technology as “necessary,” and “helpful.”
The good news: students are engaged in the technological revolution. There is a foundation to build upon for more advanced applications of technology, but the landscape is a little slippery. More than one-quarter, 27%, overall, and 35% of freshman, considered computers or information technology as a field of study. Some groups, more than others, contemplated becoming an IT major: more men than women (38% vs. 16%), freshman over upperclassmen (35% vs. an average of 24% for others), and self-described “loners” over “achievers” (43% vs. 23%).
Education matters. Part of the difference is explained by the coursework students had when they entered college. 44% of college students who took 3 or more classes in high school considered the IT field as a major compared with 20% of those without any computer coursework.
As for the road ahead, nearly eight in ten students, 79%, think there is an increased need for IT professionals as computers and technologies develop. Other than a general interest in computers and technology, 38% of those who major in IT most commonly identify job opportunities as the primary reason for choosing the field. Others mention an interest in science, an interest in developing new things, or enjoying their computer classes in high school.
But, here’s the pothole. Many students tell us they are drawn to other majors because they don’t see the link between technology and their fields of interest. There’s a real disconnect that must be addressed in paving a cross-curriculum technology future.
The stimulus represents an historic opportunity to be groundbreaking as we dig out of the economic quagmire. There is a bright future on the technological horizon that should not be lost.
Dr. Barbara L. Carvalho, Director, Marist Poll