Now that the U.S. Congress is in session, we are once again seeing a push by the major technology companies to get an expansion to the H-1B visa program. As always, we are hearing the same complaint that America isnt producing enough qualified engineers and computer scientists to fill the needs of major American companies.
In the past I argued that it seemed crazy to say that there arent enough technology workers available, when every one of us knows a few highly skilled technology workers who are either unemployed or underemployed.
But I do agree with the technology companies on one point. America isnt producing enough new qualified technology workers. And the main culprit is our failing higher education system.
I personally know a young man who is currently working toward an accelerated bachelors and masters degree in engineering. An honors student in high school, he is currently in his sophomore year at a state school where he is maintaining grades consistently above a 3.5 average.
So far, so good. Sounds like a perfect future candidate for those desperate tech firms. But this year he seriously considered dropping out of the program and may face a similar decision next year.
Whats the problem? As a middle-class kid living at home with his single mom, he can barely afford to continue at the state college he is attending.
Sure, as an honors student he received a decent number of scholarships. And he gets a good amount of student loans. But the scary thing now is that even at a state school, this young man is facing a bill well over $12,000 per semester. With the scholarships barely making a dent in this bill, by the time he gets his masters he could be facing a student loan debt over $100,000.
This boggles the mind. Twenty years ago I attended a private university for much less than this. And at that time friends of mine attending these same state schools paid very little per semester and left college with almost no student loan debt.
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