EDITORIAL: USF funding highlights biased mindset towards education

Some professors across campus have been expressing their frustrations in faculty senate over the lack of funding for many departments. They criticize the fact that Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) programs are receiving the majority of the performance-based funding due to the unfair nature of the metrics.

USF received $58,793,869 in such funding allocation for the current school year. However, the majority of that funding was allocated to those departments that contribute the most to the rating system: science, technology, engineering and math.

Other departments see this biased funding as detrimental to the education system because the mindset of colleges is switching from delivering a well-rounded, liberal arts education to shoving students immediately into the workforce. 

This change is largely due to the recession that hit the nation over the past decade. The economy was in a downward spiral and it was necessary to get recent graduates into the mainstream work force as quickly as possible in an attempt to remedy the depression. 

There was a large focus on STEM programs, as they tended to immediately contribute to the workforce. Other degrees began to be judged harshly by society, as many parents began asking their history and English-major children, “Why can’t that be your minor?”

The altered mindset began to trickle into middle schools and high schools, where students were encouraged to take advanced science classes and ditch theater. Career programs allowing students to graduate with certified nursing assistant or certified medical administrative assistant licenses began to creep into high schools. 

Students were taught they had to succeed in a STEM-based career or else they would be utter failures in life.

When it came time to pick a degree in college, students obviously rushed to the science and math programs even though they may have been far more passionate about photography or dance. 

This resulted in an influx of unhappy students who graduated with degrees they didn’t care about. According to a Gallup survey, 55 percent of college graduates are not engaged with their work.

How are those graduates supposed to contribute to the workforce if they truly are indifferent about their careers?

Thankfully, the economy is now on the rise and it is time for the country to decide how it wishes to continue higher education.

If nothing is done to counteract the current mindset, there will continue to be an emphasis on STEM programs. If faculty, students and the general public wish to return to the well-rounded education of the past they need to begin to take a stand on the overall quality.

Many faculty members at USF believe the performance-based funding will help revitalize dwindling departments that are desperate to have extra money. Unfortunately, the limited amount of funding will barely put a dent in the overall success of these programs. 

If professors are truly desperate for support, which many honestly are, they need to appeal to USF for more generous allocation of funds without attacking the performance-based finances. 

USF’s total budget from 2012 to 2013 was $315,061,588. The money is there. Speaking up on how it is utilized is critical to creating a flourishing learning environment.

It’s hard to point fingers at who is to blame for the finance issue when we don’t know how the university is allocating its funds. We know funding is increasing, but we also know there is a high demand for enhancing the STEM programs on campus. 

Student Government is taking a stand on the issue by pushing for transparency in how USF spends its money. Students are beginning to realize the numbers don’t add up. 

When USF commits to three huge building projects — two downtown sites and a giant student living complex — but the theater can’t get funding, there is obviously a problem.

Professors undoubtedly have the right to be mad when they watch millions being poured into the STEM programs while they have to cut courses because there isn’t enough funding for their department. But the issue of unequal allocation of funds doesn’t originate or even mainly derive from the performance-based resources.

Unless professors can find a way to beat the unfair metrics with their anthropology classes, they won’t be receiving the kind of funds STEM receives. No one is arguing that art or philosophy is not important. In fact, those courses often benefit students in a way no science class ever could. 

“These things are so important that if you don’t know about art and music and dance this limits you so much in even what you can relate to people and to be able to talk to people about,” Marilyn Bertch, an instructor in school of theater and dance, said.

However, until society refutes the idea that STEM careers mean prosperity while the others are simply disposable amenities, the trend of an unequal education will only continue to grow.