The evening before Governor Scott’s “Jobs to Degrees Summit” began in Orlando, the Charles Koch Institute hosted a panel discussion titled “A More Competitive Florida: How to Grow the Economy”. One of the panelists was an FSU colleague of mine from the Department of Economics, Dr. Shawn Kantor. I have not met Dr. Kantor, and it’s unlikely that I ever will. But what intrigued me about Dr. Kantor was his title, “L. Charles Hilton Jr. Distinguished Professor of Economic Prosperity and Individual Opportunity.”
Dr. Kantor’s serious-sounding title prompted me to start thinking about where on the FSU campus we actually produce “Economic Prosperity and Individual Opportunity”. Is it in the Economics Department? Or elsewhere?
Let’s take a look at the data on this from the Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce – the top 25 college majors for salary (the bar on the far right is the average salary for all majors):
Seventeen of the top 25 majors have the word “engineering” in them. Physics is ranked 15th. Computer science is 11th. Others among the top 25 are applied math, statistics, management information systems and pharmacy. And there are two flavors of economics hanging on at rankings of 24th and 25th – sort of like the FSU football team did during the Lost Decade. Good for Dr. Kantor – he is an educator in a field that actually gives students a reasonably good chance for economic prosperity and individual opportunity.
But for really producing economic prosperity and individual opportunity, you can’t beat the mathematical sciences and engineering. So here is a proposal: Let’s take the FSU majors ranked in the top 23 (sorry, Dr. Kantor) and form a new college – the FSU College of Economic Prosperity and Individual Opportunity.
When I bounced this idea off of a colleague yesterday, he immediately expressed concerns about increased administration and related hassles in a new college. Somehow his famous sense of humor got lost in the discussion. And maybe all this discussion proves is that there is a fine line between vision and hallucination.
But what I hope that the participants in Governor Scott’s summit understand (and despair that they don’t) is that the most important thing we can do to have A More Competitive Florida is to provide access to the most lucrative careers for many more of the state’s students. The colleges and universities can play a role in this, but we can’t do it alone – this would involve all levels of education from pre-K on, as well as a business community that understands that it would be wise to make new investments in such a project. Just forming a College of Economic Prosperity and Individual Opportunity will not do it.