America has the best colleges and universities in the world, driven by healthy competition between large and small, public and private, and even technical and liberal arts institutions.
What we also have is a struggling economy and high unemployment. So, how can we use our superior higher education system to improve this situation?
One idea is to focus more on smaller, regional universities that use expert teaching of undergraduates to produce technical professionals who are ready to go to work. I use technical in the broadest sense – not just engineers or scientists, but also professionals such as high school teachers, health care support staff, criminal justice professionals and computer specialists.
Such well-trained professionals can help fill gaps in our industrial or infrastructure systems, making us more competitive in the world. As these technical professionals gain experience, they often create successful companies and more jobs.
Finally, by focusing on expert training of work-ready graduates, usually in smaller institutions, we also create new opportunities for professors who primarily want to teach, not conduct research.
Currently, however, most funding goes to large research universities.
The good news is that we have numerous teaching institutions that produce such professionals. They usually dont have doctoral programs, and their professors are primarily teachers, not researchers.
Their products are well-educated graduates who can go immediately into the workplace. And these smaller schools usually produce technical professionals more cost-effectively and in less time than the large research universities.
I am on the board of trustees of one such place, Trine University in Angola (with an extension in Fort Wayne). Trine has produced many practical engineers and other professionals who have found great success in business and other fields.
Alumni include Jerry Allen, who founded Vikimatic, a pioneer in the fiber-optic industry; Ralph Trine, who built an international materials handling company for rail and trucking transport; and Ralph W. Ketner, founder of the Food Lion grocery chain.
Trine students have competed successfully against large, nationally known engineering schools to win top awards in the American Institute of Chemical Engineers national design competition. Trines engineering job placement rate stands at almost 100 percent.
Indiana has other small schools with an outstanding technical focus, including Valparaiso University, University of Evansville and Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology.
We need to provide more moral and monetary support to universities that focus on creating work-ready professionals. Let your governmental officials know whether you agree with this approach to improving our economy and job opportunities. Also, if you have such universities in your area, give them your strong support.