Funding STEM Education: Corporations Give Big Money But Not Ideas

One-quarter of high school students drop out every year. Of the students who do graduate, two-fifths leave underprepared for college or career and fifty-seven percent leave not having mastered remedial math, according to a recent Fast Company article.  These statistics are tragic, but anymore, they aren’t shocking. Today, there is a fight for better institutions, educators, leaders, technology, funding, parents, and students. The article goes on to share some statistics that show why the fight is more important than ever.

According to the National Science Foundation, it’s predicted that 80% of the jobs created over the next decade will demand mastery of technology, math, or science. To put this growth in perspective, consider how technology has taken over in the past 10 years. Have you been to a job interview where your computational skills were below what the position required? Over the past 10 years,  the amount of STEM jobs has grown three times greater than non-STEM jobs…and it’s not stopping.

Making STEM education available to students to prepare them for the jobs of the future is easier said than done. Low-income students in Florida are facing a problem that might never cross the minds of their more affluent peers. The students have personal devices, like smartphones, and the school has provided each student with an e-Reader. The problem is that they can’t afford Internet access to use their devices, according to the recent article “Many Low-Income Students Struggle with Lack of Internet at Home,”

Students in California recently raised money to travel to San Francisco and stand up for their technological rights at the Digital Media and Learning conference. In a Mind/Shift article, Tina Barseghian writes, the students made it clear to their listeners: “We demand access to the same technology that privileged students have in order to survive in the working world, to compete in any meaningful way, and to amplify our voices.”

For many school districts, providing outdated or limited technology is not a choice; it’s a result of not having the funding to improve their programs. For many corporations afraid of an innovation crisis, the outdated STEM education students are getting isn’t going to cut it in when today’s students become tomorrow’s workforce. That’s why corporations like Microsoft, Intel, Cisco, Target, AT&T, and more are making an investment in their future by donating any where between multimillions to billions of dollars to schools.

However, giving school more money still isn’t the whole answer. “There’s this tendency to think that we can throw money at the problem and fix it. That’s simply not true. We need capacity building–companies sharing their unique resources in order to fill critical gaps,” says Sandi Everlove, interim CEO at a STEM nonprofit.

What could schools do to show big corporations the demands they have? What guidance can be given to corporations to ensure this opportunity to fund STEM programs actually helps today’s students?  How can people from various positions come to the table–professors, K-12 administrators, content providers, politicians,business people, not-for-profit leaders and educational visionaries–to chart the course for our most disadvantaged and  least championed students, teachers and parents in our society?  How can we think as differently about education as Steve Jobs did about computing?  How can we impact this urgent matter today?



“How Corporations Are Helping to Solve the Education Crisis,” by Judah Schiller and Christine Arena. 23 March 2012. Fast Company, Accessed on 23 March 2012.

“Many Low-Income Students Struggle with Lack of Internet at Home,” by Walter Pacheco. 18 March 2012. Orlando Sentinel. Accessed on 23 March 2012.

Students Demand the Right to use Technology in Schools,” By Tina Barseghian. 6 March 2012. Mind/Shift. Accessed on 23 March 2012.  

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One Response to “Funding STEM Education: Corporations Give Big Money But Not Ideas”

  1. John Bennett says:

    I’ve got a great idea: Open up the money to broad groups of educators very interested in developing / facilitating new STEM schools OUTSIDE the traditional public / magnet school systems model – a charter school for example. I am part of a very interested and motivated group of educators exploring the viability of just this! While still very much in the exploratory stages, any proposal we agree to submit will involve STEM focus, will probably start in the middle school grades, grow up as enrolled students move up, grow down as we add students – eventually being a full K-12 school. The pedagogy will almost certainly be PBL and student-centered. Also very importantly, we are looking for this to be more than a school – a learning center or campus.

    So these are the ideas of our really motivated group at this early stage; I refuse to believe there are no other study groups out there doing te same thing. Our and I expect all or most other groups are dedicated to seeing if this can done. We are experienced with the components of our vision for the school (really learning center or campus). Obviously, one of the hurdles to reality in this case (and other cases as well) will be money. To help make these plans a reality then, change the requests for proposals to allow groups such as ours to submit proposals. WE DO UNDERSTAND THE TWENTY-FIRST CENTURY APPROACHES NEEDED TO YIELD HIGH SCHOOL GRADUATES PREPARED FOR UNIVERSITY STUDIES AND SUCCESSFUL STEM CAREERS DISCUSSED IN THE POSTING.

    Such opportunities for STEM students will not meet the demands of course but they will help for sure. Equally importantly, the assessment necessary for schools such as ours to know how we are doing in order to refine approaches as appropriate will provide guidance for other efforts to supply increased numbers of adequately prepared college STEM students as well.

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