Recently I read an article by Owen Ross in The Irish Times entitled "We should cut college fees for courses linked to skills shortages". Ross, who is is Head of Department of Business and Management at Athlone Institute of Technology, speaks a lot of sense when he writes that there should be financial "incentives for school leavers to undertake designated programmes". He suggests that programmes associated with "skills shortages might cost €2,750 per year", while other programmes associated without skills shortages "could cost €3,250". However, this is only a €500 difference and may not be enough to entice many students to choose differently. In another suggestion he writes that "graduates who enrol on designated third-level programmes in disciplines with skills shortages" should get tax credits in the years after graduation. What ever about the merits of Ross's suggestions, at least he is innovative (in an Irish context) in his suggestions and is certainly not burying his head in the sand like a lot of policy makers in third level education.
|Image source: Times Higher Education.
My one major reservation, which Ross alludes to himself, is that students could be being incentivised to sign up for courses like Computer Science and Engineering that they are completely unsuited to. Drop out rates are higher in these disciplines than others, and every year I see students coming to College and dropping out. While the reasons for doing so are varied, often students who are not suited to a particular course just simply don't like it either. It is so difficult to decide what you want to do after fours years in College - at the pace the world is changing it will be a completely different place after graduation.
When I meet prospective students who visit the College to see what it is like and to find out about courses, my only advice to them is to choose what they are good at and what they like/love. This to me is the primary consideration when choosing what to study in College. Secondary considerations such as location, where your mates are going, where your parents went, cost (important yes - but still secondary to me), salary after graduation, prestige, or the incentives mentioned by Owen Ross, should not be the main reason for choosing a third level course. So if you want to study Ancient Greek, Welsh Civilization, or flower arranging - do it. Who knows - you might still end up working for a multinational in an IT role, but you have done what you wanted to do first.