What philosophy major kicked Dennis Daugaard's dog? Our governor continues his passive-aggressive media campaign against philosophers and the liberal arts with another "major in what you want, but you'll be sorry" diss to the humanities:

High school graduates in South Dakota looking at $25,000 in debt for a college degree should do the math first, Gov. Dennis Daugaard says.

What is more likely to pay off those loans, the governor asks: A good-paying job in a growing sector of the state economy — such as science, engineering and skilled trades — or a degree in philosophy?

“I’m not trying to tell people what to do, what to major in,” Daugaard said. “I just want them to have their eyes open about it. I think it’s a fact that it’s harder to get a job with a bachelor degree in philosophy than it is with a bachelor degree in electrical engineering” [Steve Young, "Science, Math Key—and So Is Writing," that Sioux Falls paper, 2014.09.15].

Heavens no, the Governor isn't trying to tell anyone what to do. He's just saying that, from his dollar-based worldview, people studying philosophy are wasting time.

Daugaard's academics-for-dollars finds some support in the Payscale.com College Salary Report. According to their data (discussed also on the Washington Post Wonkblog), new graduates of the South Dakota School of Mines and Technology enjoy the eleventh-best median starting salary in the nation, $65,600. They beat Stanford, Princeton, Duke, and Yale.

But over time, those schools's graduates and several others catch up with and pass our Hardrockers. Mid-career (at least ten years after graduation), 64 schools post median graduate salaries of over $100,000. School of Mines grads rank 104th in mid-career salary, stuck at $94,800. I say stuck with starry-eyed dreams of making half that amount (ring that blog tip jar!), but I also note that the Hardrockers' 44.5% ten-year salary growth is actually below the average of 70.0% growth for the 1002 schools in this survey. The schools with the biggest salary growth are liberal arts schools: Haverford (198%!), Carleton (169%!), William and Lee, Tufts, and Whitman.

Those big gainers come from schools with markedly lower percentages of science, tech, engineering, and math grads. Maybe all those technical skills that Governor Daugaard isn't-but-is saying everyone should major in are great for grabbing jobs right out of the diploma chute, but as technology evolves and specific technical skills become obsolete, those liberal arts majors Tarzan better from vine to vine in the changing job market.

Related: Payscale.com looked at four South Dakota schools: Mines, SDSU, USD, and Augustana:

School Name Early Career Salary Early Rank Mid-Career Salary Mid Rank % High Meaning % STEM Degrees
South Dakota School of Mines & Technology $65,600 11 $94,800 104 57% 92%
South Dakota State University $45,800 345 $76,600 416 51% 20%
University of South Dakota $42,600 583 $68,800 652 60% 8%
Augustana $38,800 849 $74,100 481 55% 14%

SDSU beats USD on both starting and mid-career salary. Jacks rule! (And Yotes, tell your frat brother Chad Haber to stop dragging you down.) Augie doggies start low, but in ten years, they're beating the Yotes, too. Hmmm... maybe we should take our long-term education and career advice from Augie graduate Susan Wismer instead of USD graduate Daugaard.

But interestingly, a higher percentage of USD graduates report a sense of "high job meaning" (i.e., when asked "Does your work make the world a better place?" they say yes) than say the same at the other three schools surveyed. Hmmm... is that coming from all those philosophy majors?