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Daugaard Still Hates Philosophers; Mines Grads Make Bank; Liberal Artsers Catch Up

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 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: 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?


  1. Rorschach 2014.09.15

    Why did Gov. Daugaard stop with that advice? He could also have advised young people to move out of state if they want to earn more money after graduation. And he could have advised those staying in SD to join the Republican Party to take advantage of the cronyism and government jobs and corporate welfare being thrown around to members of that party.

    There are other ways to maximize your income besides picking the right major, and the Governor should make sure people have their eyes open about it.

  2. Steve Sibson 2014.09.15

    Cory, interesting analysis and the research I have done supports the premise that the corporatists, who have co-opted education, want to redirect students to community colleges, which include technical schools. The Governor's Workforce Summits make that obvious. Your analysis from Payscale would be even more interesting if you included that pay of those who attended South Dakota's technical schools. A corporation can save a lot of money by replacing engineers with technicians. There is a, "we don't want the people to know" moment for you. Perhaps that explains the Governor's move, explained with the Workforce final report, to replace job titles with labels that point to "skills".

  3. SDTeacher 2014.09.15

    Every mucky muck in SD who has ever spoken to my students has said some variant of "it's not what you know, it's who you know." So if we're going to take DD's cynicism to it's logical end, his speech should say, "if you're a SD student and intend to stay in SD, drop out of school, arrange a meeting with the governor and start kissing his ass like it's never been kissed before." Boom. Rich.

    Of course, some young people think education is inherently valuable and for them, people like Dennis are of no use. That's probably why so many of our brightest go elsewhere to find their happiness and pay their taxes.

  4. Nichael B 2014.09.15

    We need a SD FIRST attitude.

    How many of our SD Higher Ed grads are leaving the state?

    What are we doing to keep the out of state students that attend SD schools to make their home here?

    How many programs have no job potential in SD?

  5. larry kurtz 2014.09.15

    The next worst winter in history is in the forecast for South Dakota...again.

  6. O 2014.09.15

    I do see a distinction between "get a job" and "begin a career." It is that very distinction that undermines SD's growth, especially in the area of education. Does the prospect of well-advancing career payment outlook fly in the face of a business-friendly atmosphere?

  7. O 2014.09.15

    Steve, I agree and think it goes one step further (a sentence I never thought I'd write to Steve). So much of the trade school/vocational curriculum is an externalization of business/corporate costs. Before industry bore the cost of training its employees, but now that cost is fronted by the employee him/herself. By allowing education (most often with some public support) to shoulder the training requirements of industry, we subsidize the profit of that industry.

  8. Pat Moe 2014.09.15

    This is why my bright, political, democrat daughter will not come back to South Dakota! Well..... I actually think the conservative Republican climate plays a big part also!! Would love her to come back and be the change we want to see!!

  9. Roger Cornelius 2014.09.15

    Rorschach was heading in the right direction with what advice Daugaard should have given students. The governor, along with telling students to shun philosophy, should have told them to drop their career dreams of being a welder for a corporation that doesn't pay taxes.
    The South Dakota Republicans should open their own school of government and economics, they could teach students some of the following:
    Introduction To Legal Corruption
    How to Launder Money
    Are Off Shore Accounts Safe
    How To Fleece Investors
    Phony Corporations Work
    How To Avoid Ethics
    How To Evade Taxes
    The Sting
    How Political Payoffs Work
    What To Do When You Get Caught

    Forget philosophy, welding, teaching and what is good for our communities and state, the real money is in Republican politics.

  10. Craig 2014.09.15

    Here is where we need to dig deeper. You may look at a chart and say one specific major does better over the long term or that another struggles... but as is the case with these types of situations it is all about context.

    The question we should be asking is what field are these "majors" working in, because I can tell you right now many people who hold Philosophy degrees aren't practicing Philosophers (or Professors of Philosophy) just as many who hold English degrees aren't writers and many who hold History degrees aren't historians.

    Many of those people are working for financial institutions, insurance companies, and managing your local retail stores. On the flip side, there are some degree programs that tend to retain more people in related fields. Those include Biology, Engineering, and Computer Science.

    In many cases it is the type of person who enters a program of study which is a higher indicator of success than the actual major. In addition, many people will tell you that any degree is better than no degree even if it is in an entirely different field, because it serves as evidence that the person values higher education, that they are capable of learning, and that they have a desire to succeed.

    All of that said, there are many people who wish to learn a specific trade, and we should encourage that behavior. If someone has always wanted to be an electrician or a plumber or wanted to build houses or work on cars or be a radiology technician... then who are we to suggest they shouldn't follow their dream or pursue something they have an actual interest in?

    A four year traditional degree program is not well suited for some specific careers, so why do we act like everyone should go to college if there is no long-term benefit to them? I have zero problem with technical and trade schools and believe we should encourage more students to consider them. I base this not on some secret corporatist viewpoint, but rather a desire to see people in careers they actually enjoy!

    Too many people think about earning potential as the only measuring stick to determine success, but if you were to ask those in a particular field on how happy they are with their career choices, I'd argue you would find a lot more satisfaction with electricians and mechanics than you would with business and accounting majors.

  11. Steve Sibson 2014.09.15

    (Mike, you are being a troll who is off topic.)

  12. Deb Geelsdottir 2014.09.15

    I agree with you, Craig. Education is not only $ and c.

    One of the first things I'd tell a prospective student is to avoid for profit schools of any kind. Their graduation record is poor. Look at tuition costs. A student who is just completing studies to become a veterinarian at U MN is looking an indebtedness of $300,000.

  13. aaron 2014.09.16

    Very well said, Craig.

  14. caheidelberger Post author | 2014.09.16

    I'll agree with Craig. I will also question why the Governor should take a role in discouraging students from pursuing any particular major or promoting one career field while denigrating the social value of another from a limited $/¢ perspective.

Comments are closed.