The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

Local News

April 6, 2014

Andra Bryan Stefanoni: PSU grads, department chair say Atlantic article paints wrong picture of arts degree

PITTSBURG, Kan. — An article last week in The Atlantic magazine amused the chairwoman of the art department at Pittsburg State University, had alumni coming out of the woodwork and got at least one graduate a little hot under the collar.

I was tipped off to the article by a friend, Ted Watts, of Oswego, who has become nationally known in the sports and art world for his realistic illustrations of athletes.

The article was written by Derek Thompson, a 2008 alumnus of Northwestern University in Evanston, Ill., and titled “These U.S. Colleges and Majors Are the Biggest Waste of Money.”

The tagline: “You can major in art at a lower-tier public university if you want to. Just don’t expect it to make you rich.”

The author based his opinion on a report from the online service PayScale, which concludes that high school graduates would make significantly more money over a lifetime if they chose to go straight to work rather than pursuing certain college majors.

Specifically, the publication listed the “Arts” major at PSU, along with similar programs at the University of Missouri-St. Louis, the University of Wisconsin and Murray State University, among others.

Said Watts in response: “In Thompson’s case, his Northwestern journalism degree was a waste of money, his time or both. You’d think (he) would know better than to hit send on his bylined work before checking the facts like good journalists do.”

Watts majored in art at PSU, earning a bachelor of fine arts degree in 1966.

“I opened my own art studio, expected it to make me rich, and it did,” he said.

Rhona Shand, chairwoman of the art department, reacted by chuckling.

“This is so inaccurate in so many ways, it’s hard to know where to begin,” she said. “It makes a sexy headline and plays into some common misconceptions, but it doesn’t paint an accurate picture of the career opportunities available for art majors or graduates of many other programs.”

First, Shand noted, the PayScale data lumped together numerous programs under the general heading “Arts” and used only out-of-state tuition to calculate the cost of the degree.

It excluded anyone who has gone on to earn any degree higher than a bachelor of arts and included only graduates working in the United States. Most importantly, Shand said, it excluded any graduate who is self-employed, project-based or is a contract employee.

Evidently, Thompson wasn’t aware of PSU graduate Corey Hine, an artist at Hallmark Cards.

Or Jordan Giesler, a designer for the Kansas City Chiefs.

Or Andrew Super, who went on to earn a master’s in art and found success in the academic world abroad.

Nor does he know Heather Horton, who opened Sweet Designs Cakery in Pittsburg, which last year won the Kansas Small Business Development Center’s Emerging Business of the Year Award. She has played an instrumental role in developing the Pittsburg ArtWalk, the SEK ArtFest and the downtown mural project.

“We have rock star alumni,” Shand said. “The mission of our department is to get them into an MFA or an MA program or to open their own small business. We did our job, and because of that we’re on this hit list. I’m not too worried about it because I know where my alumni are. And they’re doing great.”

FOLLOW ANDRA BRYAN STEFANONI on Facebook at facebook.com/andrajournalist and on Twitter @AndraStefanoni.

1
Text Only
Local News
  • outdoor_waylanskuku.jpg Last remaining Ku-Ku

    While other fast food locations along Miami’s portion of Route 66 tend to slow down in the mid-afternoon, Eugene Waylan is still hard at work behind his grill serving up hamburgers to a packed drive through.

    July 31, 2014 2 Photos

  • Event for veterans on tap at Crowder

    For area veterans who have returned home from more than a decade at war, the Veterans Health Care System of the Ozarks hopes to send a simple message at an event this weekend: Welcome home.

    August 1, 2014

  • Damien D Doxley 051314.jpg Prison term meted out in carjacking case

    A Newton County judge assessed a defendant in a Joplin carjacking case seven years in prison Friday on a conviction on a charge of tampering with a motor vehicle.

    August 1, 2014 1 Photo

  • Amendment 7 backers tout safety, new jobs; foes say special interests to benefit

    Billions of dollars are on the line when Missouri voters head to the polls on Tuesday to consider Amendment 7.
    The constitutional amendment, sent to the voters by the Legislature this year, would temporarily increase Missouri’s sales tax by three-quarters of 1 percent, raising an estimated $5.4 billion for the next decade to fund transportation projects. That includes more than $114.1 million in state funds for projects in Newton and Jasper counties, on top of additional revenue for localities that would be raised.
    After the Missouri Department of Transportation downsized in recent years, these projects are now mostly designed and built by private engineers, contractors and laborers — many of whom have contributed tens of thousands of dollars to a campaign effort to sway voters to support the measure.
    Last Monday — eight days ahead of the primary election day — supporters of the measure reported having raised more than $4.1 million for a campaign committee called Missourians For Safe Transportation and New Jobs, which was established last fall to support the measure.
    The International Union of Operating Engineers in St. Louis and Kansas City have contributed nearly $250,000 to the effort. That total was dwarfed by the $649,398 put in by the Industry Advancement Fund Heavy Constructors. Between its Missouri and Kansas companies, APAC — a construction contracting company that specializes in transportation projects — has contributed more than $150,000.
    “The whole idea that money is flowing into the campaign, of course it is,” said Sen. John Lamping, a St. Louis Republican who is opposed to the measure. “It would be a smart business decision to do that.”
    Lamping said the money pouring into the campaign supporting Amendment 7 is indicative of the financial gain the measure bodes for contractors and laborers.  
    Lamping proposed a measure in the Legislature that would redirect one-eighth of existing sales and use tax revenue directly to transportation projects, but he said that measure was rejected by legislative leaders. The coalition “didn’t hear about it,” the outgoing senator said, “because it was my idea instead of someone else’s idea.”
    Lamping, who filibustered a similar measure in 2013, said Republicans have an ideological consistency problem on the issue. He pointed to the Legislature passing a sales tax increase only a few weeks after overriding Democratic Gov. Jay Nixon’s veto of an income tax cut that will largely help businesses organized as limited liability corporations, like many of the companies that could benefit from the measure. Lamping said that the tax increase will mostly affect taxpayers who did not get a significant tax cut.
    “Who wants a tax cut in Missouri?” he said. “Businesses. (Republican leaders) wanted to make them happy and then they passed a tax cut. This is grand-scale special interest cronyism.”
    The ad campaign being funded mostly by the business interests features paramedics and construction workers claiming the measure would “fix our roads and keep Missouri families safe.”
    “We have a chance to give our highways and bridges the repairs they need,” says one ad, which is running in Joplin and statewide in the lead up to Tuesday’s vote. “We have a chance to fix what’s broken by voting yes on Amendment 7.”
    The commercial uses a lot of words to talk about the benefits of the measure, but two words in particular are noticeably absent from the commercial: “Tax increase.”  
    “The ads don’t mention any of the ballot language,” said Jewell Patek, a spokesman for Missourians For Safe Transportation and New Jobs. “We figure Missourians will see the language when they go to the polls.”
    Patek, a former state representative who now lobbies the Legislature, said he disagreed with Lamping’s notion that Amendment 7 is all about special interest gain.
    “There’s quite a bit to gain for Missourians,” he said. “We have serious road needs. We’ll win or lose by the benefits in Amendment 7. I’m not sure I agree with Senator Lamping’s assessment.”
    If approved, Amendment 7 would prevent an increase in the state’s fuel tax, a funding boost opponents of the amendment like Democratic Gov. Jay Nixon and some of the state’s social welfare groups have said would be more appropriate because it could pull in revenue from people who use the roads — like the state’s trucking industry.
    The Missouri Truckers Association’s political action committee has contributed more than $27,000 to the effort to pass the measure. Tom Crawford, president of the association, said his members support the amendment because they see the problems on the road and deal with them every day. And passage of the measure does not mean anyone will stop paying fuel tax.
    “We overpay our fair share on the fuel tax,” he said, pointing to statistics by the American Transportation Research Institute that show truckers have accounted for about 14 percent of road usage while paying for 39 percent of all taxes and fees owed by motorists. “We pay sales taxes just like everybody does on goods and products that people buy in the stores.”
    Crawford said truck companies do not pay state sales taxes on the purchase of trucks, but they do pay a federal tax. “So, we won’t be impacted on new equipment purchase, but other areas of our business will be impacted just like every other taxpayer in the state will,” he said.
    Thomas Shrout, who is helping lead the campaign against the tax hike, said that is not good enough and that Amendment 7 lets truck drivers off the hook. “Under Amendment 7, they wouldn’t have to pay any more,” he said.
    Shrout’s opposition campaign has raised just over $27,000 — less than 1 percent of the total money raised by its supporters. They are targeting their opposition at the state’s urban core by spending money on direct mail and targeted robocalls in the final week.
    “We think using the sales tax to fund road projects is poor policy for the state of Missouri,” he said. “It should be rejected.”
    Shrout said the Missouri Department of Transportation and its supporters should go back to the drawing board and consider some of the other options like campaigning for toll roads or a gas tax increase — both based on road usage.
    Representatives for APAC and the Heavy Constructors Association declined requests for comment.

    Tuesday’s election
    Amendment 7 is one of five measures voters will consider when they head to the polls on Tuesday. Statewide, local election officials reported to the Missouri secretary of state that it was their estimate that about 27 percent of the state’s 4.06 million registered voters will show up to vote, including 25 percent of registered voters in Jasper County and 30 percent in Newton County.

    August 1, 2014

  • Brownback names 3 Kansas Board of Regents members

    Gov. Sam Brownback on Friday named a former veteran Kansas House member and two attorneys to the board overseeing the state’s higher education system.

    August 1, 2014

  • Fair to feature goats, chickens and decorated bras

    Along with the usual fair sights, sounds and smells — livestock, poultry, produce and the like — there will be something a bit unusual at the Cherokee County American Legion Free Fair this year: Decorated brassieres. And pink. Lots of pink.

    August 1, 2014

  • Grant to fund solar energy system for PSU’s Plaster Center

    An $80,000 grant from Westar Energy will fund solar panels to provide both energy and education at the Robert W. Plaster Center, now under construction at Pittsburg State University.

    August 1, 2014

  • Survey seeks views on Joplin’s future goals

    Residents are being asked to fill out a survey on priorities for Joplin’s future. The effort was inspired by a meeting of community leaders last month. Survey forms are available at the Joplin Public Library and online at www.surveymonkey.com/s/jointjoplinareaplanningsurvey.

    July 31, 2014

  • Habitat slates volunteer work days

    In the wake of the 2011 tornado, Joplin Area Habitat for Humanity has been a partner with organizations and individuals in the construction of 86 new houses. But what’s also needed, Executive Director Scott Clayton said, are repairs to area homes.

    July 31, 2014

  • Jasper County voters to decide three offices

    Two incumbents are facing challengers and three candidates are vying for what will be an open county office in primary balloting Tuesday in Jasper County.

    July 31, 2014

Must Read
Sports
Photos


Facebook
Poll

Do you plan on voting in the Aug. 5 elections being held in Missouri and Kansas?

Yes
No
     View Results
Opinion
Twitter Updates
Follow us on twitter