LOUISVILLE, KY (WAVE) - Governor Matt Bevin challenged post-secondary educators to prepare more graduates to land highly-skilled and high paying jobs.
"My vision is that Kentucky becomes, straight up, without question, instinctively in peoples' minds, the center of engineering and manufacturing excellence in America. Period," Bevin said.
Speaking Tuesday at the 2017 Governor's Conference on Postsecondary Education Trusteeship, Bevin used interpretive dance studies as an example and told administrators and trustees to look for cuts in degrees that have "no value" in the 21st century workforce.
Both the University of Louisville and the University of Kentucky responded with statements supporting liberal arts curriculums.
UofL Interim President Greg Postel described growth in engineering and nursing students, but was cool toward the idea of cuts to traditional liberal arts.
"Universities have to be aware of where the jobs are and focus their limited resources accordingly," Postel said. "The University of Louisville has seen tremendous growth, for example, in programs such as engineering and nursing, and we continue to make investments there. But the university also places great value on the traditional liberal arts education. We remain committed to those programs and would have to study them extensively before making any cuts."
Last year, UofL awarded 639 engineering degrees. That is still less than half the number of Arts and Science degrees.
UK also reports a 38% growth in engineering graduates since 2009.
"The number of graduates in health, science, technology, engineering and math has increased 22% over the last six years," University Spokesman Jay Blanton said. "Among our most popular majors are biology and business; and the number of nursing and other health sciences majors continues to increase. We are allocating resources in response to student demand, as evidenced by our new $112 million science building, paid for by UK Athletics and private donations."
Blanton also stated UK's support for the liberal arts.
"Employers also tell us they need graduates who communicate well, think critically, and work well in teams," he said. "These 'soft skills' are exactly what
students learn in majors and classes in English, History, the Humanities, and Fine Arts, among others."
Governor Bevin's challenge also extended to state high schools and middle schools.
Acting JCPS Superintendent Marty Pollio says the state's largest public school system is already working on the problem.
"Things like IT, medicine and health, manufacturing," Pollio said. "We create pathways in our high schools that allow students to walk out the door with a
diploma, a certification and can be both college and career ready."