EDITORIAL: New program gives opportunities to soar

If the best type of collegiate degree program is one that mixes the practical — developing knowledge and skills to prepare for a career — with the enjoyable — yes, some people DO like math — then Southeast Missouri State University’s plan to offer a bachelor’s degree in aircraft piloting ought to have a seat at that table.

The university’s board of regents recently approved the program, and, if the state Department of Higher Education and Workforce Development approves it, students should be able to enroll in the fall of 2021. The program will start out small — 10 students in its first year — and grow to as many as 85 a few years later, according to Southeast Missourian reporting.

Job prospects for trained pilots shows the need for such a program. Consider: A study done by Economic Modeling Specialists International showed 1,218 job openings for pilots in the region two years ago but only 63 candidates for those jobs had graduated from pilot programs. Further, provost Mike Godard told regents professional pilots in the region average 55 years of age and jobs in the field will grow up to 8% in coming years.

“Having recently come from an institution that had a professional pilot degree program, I can attest that there is a significant demand among students that want to get into this,” he said.

Key to the program will be Southeast’s plan to contract with a vendor to provide the necessary training equipment and aircraft. The outlay on the university’s part will be minimal, and fees for the program will ensure it is not a burden.

Of course, there are regulatory hoops the university will have to go through, but this program has been successful elsewhere, and there is no reason to believe it wouldn’t be successful here.

Which brings us to the second part of the equation. Ask professional and hobbyist pilots why they choose to fly, and they’ll say it’s exhilarating, liberating — fun.

We expect students who enter the program will find it speaks to both the practical and enjoyable. Godspeed.