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University Proposes Tuition Based On Major 532

Posted by samzenpus
from the varying-cost-of-education dept.
The University of Nebraska-Lincoln has proposed "differential tuition," a tuition structure that varies based on your major. An engineering major for example, would now pay considerably more than an English major. Liberal Arts majors would presumably get their education for free. From the article: "Charging different tuition rates for different courses of study is a growing trend among public research universities across the country. According to research by Glen Nelson, senior vice president of finance and administration for the Arizona Board of Regents, only five institutions used the practice for undergraduate students before 1988. As of this year, 57 percent of 162 public research institutions did so, including the University of Iowa and Iowa State University."
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University Proposes Tuition Based On Major

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  • by Sonny Yatsen (603655) * on Thursday April 28, 2011 @11:37AM (#35963574) Journal

    We're a country that's lagging behind on STEM (science, technical, engineering & math) education and experiencing somewhat of a shortage of people from the technical fields to fill jobs in our country because our educational system is a joke. What's the best way to go about remedying this? Why, yes, it's clearly to penalize people who want to study STEM majors by making them pay more for their education than for someone who wants a degree in comparative literature.

    If you want to charge STEM majors more money for their degree, then fine, but don't go crying when you start attracting less talent to your school and your research grants start to dry up. In the short run, you'll raise a few bucks. In the long run, you're killing your most productive and profitable departments so you can have a tiny shortfall today.

  • by RazzleFrog (537054) on Thursday April 28, 2011 @11:40AM (#35963624)

    I agree. They should charge more for majors that aren't likely to end up in getting a job in a related field after college. That would make Latin majors pretty much the most expensive.

  • Descrimination... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by masterfpt (1435165) on Thursday April 28, 2011 @11:40AM (#35963628) Journal
    The most unfortunate thing is that poorer people will start to study, not what they are good at/like, but what they can afford...
  • Such a great idea (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Random2 (1412773) on Thursday April 28, 2011 @11:41AM (#35963646) Journal

    Yes, let's charge more of the harder degrees (like engineering, and maybe even law, medical and finance), so we end up with a bunch of liberal arts major and other degrees which won't be socially useful.

    Soon we'll charge fat people more to ride the bus because they use up more gas. Wonderful.

  • Re:Why not free? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by bigsexyjoe (581721) on Thursday April 28, 2011 @11:47AM (#35963760)
    If you don't have children you aren't producing workers to pay your SSI and Medicare. Shame on you, Freeloader! Better to educate people and maximize their economic productive power to keep our economy going.
  • by rapturizer (733607) on Thursday April 28, 2011 @11:48AM (#35963784)
    I agree as well. As someone who teaches in academia on occasion, the university should reverse their thinking. It should be significantly cheaper to get a degree in a field where their is demand - the STEM degrees - and should cost significantly more for all other degrees. Coffee shops like Starbucks may have fewer History majors to choose from in hiring, but I think they would be able to adapt.
  • Re:Why not free? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by h4rr4r (612664) on Thursday April 28, 2011 @11:50AM (#35963842)

    As someone in the same boat I totally disagree. I would much rather spend money on something that improves our society and economy. Education will mean those 10 offspring will not have another 10 offspring each.

  • by TheSeventh (824276) on Thursday April 28, 2011 @11:50AM (#35963850)
    When I was an undergrad studying computer science at the University of Michigan, they wanted me to pay the higher engineering tuition level, even though my CS degree was in the college of Literature, Science, and Arts.

    Therefore, I didn't declare my major until halfway through my second-to-last semester. Why pay the higher level tuition for all the LS&A courses they required me to take as well? Engineering level tuition for French, Creative Writing, and my Race & Ethnicity Requirement? I don't think so.
  • Re:Why not free? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by jedidiah (1196) on Thursday April 28, 2011 @11:51AM (#35963854) Homepage

    Can I make a deal with the state? You don't help me through college and I don't have to pay any extra taxes for my increased salary afterwards.

    How about that?

  • by sandytaru (1158959) on Thursday April 28, 2011 @11:52AM (#35963878) Journal
    You'd be amazed what a great background a technical writing degree is for IT. If it's got an instruction manual, I can run it. If it doesn't have an instruction manual and I figure out how to run it, I can write an instruction manual for others to use it. This is a valuable skill and I've become a vital part of my office because it's not something the rest of the techies know how to do, let alone enjoy.
  • by digsbo (1292334) on Thursday April 28, 2011 @11:52AM (#35963886)
    Want to fix it? Make student loans subject to bankruptcy laws. That would reduce the number/amount of loans granted, and make colleges price-sensitive. As it is, the lenders have little incentive to consider whether a given loan is likely to pay off (since they either get to collect on it despite bankruptcy or get a federal payoff), so there's no incentive to limit lending to what can reasonably be paid back.
  • by theIsovist (1348209) on Thursday April 28, 2011 @11:53AM (#35963912)
    Before damning this idea, let's look at the other side. STEM majors will make much more money during their career than a liberal arts major likely will. That way, spending a little more on an education is a better return on investment. This also allows students (hopefully) to see a direct return on their investment in the quality of their education. If you are expected to pay more for your major, hopefully, this will be reflected in the facilities and instructors offered. On the flip side, it could also bring in more people who were turned off by high prices for majors that will not result in high paying jobs. I'm currently working on funding for a masters in architecture, a job that pays less than, say, engineering, and costs just as much tuition wise. Allowing variable rates lets them maximize their profit while allowing students the opportunity to pursue whatever major they choose.

    This is, however, highly dependent on the rates chosen and how the money is ultimately spent. As always, if your product costs more than it's worth, then you'll end up losing buyers.
  • by kevinNCSU (1531307) on Thursday April 28, 2011 @11:57AM (#35964000)

    If you want to charge STEM majors more money for their degree, then fine, but don't go crying when you start attracting less talent to your school and your research grants start to dry up.

    Right, because charging more money for the education clearly attracts less talent to Ivy League schools. If you think this through it's not such a bad deal for STEM. It means the Engineering department actually brings more money into the school, and thus has far more budgetary pull then the other departments. Thus they can hire better professors, buy better equipment, and therefore attract student talent as well. If you're going into Engineering it makes since that the cost of your education would be more then another major that is going to be far less marketable and end up producing far less money for you.

  • by Americano (920576) on Thursday April 28, 2011 @12:08PM (#35964186)

    It's also worth noting that a copy of "Shakespeare's collected works" and some desks & chairs to sit around discussing Shakespeare in costs a little less than an Electron Microscope, or a fully stocked biology or chemistry lab. If your major requires significantly more expensive tools & materials as part of your studies than a liberal arts program, it's not entirely unreasonable to expect that the course of study would cost more.

  • by magarity (164372) on Thursday April 28, 2011 @12:14PM (#35964296)

    I agree as well. As someone who teaches in academia on occasion, the university should reverse their thinking. It should be significantly cheaper to get a degree in a field where their is demand.

    You want to lower prices where "their" is demand? You obviously teach neither economics nor English.

  • by NoSig (1919688) on Thursday April 28, 2011 @12:19PM (#35964382)
    Why are you attending a school that charges you to teach you a compulsory Race and Ethnicity class (which is bound to be 100% bullshit) when you came there for CS? It's like a car shop that requires you to buy theater tickets and sit through the performance when you come there to get you car fixed.
  • by Lord of the Fries (132154) on Thursday April 28, 2011 @12:19PM (#35964384) Homepage

    Universities are businesses....

    When it comes to a private university, sure. Let them do what they want. But a "State" University derives much of its operation from tax dollars collected from the citizens of the states. They exist for the same reason that the public K-12 education system does, for the betterment of society and its individuals. Since a state university is really just the next step beyond High School, but where they make you pay some money to make sure you are serious, I struggle with your comment that they are businesses. If they ARE businesses and are going to run like businesses, please remove them from my tax burden.

  • by berwiki (989827) on Thursday April 28, 2011 @12:49PM (#35964870)
    Because he went to a University, where education is supposed to make you well-rounded.

    If everyone wanted to hyper-specialize, I.T.T. Tech would be a lot more popular.

    Some of us enjoyed our electives and are happy we took them.
  • by Solandri (704621) on Thursday April 28, 2011 @12:50PM (#35964888)

    It should be significantly cheaper to get a degree in a field where their is demand - the STEM degrees - and should cost significantly more for all other degrees.

    The problem is insufficient competition. Education is not a commodity, even though it probably should be. School name and reputation plays a disproportionately large role in prospective students' selection. Consequently, the competition for supply of education isn't all schools combined, it's just the 1 or 2 schools the student really wants to get into.

    Schools have realized this and started to exploit it for financial gain. Freed from the normal constraints of supply and demand, tuition prices are no longer tracking closely to the cost to provide an education. They're more closely following what students are willing to pay. Increasingly, students are factoring in future potential earnings into what they're willing to pay. If you're going to go into a lucrative field like medicine or law, your future earning potential is much higher so students are willing to rack up $150k in debt to get that education. (I should mention that the easy availability of student loans, as noble as they are in concept, is accelerating this process.)

    So how much students are willing to pay for a major is going to be roughly proportional to how much they can earn after graduating with that major. Graduates with STEM degrees will tend to earn more than liberal arts majors, so they will be willing to pay more for it. The proposal in TFA is just a reflection of this. Simply wishing it were the other way around will not make it so.

    The solution is to artificially make top-level education available at the cost to provide that education, not at what the student is willing to pay. You'll end up having to subsidize it though so you can attract top-level professors away from schools making a lot more money per student. So this becomes a public university. Yes, that's right, a conservative slashdotter advocating public universities. In this case, you're using one market distortion (government funding for a public university) to try to cancel out another market distortion (a school essentially having a monopoly on students wishing to attend it).

  • by melstav (174456) on Thursday April 28, 2011 @01:24PM (#35965384)

    Some of us enjoyed our electives and are happy we took them.

    An "Elective" is, by definition, not "Compulsory".

    "You must take N credits worth of courses from X department/dicipline" qualifies as "Elective". You can pick and choose which specific courses you take.

    "You must take the 'Race and Ethnicity' course" leaves you with no choice in the matter.

  • by tukang (1209392) on Thursday April 28, 2011 @01:29PM (#35965434)

    I strongly disagree with your suggestion, which IMHO is not so far off from letting the government decide what profession people should take up (reminds of "The Giver"). A university should not be concerned with providing degrees that society needs. It should be concerned with a) providing a good education in whatever field their students enroll in and b) covering its costs.

    If we need more STEM students, then salaries for STEM need to go up. What you're suggesting is simply a subsidy for industries that hire STEM students and I strongly disagree that those industries need to be subsidized (just look at the net incomes of some of these companies). Instead of letting Universities decide which majors students pursue, let the free market decide.

  • by Obfuscant (592200) on Thursday April 28, 2011 @02:33PM (#35966298)

    The original purpose of public universities was education for the public good, as a conservative as well, I see little public good in graduating 50 history majors for every electrical engineer. Yes the engineer will make more out of college, but they will also contribute more to the economy a through their work.

    The original purpose of public universities was not to prepare people for the most lucrative jobs available. It was to provide an education to create a broad knowledge of subjects and a well educated populace.

    Those 50 history majors will have a better understanding of where we came from and more understanding of where we will be going. As in "those who don't know history tend to repeat history". That's not a comment about being able to pass the final exam and needing to retake the class, it is a statement pertaining to repeating the mistakes of the past because you don't know they were tried before and failed. Chamberlain tried appeasement to prevent war, and that attempt failed. Those who don't know that, and why it failed, are likely to think about trying it today and a lot of people could die because they didn't know history.

    If you want training for a job, go to a vocational school or community college.

    It is my personal belief that societally, making STEM degrees cheaper to obtain is good for all parties involved and represents a solid investment by society.

    You can, of course, make "STEM" degrees free by simply handing them out to every person who visits the appropriate website. I don't think that this would be a "solid investment" in anything at all. The degree program needs to provide the education first, the paper last, not the other way around. If that education takes more time (five years vs. four) or harder classes (quantum chemistry vs. "efficient use of aquatic resources") then that's what it takes.

    I'm simply flabbergasted by the compaint a previous commenter made about STEM classes being harder and something needed to be done to keep people from dropping out because of it. What an idiotic way of solving the problem of lack of STEM degrees.

    And then this from the GP:

    The solution is to artificially make top-level education available at the cost to provide that education, not at what the student is willing to pay.

    You are overlooking the tiny detail that the cost of a college education is heavily taxpayer subsidized and most, if not all, public universities. The students are already not willing to pay the price being charged in many cases; making the price equal the cost will simply drive more students away. It certainly will not solve the problem of too few STEM students, since the actual cost of STEM educations will be much higher (to pay for lab equipment and facilities) than it is today.

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