2012 November 11 Sunday
Florida Plan To Charge STEM Majors Less For Courses

The idea: lower tuition for college majors that deliver bigger economic benefit. Why stop there? Shut down the victims studies departments too.

Down in Florida, a task force commissioned by Governor Rick Scott is putting the finishing touches on a proposal that would allow the state's public universities to start charging undergraduates different tuition rates depending on their major. Students would get discounts for studying topics thought to be in high demand among Florida employers. Those would likely include science, technology, engineering, and math (aka, the STEM fields), among others. 

The public benefits if someone becomes an engineer, earns a high salary, pays lots in taxes, and makes goods and services that improve the quality of life for the rest of us. The public does not benefit if someone does a victim studies major, becomes a social worker, and generates more costs for the welfare state than they pay in taxes.

Journalist Jordan Weissman tries to spin this Florida proposal as a bad idea. But get real: unemployment rate per degree tell us nothing about how much money and useful goods and services people are making.

In a January report, for instance, the Georgetown Center for Education and the Workforce found that journalism degree holders between the ages of 22 and 26 actually had a lower national unemployment rate than young mechanical engineers -- 7.7 percent versus 8.6 percent. Economics graduates had about the same rate as english literature BA's -- 9.1. percent versus 9.2 percent. And kids with computer science degrees were actually a bit behind their peers who studied communications -- 7.8 percent to 7.4 percent. 

Computer software developers are doing work that raises productivity. We need a lot of scientific and technological progress just to maintain our current standards of living. People who do a victim studies major or art history or English do not train themselves to make needed scientific or technological advances. Society gets a much bigger return from people who study STEM subjects. To the extent that the taxpayers are made to pay for higher education their tax dollars should more to the majors that deliver the most benefit.

Share |      By Randall Parker at 2012 November 11 10:23 AM 

Default User said at November 11, 2012 11:01 AM:

Perhaps the solution is to make the colleges (at least partially) responsible for the lown defaults of their students. Perhaps the solution is to make the colleges (at least partially) responsible for the loan defaults of their students. Some courses (and students) would end up more expensive in terms of defaults than others, and colleges could adjust fees, entry, and graduation requirements to mitigate such loses.

Of course it is probable that they would continue to subsidize more ideologically desired courses instead of more pragmatically useful ones, but, at the margins, it might encourage more rational curricula and fee structures.

shiva1008 said at November 16, 2012 12:45 AM:

Randall -

What do you think of the government-mandated switch to electronic medical records by 2014? Will this improve productivity and add real value, or are there ulterior motives at work here?

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