Should colleges charge future engineers less than future poets?

With Georgia’s tendency of late to look south to Florida for education ideas, we may see some discussion this year in the Legislature on the Sunshine State’s latest brainchild: Incentivize students to become engineers, scientists, health care specialists and technology experts by discounting tuition in those areas of study. Dissuade students from becoming anthropologists, poets and theater majors by charging full tuition for those degrees.

“Do you want to use your tax dollars to educate more people who can’t get jobs in anthropology? I don’t,” said Florida Gov. Rick Scott in a speech last year.

I once was part of an interesting discussion with Emory President James Wagner — he was meeting with the AJC editorial board — on whether tuition should be calibrated so that an education major, for instance, pays less than an engineering major, whose education costs colleges more to provide. The issue came up during a broader discussion about rising college costs and possible solutions.

(Here is a good essay on this issue by Richard Vedder, who directs the Center for College Affordability and Productivity at Ohio University.  If you read it, be sure to read the second comment in response to Vedder’s essay.)

In fact, a few universities already levy fees on students in programs that cost more to operate. In a 2011 survey, the Cornell Higher Education Research Institute found that 143 public universities now impose differential tuition based on major and, in some cases, on year of enrollment in the program.

According to the survey:

The most common majors for which differential tuition charges occur are business, engineering, and nursing. The CHERI research assistants also collected data from institutional web pages on the magnitudes of the differential tuition charges. Examples in 2010-2011 include a $75 per engineering course fee at the University of Maine (a 9.4% increase over the in-state tuition of $801 for a three credit course) and a $460 per semester nursing program fee at the University of Kentucky (a 10.7% increase over the in-state lower-division semester tuition of $4,305).

But the Florida plan goes in the opposite direction, charging engineering majors less to earn their degrees because the state wants more STEM graduates.

As the New York Times reported:

To nudge students toward job-friendly degrees, the governor’s task force on higher education suggested recently that university tuition rates be frozen for three years for majors in “strategic areas,” which would vary depending on supply and demand. An undergraduate student would pay less for a degree in engineering or biotechnology — whose classes are among the most expensive for universities — than for a degree in history or psychology. State financing, which has dropped drastically in the past five years, would be expected to make up the tuition gap.

Dale A. Brill, the chairman of the governor’s task force and a “liberal arts guy,” said universities needed to be realistic. Generous state financing is no longer an option, at least not in Florida. Universities, he said, need to be practical about the value of their degrees at a time when well-paying jobs are scarce, a position taken by a growing number of institutions and one that underscores the latest philosophical divide over education. “The higher education system needs to evolve with the economy,” said Mr. Brill, the president of the Florida Chamber Foundation. “People pay taxes expecting that the public good will be served to the greatest degree possible. We call that a return on investment.”

Florida’s new Senate president, Don Gaetz, a Republican, agrees. He has said he wants “to lash higher education to the realities and opportunities of the economy.”

The Miami Herald had an interesting response piece to the idea:

Science, technology, engineering and math — the fields collectively known as STEM — are all the rage these days. Florida state leaders are so eager for more STEM students that they may even create discounted college tuition for students who pursue those fields. In an economy that is still struggling to regain its footing, boosting STEM is seen by many as a path to jobs.

Except … what if it isn’t? As STEM has become an education buzzword in recent years, a steady stream of research has emerged that challenges the notion of STEM as an economic elixir. In some STEM careers, the employment picture is downright lousy. “Record Unemployment Among Chemists in 2011,” screamed the March headline in Science magazine’s Careers Blog. A headline from June: “What We Need is More Jobs for Scientists.”

Unemployment in STEM fields is still well below the general population (and slightly below college graduates in general). That “record” unemployment for chemists, for example, was 4.6 percent, compared to overall U.S. unemployment at that time of 8.8 percent.

Nevertheless, the glut of workers in some STEM areas (resulting in flat wages, and STEM grads forced to take jobs in non-STEM fields) directly contradicts the widely held view that the United States — and Florida — suffer from a critical shortage of qualified STEM graduates. The truth, many experts say, is more complicated.

“In a general sense, science and innovation do create jobs and drive growth,” said Elizabeth Popp Berman, an assistant professor of sociology at the University of Albany whose book Creating the Market University examines the history of university research and its economic impact. “As a nation, having lots of scientists and people inventing stuff is good for us.”

But that doesn’t mean all STEM graduates have a guaranteed job, Berman stressed. The STEM employment picture, Berman said, is “very mixed” and largely dependent upon a student’s particular major. Petroleum engineering majors are doing very well these days; biologists and chemists are not.

Some studies, meanwhile, have challenged the notion of an overall STEM worker shortage — instead finding that the United States is producing vastly more STEM graduates than there are STEM jobs awaiting them. As science organizations and corporations continue to sound the STEM shortage alarm, critics charge that these groups are motivated by self-interest — tech companies, for example, have claimed a shortage of trained workers even as they laid off thousands of U.S. employees, and moved those jobs to low-wage developing countries.

“It’s a way for them to sort of excuse why they’re shifting so much work offshore,” said Rochester Institute of Technology professor Ron Hira, who has testified before Congress on the need to tighten the legal loopholes that allow such maneuvers.

Read more here: http://www.miamiherald.com/2012/12/08/3133629/more-stem-degrees-may-not-equal.html#storylink=cpy

What’s interesting to me is that the Florida plan contradicts what experts keep saying: Businesses want employees who can think, write and discern, skills often honed by a liberal arts degree. (A friend in advertising told me once that if you want a strong writer with sharp reasoning skills, hire a philosophy major.)

Writing in Forbes, Cornell President and cardiologist David Skorton and Vice President for University Relations Glenn Altschuler said:

The liberal arts, moreover, also serves as a preferred pathway to rewarding and remunerative careers. According to the Association of American Medical Colleges, medical schools accepted 43 percent of the biological sciences majors, 47 percent of physical sciences majors, 51 percent of humanities majors, and 45 percent of social sciences majors who applied in 2010. “Admission committee members know that medical students can develop the essential skills of acquiring, synthesizing, applying and communicating information through a wide variety of academic disciplines,” the AAMC states.

The American Bar Association agrees:  “The ABA does not recommend any undergraduate majors or group of courses to prepare for a legal education. Students are admitted to law school from almost every academic discipline.” A study by a Chicago State University professor bears this out: the top ten majors with the highest acceptance rates for law school include philosophy, anthropology, history and English. Both organizations advise prospective applicants to choose majors that interest and challenge them, work hard for excellent grades, develop their research and writing skills and make the most of the opportunities that come their way

–From Maureen Downey, for the AJC Get Schooled blog

92 comments Add your comment

D

December 14th, 2012
9:16 am

Should English majors pay higher tuition? No. Should English majors pay the same tuition while engineers, scientists, health care specialists and technology experts pay less? Of course.

Fred ™

December 14th, 2012
9:21 am

People don’t get SYTEM degrees because of tuition costs. It’s a stupid idea to me. Folks get those soft degrees because they aren’t very bright, not because of the cost of the degree. Muffy Airhead isn’t all of a sudden going to be able to do calculus because a calculus class costs less money.

Old School

December 14th, 2012
9:25 am

Why not look at the core courses everyone has to take and make them more relevant to the major courses. I was an Industrial Arts Education major and while I enjoyed my literature, biology, and phys ed classes, there wasn’t much in them that helped me teach woodworking, metals, construction, drafting, photography, etc.

Raisin Toast Fanatic

December 14th, 2012
9:25 am

… employees who can think, write and discern, skills often honed by an liberal artsengineering degree.

There you go, fixed that for you.

zeke

December 14th, 2012
9:31 am

Here is the facts! Regardless of the degree program, it should be the anticipated results and job viability that should be considered! All the rants about student loan amounts for graduates, and, the forthcoming plan to “forgive” these loans, AT THE EXPENSE OF TAXPAYERS, should give a clue as to how to charge tuition for the various degrees! Engineers, architects, chemistry, math and other science majors have a much better opportunity of obtaining a good paying job! they are better equipped to pay their student loans! Those taking the various “liberal arts” degrees are not on a path to a professional level occupation, and, indeed, some are just taking these courses just to have a degree! THEY SHOULD BE CHARGED MORE TO PUSH THEM TOWARD RELEVANT COURSES OF STUDY AND RELEVANT DEGREES!

bu2

December 14th, 2012
9:45 am

Job possibilities have constantly changed. Engineers at times have been very hard to employ. The government shouldn’t steer that way. Just provide good information to students about salaries and employment statistics for new grads. That serves the same purpose without slow moving government trying to figure out what to promote.

Michele

December 14th, 2012
9:46 am

How STUPID? The world would be a terrible place with nothing but engineers and mathematicians. We cannot afford to ignore the liberal arts in our society. Having balance in a society is crucial, and it would be a shame to lean everything towards STEM. I agree that the core classes in college can be useless to many, so why not re-design university curriculum to allow the students to focus directly on the field in which they wish to spend their working lives. Anyone who has ever been to college knows that the last two years of the college experience are the very best, a time when you are focusing on your own particular area of interest. Why not make all four years as productive as the current last two years. Discrimination against liberal arts students would have a detrimental effect on our entire society. If you look around with an open eye, you will clearly see that this is a new world, one of international feel. If we dont have educated people in our society who understand how to accept others, their thoughts, their specific artistic abilities, and their religions/cultures, we will suffer. We need individuals trained in all disciplines, not just STEM scholars. Yes, STEM scholars are crucial, but liberal arts scholars are equally important.

bu2

December 14th, 2012
9:47 am

And if someone is convinced they want a law degree or MBA, a liberal arts degree may be a very good undergrad to take. Its not so good if you want to be a science researcher or engineer, but not everyone fits that.

Jarod Apperson

December 14th, 2012
9:49 am

To me, it makes sense that the price at private institutions like Emory would be somewhat driven by the cost to deliver the program. If an engineering major costs more to deliver than an education major, maybe they should pay more. At my school (private), business majors paid more than CAS majors, and we got additional services. Emory would also have to weigh the value that different majors have on its future reputation. Poets may not rake in lots of money, but if successful, they certainly bring a school prestige.

For public institutions, I think the question is different. It isn’t about how much the program costs to deliver. Instead, it is about what types of education a society chooses to subsidize. I know Anthropology, Journalism, and Philosophy majors who’ve been disappointed at how hard its been to find & keep jobs. At the same time, we need all types, and I’m hesitant for the government to take too active a role in setting what “types” our society needs.

I think this really ties into your previous post about the student who weighed MIT vs. Microsoft and argued that following our “interests” is possibly overrated. We’re most fulfilled in our work when we do something we’re good at.

Maybe our universities need to find a way to push students on dual tracks–pursuing a major they are interested in, but also making sure they develop a separate set of skills which can lead to a job.

historydawg

December 14th, 2012
9:52 am

This argument is insane. Why are we judging education based on unemployment rates and future salaries? If everyone was a scientist, our world would be a very scary place. It is indeed a myth that liberal arts education is less rigorous. It is a completely different type of learning. “Because democracy demands wisdom,” folks. With the STEM takeover, we will have neither democracy nor wisdom. A good historian would tell you that this STEM movement is still rooted in Cold War values. But I guess the mathematicians missed such reality.

AP History Teacher

December 14th, 2012
9:52 am

Oh joy, here we go. The demonization of those with Liberal Arts degrees.

Lets not encourage our kids to think and reflect, just become good little worker bees.

What an idiotic move.

bu2

December 14th, 2012
9:52 am

@Michele
I think the first two year core is critical for the same reasons you suggest liberal arts majors are important. College should be more than just a trade school. It should expose people to different ideas and different concepts. Liberal arts majors should do more than just take English classes. And most majors teach a specific way of approaching a problem. Engineers tend to look at things one way, English majors another, Accountants a 3rd way. When you get into your major and careers you often are mostly exposed to people who think in similar ways. Those first two years expose you to a lot of people who think differently. One of the failings in our politics is the inability of many to understand that people can legitimately have differing opinions and values. Many liberals don’t know anyone who isn’t a liberal and many conservatives don’t know anyone who isn’t a conservative. I’d say most of our politicians in Washington have a poor education.

Jethro

December 14th, 2012
9:59 am

Is the purpose of college to get an education, or to get trained for a job? If the latter is the case, then take engineering out of the college curriculum and make it an advanced vocational tech degree. I’m an English major; I write manuals describing equipment that engineers make but cannot explain to the common man. Einstein once said something to the effect of, “The most brilliant person in the world can discover the greatest invention, but if he cannot explain that concept to the simplest barmaid, then the invention is useless.” Be careful what you wish for.

BTW

December 14th, 2012
9:59 am

I believe any major that could potentially lead a person to teaching (English, math, science, history) should be discounted. I think this is where America is failing our youth. We need teachers who have real world experience teaching in the classroom, not teachers who majored in education. I respect what teachers do, regardless of what they majored in, but I always laugh when I hear someone majored in education and got to read kids books for class in college.

AngryRedMarsWoman

December 14th, 2012
10:05 am

“The ABA does not recommend any undergraduate majors or group of courses to prepare for a legal education. Students are admitted to law school from almost every academic discipline.”

Nowadays virtually anyone with a pulse is admitted to law school. Since I graduated in the mid-90s, tuition at law schools has increased by 300-400% (think $30k-$40k+ per year) and there are approximately 25 more schools (201 at last count) pumping out 45k grads per year fighting for about 20k “lawyer jobs” that the BLS says open up each year. And for those who actually do find a job as a lawyer, the median income is about $60k per year. So…..each year you produce about 35k 20-somethings with six figures of non-bankruptable debt who cannot find a job that gives them any hope of repaying that debt. Within a few years, the majority of law school graduates will be on some sort of structured repayment plan (IBR, PAYE, etc) that will take a small percentage of their income for 15-25 years (depending on the program) and then forgive the rest at the end. Who pays/eats the rest? Why, you and I do, of course. And until then, those kids can’t buy homes, start families, etc. – and we wonder why our consumer-based economy is in trouble. “How does this happen?”, you ask. The student loan gravy train. I don’t blame the kids for wanting to better their lives – I feel bad for them because I know that very (very) few of them can hope to have the kind of success I have enjoyed on much less debt than they carry. I blame the student loan system that loans money to virtually anyone to attend any school regardless of graduation rates, employment statistics, etc. As taxpayers, we are supporting schools (and their deans, profs, admins) that should not exist. If the market was not being manipulated by the government’s student loan gravy train there would be fewer schools (law and other) and fewer people walking around with useless degrees (undergrad and graduate).

Should the English major pay more than the STEM major? No. But there shouldn’t be so many darn English majors (or kids in law school). There should be fewer people saddled with student loan debt who are working jobs where their degrees are not necessary. Companies need to stop insisting on a 4-year college degree for every job (does a receptionist really need a Bachelor’s Degree?) and go back to hiring some folks right out of high school (or 2-year schools) and start them at the bottom to train them and promote them as they learn.

Digger

December 14th, 2012
10:06 am

Many, many education majors still think the earth is flat.

C. Tampa Ironworse

December 14th, 2012
10:07 am

Just charge more to male students with pony tails. They aren’t contributing anything the world, unless putting Apple stickers on your car’s back window is a job.

Looking for the truth

December 14th, 2012
10:07 am

There goes college sports! If you only want to educate scientists, engineers and other technology based careers, there goes the sports journalism and PE majors!

Looking for the truth

December 14th, 2012
10:11 am

What about valuing education just because you’re (generally) better off if you’re educated? Sounds like they want history students to subsidize the education of technology majors. After all, colleges are not going to give away technology degrees! They are profit centers just like any other “business.”

Nope

December 14th, 2012
10:13 am

“architects…have a much better opportunity of obtaining a good paying job!”

Architecture majors have, by far, the highest unemployment rate (close to 14%). Also, unless you’re Frank Gehry or I.M. Pei, architects make very little money.

Hugh

December 14th, 2012
10:23 am

“Should the English major pay more than the STEM major? No. But there shouldn’t be so many darn English majors (or kids in law school).”

Less than two percent of college students major in English. Do you honestly know a lot of English majors?

Matt P

December 14th, 2012
10:27 am

“Businesses want employees who can think, write and discern, skills often honed by a liberal arts degree. (A friend in advertising told me once that if you want a strong writer with sharp reasoning skills, hire a philosophy major.)”

This is not true. It is harmful propaganda that has led literally millions of kids to college to get 4 year degrees, and then find the only job they can get is as a barista, waitress, or bartender. Businesses do not care about your liberal arts degree. If you have a philosophy major, you have zero job prospects unless you want to go to grad school, get a doctorate, and the find one of the handful of philosophy departments that are hiring that year.

Stop spreading bunk. Kids deserve better.

Yes, the point of getting a 4 year degress that costs tens of thousands of dollars is to get a job. If society wants to provide it for free as a social good, fine, talk about all the wholesome effects you get from reading Shakespeare. Until then, stop telling kids their strong writing and analytical skills will certainly get them a job somewhere. They won’t. Hint: Job application forms don’t come with 500 word essay requirements. They want your major, your GPA, and your experience in the field. The End. Businesses do not hire for a “Thinker.” They hire for positions. Someone has to cull 500 applications to do interviews for that position. The person culling applications doesn’t care about your amazing thoughtful perspective on the world.

This kind of baloney may have been fine in the 90’s when the economy was booming and anyone with a pulse could get a job. Those times are over. Spreading misinformation like that is literally causing misery for millions of Americans who have graduated without any prospects and having gigantic student loan payments.

Teacher

December 14th, 2012
10:30 am

People do not choose majors based on tuition costs. They look at what skills and interests they have and the job outlook. It would not be fair to charge more for students who are good in English or humanities but not so good at engineering. After all, if they get jobs, engineers have more earning potential than English majors! Most students are smart enough to figure that out!

WellPaidBasketWeaver

December 14th, 2012
10:36 am

Hmm. My husband and I both started college intending to get science degrees, but both switched to English–we both encountered interesting material that we liked and we both preferred to follow our interests rather than be motivated by money. He got a Ph.D. I got a B.A. He decided he didn’t like teaching at the college level and jumped straight into web design when it was beginning–without ever having studied computer sciences. I, too, left straight from getting a Liberal Arts degree into the internet world. We were both working in a business/science field–gasp–with “only” liberal arts degrees! Oh, and don’t worry, we both went to school on scholarships and paid our own way–no grants, no defaulted loans, no money from parents.
We both started making a lot of money–fast–especially for our ages and degrees. This was interesting as we didn’t plan for or expect a ton of money; we just wanted to do work we loved. We both quickly moved up and got many promotions in a matter of years. Neither of us were laid off or suffered any pay reductions–even during the dotcom “bust.” Tooting our own horns: our managers have always given us both stellar reviews and complimented our abilities to solve problems, communicate well–both in person and in writing, and lead others. We both do credit our liberal arts education for many–but not all–of our skills. What’s more, we’re not exceptional. We’re surrounded by people just like us–smart people who work hard and like our work. All of us got liberal arts degrees.

Conversely, our engineering friends chose their fields because of money or parental pressure. They couldn’t get jobs immediately out of college and worked in part-time jobs for years while deferring payment on their loans. Then, once they did get jobs, the paygrade and “level” structure in engineering was surprisingly archaic and is based on years worked, not dedication, skill, or even innovation.
It’s now about 15 years after we all left college and some of them are still “Associate Engineers” making just 3/4 what I made my first year working as a writer. Others have left engineering altogether for other, “more interesting” work–sometimes this has meant more money than engineering, sometimes less.
One of our engineering friends recently said he’d never push his kid into a particular degree because people doing what they’re good at and passionate about make better workers and better careers for themselves than people motivated only by the expectation of future money or prospective employment.

Finally, as this is an education blog, it seems like an obvious mention that if education programs seem to be failing students nation-wide–hiring a bunch of folks with Liberal Arts degrees who value and encourage critical thinking, stellar communication skills, and passion for their subjects might be just what the education field needs.

Soccermom

December 14th, 2012
10:45 am

I don’t think tuition should be different. Entrepeneurs may have a degree that is not in the least bit related to their intended business or career goals. But, perhaps, the value of the degree being sought should be considered if student loans are applied for. Just as a business plan is presented and assessed when applying for a loan.

And remember, the government gives credits (of various sorts) for behaviors/items it wishes to encourage (like home ownership) and taxes behaviors/items it wishes to discourage (like smoking). Why shouldn’t this issue be treated the same way?

Just Sayin.....

December 14th, 2012
10:52 am

Florida is right: we DO need doctors, physician assistants, engineers, scientists more than we need another english , music or women’s studies graduate.

In general, I would say that they should cost the same. But if you have a recognized NEED for certain professions ( like the HUGE doctor shortage that we are just about to experience when millions more patients come on line due to Obamacare), I think that it is a GREAT idea to encourage those professions by reducing costs for a degree.

ReaderRick

December 14th, 2012
10:55 am

How many english majors teach school? Seems like there are other degrees that we should look at reducing the number of students working towards.

AngryRedMarsWoman

December 14th, 2012
10:56 am

“Should the English major pay more than the STEM major? No. But there shouldn’t be so many darn English majors (or kids in law school).”
“Less than two percent of college students major in English. Do you honestly know a lot of English majors?”

Actually, there were a lot of them in my law school…..but my intention was not to attack English majors, I was just using them as an example. There shouldn’t be so darn many “any” major. My point is that we have turned college into an extension of high school and suddenly nearly every job requires a college degree – so we send a majority of our kids off to college for 4/5 years to get degrees that put many of them into an unreasonable amount of debt only to end up in jobs that they could have done with a high school diploma combined with on-the-job training or a 2-year degree or just some night classes. I understand “learning for the sake of learning” and agree that is has value – but let’s be honest and admit that almost everyone in college (and graduate school) is there because they want to get a good paying job some day and not just because it is fun to learn new stuff.

William Casey

December 14th, 2012
10:56 am

Tricky topic. The tuition issue seems obvious to me. Tuition stays the same regardless of major. However, government backed loans are available only in those areas in which employment is probable. The problem is, who wants engineers and scientists who don’t really want to be engineers and scientists? There is no way to “push” people into STEM. The secret is to make sure that all our prospective STEM guys get a shot at a great education. There is also the issue of education being more than simply vocational training. The world would be a boring place if everyone was a scientist or engineer.

lea

December 14th, 2012
10:57 am

I have a liberal arts degree, and an M.A. I earned that M.A. in 1981. I have never wanted for a job. I have worked in libraries, fabric stores, been a teacher at almost every age level, worked for churches, and even own my own business. I am working currently at a college and have turned down two other jobs in the last year. In all my employment venues I feel I have contributed to the economy and to the country – teaching, in particular. Are they high paying jobs? Not necessarily. Have I ever built a bridge – no, although I have helped build a few Habitat houses. Have my jobs been personally fulfilling – absolutely! I had no student loans to get through college or graduate school. I graduated from a private libearl arts college. I would encourage everyone who wants a quality education that will enable them to lead a fulfilling life to get a liberal arts degree from a great school.

William Casey

December 14th, 2012
10:58 am

AngryRed… makes good points.

Decatur Greg

December 14th, 2012
11:03 am

@Just Sayin… Obamacare isn’t going to increase the number of patients. The patients are there… they’re in emergency rooms getting the care now. The affordable care act just reduces the cost compared to sending everyone to the ER. The aging baby boomers (like myself) is what has and will continue to increase the NUMBER of patients.

By the way… online is one word. They teach that in English class.

Frank Gerber

December 14th, 2012
11:04 am

Throughout history, writers have always been among the smartest people on the planet. By all means, let’s do whatever we can to be even stupider.

Mr. Holmes

December 14th, 2012
11:06 am

Aren’t we at the point where we can all stop paying attention to Rick Scott and anything he thinks?

Brian

December 14th, 2012
11:06 am

Way too much emphasis is placed on your degree and people let it pigeonhole them. Just because you are an English major that does not mean you cannot get a job in marketing or sales or……I find it very sad when I hear “you cannot get a job with that major” or “I want to get a job in my field”. Like at 22 you have a clue what “my field” is. The major is not the issue. The issue is people realizing that they can do whatever they want to do with ANY major. All a college degree does is unlock doors that may otherwise be locked. It is up to each person to break the door down. Some of the better salespeople i have met have masters in exercise science. The world is your oyster if you choose it to be.

Centrist

December 14th, 2012
11:07 am

Public colleges and universities are supported by taxpayers. Supporting students who select easier/unemployable majors for whatever reason should pay considerably more than those majoring in the badly needed STEM fields. It is being done in logical thinking states – Georgia is just not there yet.

Made it work

December 14th, 2012
11:17 am

I don’t think that I would call myself, “Muffie Airhead”, but it is true that my math skills were horrible. I earned a B.A. in English from Georgia State, and then went to NCPT for paralegal training. I am now retired and living on Hilton Head. You just have to learn to work with what you have.

AngryRedMarsWoman

December 14th, 2012
11:21 am

I don’t want to rant, but my real complaint about higher education is that tuition has become unreasonable due to a combination of demand (”everyone” goes) and government manipulation (HOPE-type programs as well as student loans and related “forgiveness” programs like IBR/ICR and PAYE). The doubling, tripling and more of tuition that has been seen in the last 15-20 years has left us with a whole lot of 20 and 30-somethings who carry so much non-bankruptable educational debt that they cannot fully participate in our consumer-driven economy. When I left law school nearly 20 years ago with $35k in debt from undergrad and grad school it would have been manageable even if I had wound up in an average paying job – I still could have bought a house and car and started a family. You now have some kids leaving undergrad with close to six figures in debt…debt that can not be discharged in bankruptcy, so unless they get a great job they are on IBR/PAYE and paying 10-15% of their income for 20-25 years until the rest is forgiven (and then the IRS comes knocking). How do those kids buy homes…..new cars….start families? We told them to go to college. We told them that a college degree was the path to a good stable job. We put our hopes into them and sent them off to college where they borrowed $20k+ per year for tuition and a shared dorm room with a meal plan. And now they are starting at a company somewhere for $30k a year with a $1,000 per month student loan nut….or, worse, they are waiting tables or making venti mocha lattes for $12 an hour trying to get into the IBR/ICR/PAYE programs so for the next 25 years they can pay 15% of the amount they earn over 150% of the poverty line. IBR/ICR/PAYE payment doesn’t even cover the interest on your loans? Don’t worry, the taxpayers will pay the difference for up to three years. After three years are you still not making enough money? Just keep paying the IBR/ICR/PAYE amount and after 25 years of that we (the taxpayers) will forgive (eat) the balance….oh, and you might be taxed on the amount forgiven, but then again maybe you make so little that you won’t. And hey, we could stop this program at any time and suddenly you will go back to owing full payments on those loans that you didn’t even touch the principal on while you were on IBR/ICR/PAYE. Why aren’t these kids buying homes? Why aren’t they starting families? Why aren’t they being good little consumers to keep the US economy flowing? Because they can’t!!!!!

Mark Richt

December 14th, 2012
11:24 am

Let the market decide… The government gives guaranteed loans for people to use to go to college. We don’t need more college graduates PERIOD. We need people from all disciplines, but not too many…. If only people who can afford college go to college the market would correct this situation. It sucks, but it is the truth. Go Dawgs!

Another View

December 14th, 2012
11:30 am

People need to read this article in conjunction with the article on raising graduation rates tied to funding universities. Georgia has declared that it wants RPG to set the amount of money that universities and college receive from the BOR each year. Now, let us say they also adopt this policy. More students will opt for STEM because it is cheaper (not because they are qualified or prepared to do STEM at the college level). But, wait and watch RPG plummet in the STEM fields as tens of thousands start failing those degrees given their lack of preparedness to succeed in college. All those STEM departments and colleges will now have drastic reductions in their annual allotment from the state; less faculty, less resources, less graduating students. The circle is quite vicious.

Another View

December 14th, 2012
11:33 am

The circle is quite vicious…and their will be no historians to document it, writers to write about it, poets to lament it, philosophers and political scientists to question it, nor psychologists or sociologists to analyze why society went mad.

Old Physics Teacher

December 14th, 2012
11:35 am

“It’s a way for them to sort of excuse why they’re shifting so much work offshore…” Exactly what Apple’s CEO claimed when he was asked about how much cost would go up if Apple had all their manufacturing moved back to the USA.

The problem isn’t education; it’s not technology. We don’t need more college graduates; you don’t need a good education to get a good job. All of those platitudes are false. What is needed are laws that prevent manufacturers from using overseas slaves (or paying slave wages – there’s very little difference) and pauperizing out citizen taxpayers. Our citizens are as productive as any nation’s. All that’s needed is the government to make sure there is a “level playing field.” That’s the purpose of a government – to protect the nation’s citizens. The longer “we the people” allow these corporations to increase their profits at the expense of our citizens, the worse the problem will become

(the other) Rodney

December 14th, 2012
11:35 am

@wellpaidbasketweaver – agreed. I chose English as a major and wound up very happy in an IT role. As many have pointed out, “technical” training can occur anywhere (mine was after I graduated college, taking the random web design and networking course) but the skills learned through two years of upper level liberal arts practices have paid off in many ways for me.

cris

December 14th, 2012
11:35 am

“One of our engineering friends recently said he’d never push his kid into a particular degree because people doing what they’re good at and passionate about make better workers and better careers for themselves than people motivated only by the expectation of future money or prospective employment. ”
BINGO….plus I agree with other posters that not all students who are in college need to be IN college – we’ve created a society that looks down on blue collar and other skilled trades as somehow being “lesser” and even unskilled jobs – someone has to push the broom! If you’re making an honest living and you are good at what you do and enjoy it, then THAT’S what you should be “majoring” in.

(the other) Rodney

December 14th, 2012
11:39 am

And for the record, I don’t want a doctor who chose his/her degree based on it being cheaper anymore than I want an engineer designing roadways or tunnels that chose to become an engineer because it was cheaper.

Rick in Grayson

December 14th, 2012
11:42 am

With the way the US imports STEM graduates from other countries (because they will come here and work for less money) and the sending of STEM jobs to low wage countries it really won’t matter what is done!

Contrary to popular opinion, we will not need as many workers over the next 50 years as globalization takes it toll and the relentless contributions of techology will make many jobs obsolete.

Avoid Chemistry degrees…I have one and used it for 7 years as a working chemist. The degree was worthless as a means of supporting myself. Choose another STEM field.

Conservative Arts

December 14th, 2012
11:43 am

Hell, I can get a free LA education on this IPAD.

MANGLER

December 14th, 2012
11:50 am

Bass ackwards, and here’s why:
Because higher education is not compulsory, all Colleges and Universities are businesses. They offer a product. If you wish to have that product, you pay for it. Products are priced based on demand for them above all else and then procurement/manufacturing costs. Factors such as value and resale and longevity factor in as well, but have less affect on the price of the product than demand for it.
So, translate that into cost for college degrees. It costs more for a school to train a student for engineering and architecture and medicine than to train them for most other options. That has nothing to do with the inherent value of other degrees, just the costs to train for them. So why shouldn’t STEM degrees cost more per credit hour than non STEM paths? It costs more to teach them and provide facilities and partnerships.
Then you get an effect of popularity that will jack up (or down) the price for some things. Whatever field is “in” will gain more attention and applicants and thus raise costs associated with expanding that program. IT was the Elmo of degrees for a decade. Now it’s becoming Nursing.
I disagree with charging the same price per credit hour across degree fields. I think price needs to reflect the cost to provide the degree services, as well as the current demand for that degree field – the free market way. People are going to want to take career paths regardless of the cost to get a degree in that field. Don’t you want your engineers and doctors and teachers to be doing those jobs because they love them, and not because it was suddenly cheaper to get the degree? That will literally cheapen the degree.
Lowered tuition for STEM degrees, in conjunction with funding the schools based on graduation rates vs. attendance rates, is going to create so pretty dumbed down engineers and doctors.

Private Citizen

December 14th, 2012
12:04 pm

Wagner got his cost efficiency re: education majors @ Emory. Eliminate the program and repurpose the building.

As far as the governing caste and hostility toward the humanities, it might be a good time to watch the Japanese movie “Men Behind the Sun” about Japanese Unit 731 and their wartime human experimentation program. Warning: the movie was banned in many places due to being too graphic. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bqnftyYWW4E

Keeping the humanities relevant is a different issue than cancelling or devaluing them.

Jessica

December 14th, 2012
12:08 pm

It makes sense to give students an incentive to pursue degrees in fields where there are jobs available. If our country needs more engineers and nurses, offer a discount to people who choose to study those areas. If the areas of need change over time (for example, if in five years we have enough engineers but a serious shortage of teachers) then the program should change to reflect that.

Even better, why not offer a rebate to people who earn degrees in needed fields, rather than give them a discount up front? That would encourage students to actually graduate.

At the same time, I think students should be encouraged to minor in some of the areas that have less economic value. Get a useful degree, but spend a little time studying art or poetry or history as well. One of the purposes of an education from a real college (as opposed to the trade schools that masquerade as colleges these days) is to give students a well-rounded education. Take advantage of that opportunity while you are there.