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Monday, May 2, 2011

If you subsidize them, they will come.


"[The] University of Nebraska-Lincoln is proposing a new tuition structure to allow it to charge engineering students significantly more for a bachelor's degree than it charges English majors. ... 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."

This strikes me as pretty silly. Subsidizing groups of study (since I assume they will not adjust the teacher salaries to fit this model) will only yield a distortion in the number of people studying certain topics. The sciences and engineering majors may technically use more dollars for materials and space, but they also receive research and development grants also help run these departments. Though they will raise some money for now, these schools will attract less talent and will see their grant money start to deplete.

The way I see it now, the system actually works pretty well.... I mean, with the whole "everyone pays the same thing." (After all, private four year colleges increase tuition prices by more than two dollars for every dollar increase in Pell Grants, and public colleges increase theirs by .97 for every dollar increase. From 1979 to the present day, college tuition has increased in price by roughly 160%, while the average median family income has increased by 10%.)

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  1. Is it a subsidy, or a reflection of the relative worth of one field of study vs. the other?

  2. In general, engineer majors earn significantly more than English majors. Remember the old joke from the 1970's "Question: What did the English graduate say to the engineering graduate? Answer: Would you like fries with that?"

  3. Our daughter is studying engineering and she goes many nights without sleep studying physics and advanced math while her friends majoring in communications and sociology are partying every night. I say leave the hard-science majors alone and charge the communications majors and the like double! If you subsidize them they will come ... couldn't have said it better myself, Kathleen!

  4. Yes, after all the moaning about how we produce more lawyers and less engineers than we need as a country ... let's definitely lower the cost to be an English major. Makes sense to me :-)

  5. I remember more "lab fees" and the like than other majors, but I think the cost per credit hour was the same.

    I like LukeHandCool's suggestion -- charge the humanities majors more.

  6. As their graduates skew toward English, Women's studies, and Black Studies, it will be fun to watch Nebraska-Lincoln explain why so few of their graduates are actually employed in their field of study.

  7. I wonder how alumni giving stacks up between the engineers and the communications majors. I'd bet that engineers give more on a percentage-of-graduates-giving basis and on an average amount basis then their liberal arts counterparts.

    Food for thought

  8. PrincetonAl said...Yes, after all the moaning about how we produce more lawyers and less engineers than we need as a country ... let's definitely lower the cost to be an English major. Makes sense to me :-)

    The ruling class keeps saying we need more scientists and engineers. The ruling class does not act like we need more scientists and engineers.

    The ruling class is trying to lure suckers.

    What else is new?

  9. If students graduating with certain majors earn more money (and therefore pay more taxes), shouldn't public universities encourage those fields of studies?

  10. Perhaps we should pay college professors equal to the earning potential of their students. After all, it is all in the name of equality.

  11. @plauer - I'll take that deal. Where do I sign?

  12. The dismal state of public education in grade school and high school moves on to the next level. It makes perfect sense to our Czars who'll undoubtedly support stuff like this.

    Our education system is deeply flawed, forcing students into expensive four year (or 6 or 8) programs leading to degrees that won't measure what all this money and 'learning' produces. Some prestigious schools are 'pass-fail' so prospective employers won't know what they are getting when it comes time to hire these kids.

    Just as a contrast, we decry the lack of primary care physicians yet subsidize medical students to go into specialties we don't need, where profits are guaranteed. So, while other countries start their students into medical school after two years of colllege, and avoid underpaying primary care physicians, we see this scheme is already in use in Medicine.

    And, in Mass. they'd make graduates agree to accept socialized medicine fee schedules as a condition for licensure in this state. This should all make the calls for privitation of higher education louder, let's see. . .

  13. Perhaps if we are trying to charge tuition based upon the percieved worth of the degree, they ought to be LOWERING the cost of the humanities degrees?

    Of course, hard science and engineering majors who feel that they paid more to pursue a harder course of study may be very reluctant alumni donors.

  14. To be consistent, upon graduation those cheaper liberal arts degrees should be signified on 20 lb. bond B/W folded photocopies from Kinko's and handed out in a gymnasium, and the more expensive math and science on scrolled parchment and ink ceremoniously awarded in a serious building.

  15. I could accept this on the condition that they disclose to all incoming freshman that not all degrees are created equal, actually that ANY degree does not GUARANTEE a sucessful career. This is purely a selfish motive so I no longer have to hear anyone cry about how they did everything right (I made it to college because I chose to abort the baby I was pregnant with in high school, then I got four degrees one in sociology, women's studies, post colonialism, and english) and they just can't understand why they can't land a real job and are unable to pay off their $100k in student loans with their waitress salary. Perhaps if they know this in advance I will not have to read another petition begging the government for student loan forgiveness.

  16. It has been my understanding the instructors in the engineering field earned more than those in the English field simply because there was more opportunity for work outside the university. Perhaps this does, in fact, justify a high relative price for the product. It says nothing about overall price of college.

  17. In my undergrad curriculum as a student athlete in a very socialist state- the University had re-appropriated funds from the computer science program because of grants the department brought in. The Dept was PISSED.

    Because of my unique scholarship circumstances I was in the habit of asking professors and departments to let me physcially take classes one quarter while not signed up- and then double down with registrar on the tuition break for lots of credits the following quarter. My academic year looked like this 4 credits summer, 20 credits fall, 4 credits winter, 20 credits spring.

    Every member of the department happily obliged sticking it back to the university.

    Who doesn't love the underground economy in a socialist system?

  18. I know that the Engineering Dept at LSU brings in a lot of money every year from industry. Not sure that the English Dept brings in any.

  19. Seems like we should tax English majors, social science and philosophy and political science majors, and give discounts to engineers and hard science majors since the latter are the most productive to society, and the former, the least productive.