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Jobless college majors may soon pay higher tuition

Published: Monday, Nov. 5 2012 4:06 p.m. MST

UVU students attend a class in the science building. Some students nationally may soon be paying higher tuition, according to a proposal that targets two problems drawing concern around the country — spiraling tuition costs and students who graduate but can't find work.

Stuart Johnson, Deseret News

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Theater or English majors in Florida may soon be paying higher tuition, a state commission there suggests. The proposal targets two problems drawing concern around the country — spiraling tuition costs and students who graduate but can't find work.

"Highly distinguished universities, such as the University of Florida and Florida State University, could charge more than others. Tuition would be lower for students pursuing degrees most needed for Florida's job market, including ones in science, technology, engineering and math, collectively known as the STEM fields," the Huffington Post reported.

"The purpose would not be to exterminate programs or keep students from pursuing them. There will always be a need for them. But you better really want to do it, because you may have to pay more," task force chair Dale Brill told the Huffington Post.

The proposal would be easier to sell, wrote Alex Tabarrock at the Marginal Revolution blog, if the state framed it as favoring majors with "the greatest positive spillovers" that "benefit the public at large" — rather than the majors with the best jobs.

"Overall, this likely means subsidizing the STEM fields more than anthropology which is why the taskforce has the right idea," Tabarrock wrote. "If the task force wants to explain the idea, however, they should make it clear that the goal is to focus subsidies on those fields where education most benefits the taxpayer."

Social critic Walter Russell Mead admires the objective, and admits that students should be pushed toward majors that pay, though he does question how it would work.

More to the point, Mead questions whether this hits the larger problem, which is excessive tutition in all fields, arguing that "colleges need to find ways to cut costs." Mead wrote that he "would prefer to see a plan that addresses the skyrocketing costs of college and the burden of college debt, rather than plans that shift that burden around."

Eric Schulzke writes on national politics for the Deseret News. He can be contacted at eschulzke@desnews.com.

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