In an attempt to improve efficiency and lower costs in higher education, Florida’s Gov. Rick Scott has suggested a freeze on tuition rates for students majoring in high-demand areas such as science, technology, math and engineering. If this plan is implemented, over the next few years, supply and demand may dictate that students majoring in STEM subjects will pay less for college than liberal arts majors who study subject such as history, philosophy, English, and anthropology.
Gov. Scott has also asked that Florida’s community colleges start to offer four-year degrees for $10,000 in the hopes that more students will finish college.
He hasn’t asked universities to lower their tuition rates yet, but he has asked them to quantify their students’ performances after graduation by determining which majors are getting the most and best jobs, ultimately pumping money back into the economy. By freezing tuition rates of students developing high-demand skills such as technology, engineering, and health care expertise, he’s rewarding them for choosing majors that will ultimately lead to lucrative professions.
“The higher education system needs to evolve with the economy,” said Dale A. Brill in a New York Times article. Brill is chairman of the governor’s task force and 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.”
Defendants of liberal arts education are not happy, and a protest petition has since popped up at the University of Florida. The petition states:
The central idea du jour emerging from the task force is a “differentiated tuition structure to support degree programs in strategic areas of emphasis.” The state, the task force argues, “should move away from uniform tuition rates … among all degree programs within a university.” Programs with no tuition increase would be those deemed “high skill, high demand, and high wage.” Liberal arts and social science topics (English, History, Political Science, Psychology, etc.) would cost students more, on the assumption that no one with such a degree has high skills, would ever be in high demand, and would ever earn a high wage, however “high” is defined. As Proctor himself put it on October 29, “English is not a strategic discipline.” As tuition for such non-strategic disciplines increases, these programs would be slowly phased out, or at least severely diminished, as more students seek “strategic degrees.”
Ultimately the Board of Governors will make the final decision in the next legislative session, which begins in March 2013.
Readers, what do you think of Gov. Scott’s proposal? Do high-demand majors deserve reduced tuition, or is the policy unfair to liberal arts majors? Sound off in the comments below, or via Twitter to @Technapex or @ce_doyle.