charging engineering students more

Should college students majoring in engineering fields pay more for tuition? It sounds like a pretty dumb idea.

Critics argue that differential tuition will discourage student exploration, adversely affect low-income students and make it to difficult to increase participation in science and math fields, which are often the areas of study to see higher fees with differential tuition programs.

Further, evidence suggests it will adversely affect certain groups more:

Women and minorities were more likely to be negatively affected by increases in tuition than men and whites.

The arguments in favor of “differential tuition” (charging more or less based on major) is that “fees for majors should align with program-specific teaching costs and post-graduation income potential,” whatever that means exactly. It’s possible that it costs more to teach computer engineering than it does to teach English, but I find that dubious. My hunch is that universities are in search of cash and they have a captive audience from which to extract that cash.

If this were to catch on–and I don’t predict it will to any large degree, but if it does–then the outcome will be further inequality and less global competitiveness. We can’t have a system that discourages STEM (science, high tech) majors and we can’t foster a system that prohibits all but rich parents from sending their kids to attain the only degrees that nearly guarantee stable and rewarding lifelong income.

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