Sunday, July 29, 2007

Should business and jounalism majors pay more for a degree?

I think it's about time that universities started charging more for their more popular degrees. If people want the degree, they'll pay for it.

Should an undergraduate studying business pay more than one studying psychology? Should a journalism degree cost more than one in literature? More and more public universities, confronting rising costs and lagging state support, have decided that the answers may be yes and yes.

Starting this fall, juniors and seniors pursuing an undergraduate major in the business school at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, will pay $500 more each semester than classmates. The University of Nebraska last year began charging engineering students a $40 premium for each hour of class credit.

And Arizona State University this fall will phase in for upperclassmen in the journalism school a $250 per semester charge above the basic $2,411 tuition for in-state students.

Such moves are being driven by the high salaries commanded by professors in certain fields, the expense of specialized equipment and the difficulties of getting state legislatures to approve general tuition increases, university officials say.
Though, of course, the academics don't get that:
Even as they embrace such pricing, many officials acknowledge they are queasy about a practice that appears to value one discipline over another or that could result in lower-income students clustering in less expensive fields.
Well, the problem is that society and the students themselves place a value on one discipline over another. Education has become a means to an end and not a goal in itself. What are you going to be able to do with a degree in literature once you graduate? That's the question we ask today. When you spend thousands of dollars on education, you expect a return on your investment and that does not include a more well-rounded adult.

But at least the students get it:

Officials at universities that have recently implemented higher tuition for specific majors say students have supported the move.

Students in the business school at the University of Wisconsin, for example, got behind the program because they believed that it would support things like a top-notch faculty. “It’s very important to all the students in the business school to sustain our reputation,” said Jesse C. Siegelman, 21, who expects to graduate in December 2008.

Mr. Siegelman said representatives of 26 of 28 student groups that belong to the school’s Undergraduate Student Leadership Council, of which he was president last year, voted to support the tuition proposal.

In engineering programs, the additional money often goes toward costly laboratory equipment, because students and the companies that will employ them expect graduates to be able to go to work immediately using state of the art tools, said Mr. Lariviere of the University of Kansas.

“In many instances,” he said, “industry itself is demanding this.”

The students will pay more for a better product. Give them good teachers, the latest technology and a good reputation in the business community and they will be happy to pay for it. A business college that understands market forces would be one I would want to send my children to if they decided they wanted a business degree.