Should Some Degrees Cost More?

I remember when you could go to college and choose a major because that’s what interested you most.  Apparently, that’s not the case anymore — some majors cost you more.

According to a recent New York Times article, some universities are actually charging students more per credit hour for some majors than for others.  They cite the inability to raise tuition as the need for these “premium” feeds.

These premiums would actually make more sense to me if it were for the same majors across the board.  But different universities are applying the premium to different majors.  The universities are attributing the need for the premiums to higher professor salaries and more expensive equipment.  But wouldn’t those be the same issues for all the universities.  Instead, one college is charging a premium for an engineering degree and another is adding it to journalism majors.

In addition, the premiums aren’t correlated with salaries.  In other words, you aren’t paying a premium for a major because that’ll get a higher paying job.  Some of the majors being charged a premium, such as journalism, actually have some of the lowest salaries.

But my real concern is that these premiums will pigeonhole which students take which majors.  The choice of a major will no longer be based on the student’s interests and strengths.  Instead, students will be limited to selecting a major from those that they can afford.  As if college isn’t expensive enough with tuition, books, lab fees and supplies, now students have to worry about premiums.

I hope this trend will fizzle out before my kids get to college.  I’m already worried about how I’ll be paying for two tuitions at the same time.  I don’t want to limit my children’s opportunities because of some dumb premium.  Guess I’d better save a little extra just in case. 

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