Here’s an Idea: Charge More for Less Useful Degrees

Alden Wicker

In Florida, college students might have to pay more for the privilege of getting a “useless” degree.

Well, so far it’s just an idea. The Atlantic reports that a task force assembled by Florida Governor Rick Scott will soon submit a proposal to the legislature containing several recommendations for how Florida can can reform its university system, and this is one of the ideas.

In the proposal, the task force recommends Florida help universities freeze tuition for certain “high-skill, high-wage, high-demand” majors, which would be picked out by the legislature, while letting tuition rise for other, less useful majors. We can take a guess at what the more desirable majors would be by looking at what majors the government already deem “strategic areas of emphasis,” like STEM fields (science, technology, engineering, math), health care, emergency and security services, some education majors and globalization.

Ideally, a student choosing a major might be swayed to choose engineering over religious studies, once they see the price tag difference, and Florida’s businesses would have a larger pool of qualified applicants to choose from.

But could this really work? There are some worries:

  • Students who choose to major in the humanities will have to take on a higher burden of debt, even though they’ll be less able to pay it off when they graduate. (Learn how to pay off your student loans here, what the top student loan mistakes are and what to do if you’re struggling with your student loan payments.)
  • While we would like to think 18-year-olds consider the financial consequence of their educational choices, fresh graduates are the first to admit that they made some dumb financial mistakes when choosing a college. (Hello, student loan crisis!)
  • It’s not likely the legislature will make perfect work of choosing the majors that will be in demand four years from now.
  • This assumes that students would switch to an entirely different field of study given a small nudge, when really, students who choose to major in English might have chosen it because they are actually just better at dissecting metaphors than dissecting animals, and would fail out of a STEM program.
Tell us: What do you think about this idea? Would you have been swayed to choose a different major by a price difference?
  • Caitlin

    I think it’s ridiculous. People should be choosing what degree they pursue because it’s what interests them and it’s what they want to do. They already pick where they want to get it from based on price of tuition. The alluring lower price seems nice but I doubt there will be a staggering number of people who will come rushing at the idea of it, and then staying with it for 4 years. I have an art degree, and I definitely did not choose it because I thought I would make money at it. I chose it because I love art and working in my field. But I also made sure that I was well-rounded and could fluctuate my skills across several different markets when it came time to look for a job. 

    I just think it’s a waste of time and resources.

  • Lauren

    It’s punishment! Those “less useful” degrees mean income is less (usually) so you’ll hinder their ability to repay the loan if it’s higher. Very dumb idea. I understand the logic behind trying to persuade more students to get “useful” degrees, there has to be another way to do that other than tweaking with price tags.

  • Jessica from Ohio

    Perhaps I am approaching this from the other side of the fence, but, what if high school really prepared you for college, by teaching you not how to study for a test, or what to learn but rather how to learn?  What about requiring classes to help students learn what their passions in life are (and I am not talking about an antiquated career placement test)?  My guidance counselor was as useful as a pen.  The only reason to go into her office was for a signature, and If I hadn’t pressured her, all of my college applications would have been late or never received.  How about some real guidance?  

    And how about colleges where the purpose isn’t purely to make money, but to invest in the future of the city, state, country, and world?  Tenure for terrible teachers and professors? To have knowledge is a great gift.  To have the ability to adequately share that knowledge is an even greater gift that is received more widely than can be truly captured.  

    The problem as I see it, with how the US looks at education, business strategy, policy, and progress, is narrow minded, with “investors” concerned about short term gains instead of long term winning achievement that moves through society at the speed of light, building a foundation, a new educated system of progress, loyalty, and support.  


  • Kcheme

    I one-hundred percent agree that America must invest in science and technology education in order to remain a world leader.  I one-hundred percent disagree with this approach.  Why not consider incentives instead of detriments?  How about more grants for STEM majors, and programs to generate interest in these majors focused on recruiting women and minorities?