For all the talk about how we need to graduate more STEM majors (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics), there's a growing movement in Olympia to actually make these studies more expensive. Some lawmakers, like Senate "Majority" Leader Rodney Tom, want to grant our public universities the authority to set "differential tuition" pricing, charging more for more expensive degrees like engineering:
Tom called that idea a win-win solution... "Most people understand that these are more expensive programs," Tom said of degrees such as engineering. And even if the price went up "it's still a heck of a value."
Uh-huh. So we want to incentive students to pursue STEM degrees by charging more for them? That just sounds stupid. So stupid, that even Florida—arguably the stupidest state in the union—can see through the illogic:
A task force created by Gov. Rick Scott has suggested lowering tuition for students majoring in the fields of science, technology, engineering and math as a result of growing costs in education across Florida’s state universities and a poor economy.
That's right, Florida wants to incentivize STEM degrees by charging less for them, not more. Go figure.
Personally, I'm opposed to differential tuition for a number of reasons, not the least of which being that it's kinda antithetical to the whole notion of a universitas magistrorum et scholarium. As a history major, I availed myself of a couple engineering classes simply because I found them interesting, and I would hope that engineering students might want to learn a little history in the service of getting a broader liberal arts education. The traditional university model makes this sort of interdisciplinary study possible.
But if producing more STEM degrees really is as crucial to our economic future as everyone says it is, stupid Florida seems to be choosing the smarter strategy.