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Doubling down on stupid in the ivory tower….

Amid all of Øbama’s recent student loan rate histrionics in an attempt to buy the votes of college audiences and Jimmy Fallon, I came across this gem of a story on college tuition increases which was briefly mentioned on the WTIC news yesterday.

It was a report on the news regarding differential increases in tuition for college students.  To wit, the Provost of the University of Maryland has asked the Board of Regents to consider charging some science and engineering majors a premium, purportedly “to allow the university to accept more students in those fields.”  Yes, educating students in these majors is more expensive than say, an economics major, with laboratory sections and their attendant equipment and consumables, but there are already extra lab fees associated with these types of courses to offset these costs.  This would be a tuition hike in addition to these fees, because fees, like taxes, never go away.

The real reason for differential tuition was stipulated by college administrators: the graduates of these fields have the potential to make more money.  So now college administrators are predicting the future and tapping their student’s potential earnings?  Additionally, is this not a tacit admission that these institutions are also producing graduates with worthless majors that don’t have decent earning potential after four or more years of college?  It is currently being reported in the news that one in two graduates of the class of 2011 and soon, 20112, are unemployed, so the logical question becomes: will future graduate victims of differential tuition get compensatory tuition refunds from their alma mater if they don’t get a high paying job?   Conversely, if a graduate from a major that is not predicted to be lucrative happens to fall into a job that pays well, will his/her alma mater have the right to charge them a premium ex post facto?  An interesting can of worms, no?

According to the referenced survey of differential tuition by the Cornell Higher Education Research Institute, academic institutions have been doing this or something like it since the late 80’s and early 90’s, and it has been increasing rapidly to include about 40% of surveyed institutions as the idea caught on.  Doubtlessly this technique for “squeezing blood from a stone” will continue and spread to the remaining institutions, fed by politically motivated increases in “free” or government subsidized Øbama tuition money from the government.  Given the rate of increase for college tuition, at an average of 8% per year (about double the inflation rate), tuition effectively doubles every nine years.  How can colleges justify these additional arbitrary rate increases in light of the fact that college tuitions are already rapidly outstripping the ability of an average family’s ability to pay?  You don’t need a Ph.D to see that as students will shop for majors from institutional tuition “smorgasbord” menus in much the same way they will shop for colleges, i.e. based on affordability, and as a result, more students than ever will be discouraged from entering the hard sciences and other majors now deemed to be more potentially lucrative than others.  Will this drive more impoverished students into the lower paying soft sciences, like sociology and gender studies, fields that are more suited to supplying the entitlement industry of government with (by their own admission) lower paid workers?

The original article states “The proposal also stipulates that a portion of the extra revenue be set aside to support students who cannot afford the premium.”  Ah, yes, income redistribution rears its ugly head again.  Not only will these students be subject to liberal income redistribution schemes when they graduate, but now the college liberal elites are forcing more well heeled students to subsidize the “less fortunate”.  I guess they will have to learn sooner or later!

We already have alarmingly insufficient numbers of young Americans applying to the STEM (Science Technology Engineering Mathematics) majors because they are, in a word, difficult.  Why add a financial burden that will surely turn away even more worthy students already looking at huge student loan bills after college?  Why use cost as an excuse to push students into majors that admittedly won’t provide them with well paying jobs, instead handing the well paying STEM jobs and the technology that comes from them to foreigners?  Why dissuade students with plenty of aptitude but not a lot of money from pursuing careers in STEM majors?  Here’s an idea: charge the premium to the students that want to waltz through college in utterly useless majors like gender studies, music appreciation and many of the soft sciences!  Use the potentially non productive for your cash cows!  Reward the STEM students for making good choices, not the students making bad choices.  At least the STEM students will be in a better position to be tapped for alumni donations!

Another aspect of this problem is that American students are being displaced (or replaced) in the country’s graduate schools by foreign students.  As a member of the hard science academic community, I can tell you from personal experience that graduate classes are filled with foreign students, particularly Chinese (and increasingly, South Asian Indians), and it is getting worse.  The idea of differential tuition will simply exacerbate the problem.  Are these schools just “taking the money and running”, while feeding the problems created by the big brain and technology drain to the Far East?  Is there an analogous proposal being made to charge these foreign students an extra premium for taking their learned expertise back home to China or elsewhere?

When you look at this, think about why liberals in academia and the media, who reflexively try to pin the “hate science” donkey tail on Republicans, are trying to keep students from taking STEM courses?  It looks to me like the “hate science” donkey tail rightfully belongs on the liberal asses that propose this sort of epic, long term stupidity.  What better way to kill our country’s technological advantage than by dissuading citizens from taking STEM courses, and filling them with foreign students that will go home after college?

Is this inability to think through the long term effects of these proposals by colleges and universities indicative of the quality of education our students are receiving?  If so, then we are really getting shortchanged on these tuition hikes.  Much like the liberals in government, their only solution is to raise tuition and fees rather than cutting extraneous costs.

Note to these schools: alumni have long memories.