Should science majors pay less for college than Art majors?

iVillage Member
Registered: 08-06-2009
Should science majors pay less for college than Art majors?
Sun, 02-10-2013 - 9:47am

Major Dilemma — Matthew O’Brien from The Atlantic on liberal arts majors and the economy.

Is our college students learning?

Rarely is the question not asked nowadays. Graduates now face a tough labor market and even tougher debt burdens, which has left many struggling to find work that pays enough to pay back what they owe. Today, as my colleague Jordan Weissmann points out, young alums aren’t stuck in dead-end jobs much more than usual (despite the scare stories you may have heard). But that’s a cold comfort for grads who borrowed a lot to cover the high cost of their degrees.
There are two, well, schools of thought about why freshly-minted grads have had such a tough time recently. You can blame the smarty-pants majors or blame the economy. In other words, students can’t get good jobs either because they aren’t learning (at least not the right things) in college, or because there aren’t enough good jobs, period.

This is far from an academic debate. If recent grads can’t find good work because they didn’t learn any marketable skills, there’s little the government can do to help, besides “nudging” current students to be more practical. And that’s exactly what conservative governors in Florida and North Carolina are considering with proposals to charge humanities majors higher tuition

than, say, science majors at state schools.
But there’s an obvious question. If liberal arts majors “didn’t learn much in school,” as Jane Shaw put it in the Wall Street Journal

why haven’t they always had trouble finding work? Are there just more of them now, or is this lack of learning just a recent phenomenon?

iVillage Member
Registered: 10-25-2006

Interesting...The Atlantic article was quite thought-provoking, esp. the author's questioning of what would have happened had FL pushed architecture/design during the housing boom.  The WSJ article just makes me wonder if too many college courses have, in fact, become too easy, so that students are not developing their critical thinking skills--I don't know since both of our sons studied science.  I do think both of them developed better thinking skills duing their studies.

My BIL was a history major who later went to grad school for urban planning.  As someone who abhorred history in my school years, I now truly appreciate his filling me in with his vast knowledge of history.  The intangible benes of humanities education are not easily measured, but they surely do have value.  As mentioned toward the end of the The Atlantic article, students need to LIKE what they study.  A bunch of unhappy scientists may be worse for the health of our nation than a bunch of poorly-compensated and sometimes-unemployed English majors.  I'll have to see what DS29's gf thinks of the idea--she was a Chinese & anthropology major.  She's a true liberal but is now does IT consulting on Defense Dept Ks, and has plans to start her MBA in fall.

Having said all that, I don't think it would be terrible to try to entice well-qualified students to STEM with tuition discounts, but why not just offer scholarhips?  I'd like to see the corporations who are hoarding all their cash put up more scholarship/intern bucks to get the skilled employees they need, rather than having state governments dicate what the universities should be charging for tuition in different areas. 


iVillage Member
Registered: 09-13-1999

The problem with funneling everyone into STEM is that we as a society do need those who write clearly, who provide social services, who serve as artists.   Even within the STEM fields, we need those who develop strong verbal skills.  My dd tells me that her very intelligent lab partners can do calculations in their heads but cannot for the life of them put a lab report together.  She has the science brain to be able to understand the concepts and calculations along with the verbal skills her lab partners don't so that she continues to edit their work  to create a well written, clearly expressed report.   I think we've gone overboard on promoting finance, computer science, and engineering and that eventually the gaping need for other professions will become clear.

Community Leader
Registered: 12-16-2003

I think state owned schools should give scholarships to those who are most qualified.  It would make sense that there might be a push to where students are most likely to succeed;  But, you are not going to make an accountant out of an artist.  I have BA, I was able to get a job.  On a side note, I for one would not be one to tell corporations or individuals how to spend their hard earned money.  As a person who who invests in a 401k plan, I expect corporations that I invest in, to make wise decisions with my money and not waste it on students who may not be up to snuff.  I have no issues with them using my money on scholarships, but like I said, they better have a good selection process before handing out my money. 

Ramona  Mom to 2 great kids and wife to one wonderful hubby since 1990!