State initiative values cost over passion

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As the University of Miami continues to celebrate the Year of the Humanities and the Arts, Florida Gov. Rick Scott’s higher education campaign to encourage students to major in science-related fields is currently underway.

Gov. Scott has proposed to freeze tuition rates for majors in the science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) fields. This decision, however, would allow the price of humanities majors to rise as tuition prices increase each year.

While the plan would be limited to public colleges and universities, this is another attempt to push students toward pursuing STEM careers. At UM, however, a contrasting picture is made. At the start of this academic school year, President Donna E. Shalala called for 2012-2013 to emphasize the humanities through special guest scholars and performers.

Leonidas Bachas, dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, said that such a reform would never occur at UM.

“We have a balanced approach to how we see education,” he said. “We try to educate students in creative thinking. A lot of majors cover that.”

Other university officials, like Mihoko Suzuki, director of UM’s Center for the Humanities, have expressed their discontent with the reform.

Suzuki explained that emphasizing one group of majors over others based on affordability might influence undecided students. Therefore, those who are wavering between majors may sacrifice passion and ultimately base their decisions solely on price.

“It is very limiting and shortsighted to separate the STEM majors from everyone else,” she said. “At the Center, there is not a division between science and the humanities.”

If the campaign is enacted, tuition rates for those studying humanities and other majors will rise. In contrast, according to an article reported by Time Magazine on Jan. 3, the cost of STEM majors is actually more expensive than other majors.

In other words, nonscience majors will be the ones paying for the difference in tuition, with the inclusion of labs, equipment and research funding.

“Gov. Rick Scott’s plan doesn’t reflect the true cost of majors,” Bachas said. “It’s actually reversed. STEM programs cost more.”

According to the same article in Time Magazine, the University of Texas at Austin has been administering tuition based on the type of major each student chooses since 2004. The school charges different rates based on majors because STEM programs are more costly. At the same time, jobs in the STEM fields generally pay more, when compared to those in the humanities.

For instance, engineering students at the University of Texas at Austin pay $5,107 per semester, while liberal arts majors pay $4,673.

“STEM graduates make more money,” said sophomore Christina Gillam, who is majoring in Spanish. “So humanities would pay more tuition to be more in debt. It’s unfair.”

Suzuki feels it will ultimately cost both the state and the students more money than it will save.

“What if they major in STEM and then fail? They’ll need extra time to finish,” Suzuki said. “The longer they go, the more it costs the tax payers and resources of the state and university.”

Under this proposition, students who would want to switch from a STEM major to any other discipline would then have to pay different amounts of tuition. Changing majors would then affect students’ financial awards, including scholarships and financial aid.

Haylie Schroeder, a senior majoring in nursing, predicts that this will cause a hassle.

“It would be an administrative nightmare if students move majors, if they find out science isn’t their niche,” she said. “Tuition should just remain equal.”

Suzuki said there are advantages of receiving a well-rounded education.

“For doctors, humanities majors can help with ethics, dealing with the people, not just the science diagnoses,” she said. “People are worried about how much they are going to make when they leave college. University should be about how much you’re going to contribute to society.”

Alexander Gonzalez contributed to this report.

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  1. Completely agree. I don’t have labs, and my research necessities are the library and a computer. There is no way in the world my paying more for an English degree than a chemistry major who is required to take at least four labs in chemistry alone makes sense. Yes, these students buy their manuals and safety equipment, but the physical spaces of the labs themselves and required materials to perform these labs are expenses not found in a humanities major. I’m not even saying humanities major should pay less than STEM majors, but for Humanities majors to pay more just further skews an already skewed system that encourages STEM majors over others.