What is going on in Florida? As a former resident of the Sunshine State and a proud graduate of the University of Florida, I was dismayed to read what the state is proposing regarding higher education. According to this article, “Pricing Out The Humanities” in Inside Higher Ed, the governor of Florida has appointed a Blue Ribbon Task Force on State Higher Education Reform and their recommendations are quite surprising, such as charging more tuition for certain majors.
“Quoting the task force’s language on differential tuition, petition co-creator Norman Goda said, “The theory is that students in ‘non-strategic majors,’ by paying higher tuition, will help subsidize students in the ‘strategic’ majors, thus creating a greater demand for the targeted programs and more graduates from these programs, as well.””
History professors at the University of Florida have responded by starting a petition against this recommendation.
According to this article, “the model endorsed by the task force would aim to hold in-state tuition rates for “high-skill, high-wage, high-demand (market determined strategic demand) degree programs” steady for at least three years, making them potentially more attractive to students than other majors. Although the task force report doesn’t officially recommend strategic majors, it names several possible categories previously identified by the Florida university system’s Board of Governors, including 111 in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM); 28 programs in globalization; and 21 in the health professions. (Such degree programs currently account for 37 percent of degrees granted within the system, with a 21 percent increase during the past four years). Core humanities disciplines did not make the list.”
While I agree that we should encourage students to major in STEM programs, and we certainly need more engineers, not every student is cut out for these majors. I, for one, was not. You could make tuition free and I still could not be an engineering major; my brain just doesn’t work that way. And, as someone married to an electrical engineer and mother of a mechanical engineer, I see the difference. Studying the humanities prepares students in a different way and I am against making them second class studies or penalizing those who want to major in this area. And, as I have pointed out in previous blogs, many people who major in one of the subjects that come under the heading humanities go on to earn graduate degrees so comparing job placement after a bachelor’s degree is not a fair comparison.
The article states that Governor Rick Scott said he wants to run Florida’s education system more like a business. I couldn’t disagree more.