Would the first step in Higher Ed reform mean higher tuition for some majors?

The Florida Legislature is beginning another adventure into changing Florida’s community college and university system. The first step was a hearing of the House Education Committee with University of Florida president Bernie Machen and Florida State University president Eric Barron.

Legislators asked a number of questions, but the takeway was largely this: We need more graduates in the Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics areas and universities should be able to charge more for these majors because they cost more for universities to provide. The Associated Press reported:

Presidents of Florida’s two leading research universities suggested Friday that lawmakers let them pay for expanding expensive science, technology, engineering and math programs by charging those so-called STEM students higher tuition.

University of Florida’s Bernie Machen and Florida State University’s Eric Barron also told the House Education Committee their schools and possibly some others should be allowed to bring up tuition rates, now among the lowest in the nation, closer to the national average. Current law lets the Legislature and Board of Governors approve annual increases totaling no more than 15 percent.

Gov. Rick Scott, who has made job creation his top priority, has been pushing universities to boost STEM degree production because there’s greater demand for those graduates in the marketplace.

It’s an interesting dynamic. We need more of these graduates, so one would think there would be an incentive to get more students to major in these areas. Raising tuition is actually a disincentive, especially for students who are not on financial aid.

Could the proposal to charge more for STEM mean FEWER graduates? How will the legislature handle that?

About Jim Johnson

Editor and publisher of The State of Sunshine.
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