Wednesday, July 18, 2012

What's Your Major, Governor?

Why do colleges charge the same amount of money per credit hour, regardless of the specific course?

Does Econ 101 provide the same value as Econ 301?
Does Econ 301 provide the same value as insert-easy-to-make-fun-of-class-here?
This can be extended to groups of courses, or majors.

Is a B.A. in History worth the same as a B.S. in Engineering?

Maybe. But if not, then why should a student expect to pay the same amount?
Wouldn't it be logical for a student to take more of the "undervalued courses," which in this case would mean the more useful courses (since the cost is a push)? It seems there is a forked path for students:  one way (COAST) is to get a degree with the least effort possible, expecting the credential per se to be sufficient; the other way (STRIVE) is to shoot the moon and get an intense education that likely leads to an elite graduate school.

If true, one would expect a split rush toward the easiest classes and the hardest classes while ignoring the middle road as much as possible. Is this why we have both so many law students and so many non-mentally-taxing degreed grads?

A student may not be able to do much about this strange flat-pricing per credit hour system. But a government can. A governor could decide to vary the students' tuition subsidies based on some ranking on what classes/majors are most important to the public good.

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