Should an undergraduate studying business pay more than one studying psychology? Should a journalism degree cost more than one in literature? More and more public universities, confronting rising costs and lagging state support, have decided the answers may be yes and yes.
Starting this fall, juniors and seniors pursuing a major in the business school at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, will pay $500 more each semester than classmates with other majors. The University of Nebraska last year began charging engineering students $40 for each hour of class credit.
And Arizona State University this fall will institute a $250-per-semester charge above the basic $2,411 tuition for in-state upperclassmen in the journalism school.
Such moves are being driven by the salaries commanded by professors, the expense of specialized equipment and the difficulties of persuading state legislatures to approve general tuition increases, university officials say.
The University of Washington does not charge more for certain undergraduate degrees. "To my knowledge, the university has never seriously considered something like that," said Bob Roseth, director of news and information at UW. "If you're an undergraduate, there's just undergraduate tuition."
Even as officials embrace different pricing for different majors, many acknowledge they are unsure about a practice that appears to value one discipline over another or that could result in lower-income students clustering in less-expensive fields.
"This is not the preferred way to do this," said Patrick Farrell, provost at the University of Wisconsin, Madison. "If we were able to raise resources uniformly across the campus, that would be a preferred move. But with our current situation, it doesn't seem to us that that's possible."
At the University of Kansas, there are signs the higher cost of majoring in certain subjects is affecting the choices of students with less money.
"We are seeing at this point purely anecdotal evidence," said Richard Lariviere, provost and executive vice chancellor there. "The price sensitivity of poor students is causing them to forgo majoring, for example, in business or engineering, and rather sticking with something like history." ...
This from the Seattle Times.