More bang for your buck: science or liberal arts?

If you go to college and you’re a liberal arts major, you probably know there isn’t much of an immediate demand for your particular skill set.

The unemployment rate for graduate students majoring in liberal arts is around 9.4 percent, which ranks among the highest of all eligible majors.

Add on the fact that the average student-loan debt for college graduates is at $26,600, and we have a pretty big dilemma on our hands.

In contrast, if you’re a science major, you probably won’t have as hard of a time finding a job.

It should come as no surprise to you that there are a plethora of job opportunities for majors of all sciences. If this is the case, does society have the duty of promoting productivity in the marketplace?

Several governors have recently proposed plans to charge science majors less for tuition as opposed to liberal arts majors.

Leading the way are two self-identified conservatives: Rick Perry and Rick Scott.

Taken to its fundamental premise, there is nothing wrong with it. Our government already gives out tax breaks for purchasing fuel-efficient vehicles.

This proposal is nothing different. If the federal government has the inherent legitimacy to “nudge” its citizens into buying fuel-efficient cars, state governments certainly have the right to separate majors based on the marketplace.

Debating whether this is justified in the area of education is a separate issue, however.

The next step would be to examine whether or not this is an effective strategy.

Here’s where the plan fails. It’s not effective.

However moral Perry and Scott may think they are by proposing bigger government to help “cure” the inherent interests of their respective states is irrelevant.

College students are adults. They should know the current state of the market, and they should know what to expect when they graduate.

Perry and Scott’s proposal fails, because it makes it more difficult for students to pursue interests that mean the most to them. Who are Perry and Scott to fiscally dictate what is more valuable to the state? Furthermore, why should any politician make a particular aspect of education more federally valuable than something else?

Maybe this goes back to the good old “value of the arts” preacher who proclaims the importance of such things, sometimes even at the expense of other forms.

Conservatives and liberals should not be artificially raising the tuition of individual majors.

Perhaps such a proposal is not so far-fetched. If implemented, however, it should be done by the schools themselves or at least within the context of each state.

This approach beckons responsibility on the part of students. If they graduate with a major that is experiencing high unemployment rates, they should not expect the government to come and bail them out, much like they bailed out the banks and car companies.

Such a proposal would fall in contrast to current policy reform proposals, proposals created and orchestrated by the Obama administration, which would make student-loan debt forgivable in 20 years.

If college students are mature enough to participate in politics, to marry, to drink and even to have abortions, they are definitely mature enough to understand that the government is not responsible for paying back student-loan debts.

They are.

Liberal arts majors should not be instinctively charged more than majors in the sciences. The students — not the federal government — remain responsible for themselves when they graduate with a degree in a field experiencing 13 percent unemployment.

 

Reach this columnist at spmccaul@asu.edu or follow him on Twitter at @sean_mccauley

 

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