Threatening the arts

President Eric Kaler rejected recent calls to charge humanities majors based upon market forces.

Ronald Dixon

 

During President Eric Kaler’s second State of the University address, he tackled some of the ways to reform college education tuition issues. One that he rejected, however, was the recent call in Florida to charge liberal art majors more than other degrees.

There are several reasons why this is a bad idea.

First, arts majors generally make less money than their peers in science, technology, engineering and mathematics fields. To place an even larger burden upon arts majors than they already have is
nonsensical.

Also, the amount of money that is required to conduct STEM classes, as opposed to humanities classes, is much greater. This is because of the fact that STEM classes often require extra tools, energy and labs. To charge more for arts majors, which often only require a professor, textbook and a classroom, is a bad model for financing classes based upon how many resources they utilize.

Moreover, the primary argument used to justify such a discriminatory practice — that there is a higher demand for STEM professions — is irrelevant. Higher costs for arts majors are not going to disincentivize students, myself included, from pursuing degrees that we enjoy. Although there is an inherent value of certain majors over others, blatant discrimination should not be added to the intellectual equation.

Although STEM fields are greatly important, especially for a 21st century economy, there has been a removed focus on the humanities, particularly English, languages, the arts and the social sciences. The epitome of this relocation of focus is shown with President Barack Obama’s repeated calls to invest in STEM fields while, as an economics undergraduate, completely ignoring other fields of study.

I am glad that Kaler has rejected the notion that universities should discriminate against majors only based upon future wage prospects. As an intellectual and academic society, there is a time and a place to compare the values of different fields of education, and I am glad that the University is taking the high road and not inflicting this measure upon humanities students.