Higher Tuition for the Liberal Arts?

Friday, December 14, 2012

Michael Ruse, professor of zoology and philosophy at Florida State University and contributor to the Brainstorm blog for the Chronicle of Higher Education, talks about a proposal from Florida Governor Rick Scott about a sliding scale for tuition in the state. Under the proposal, majoring in the liberal arts would cost more than majoring in science, technology, engineering or math.


Michael Ruse

Comments [52]

John from NYC wrote "My understanding is that Scott was motivated by the fact that his daughter majored in Anthropology and he sees her as a bit of a failure...Perhaps a scientist could establish if his daughter's failures might be due to genetics rather than her choice of majors. "

or her failure might be caused by poor parenting

Dec. 14 2012 04:18 PM
Lauren from Brooklyn, NY

I attended Rochester Institute of Technology, College of Imaging Arts and Sciences, and graduated with a degree in Graphic Design with a concentration in Communications ten years ago. The big reason I chose RIT was because it was not an art school; I could shift to a less fluffy, more 'serious' area of study if I felt the need.

The core root of Rick Scott's proposal is not ridiculous or terrible. Some majors and concentrations (including graphic design) are self-indulgent. They are not for the immediate betterment of society.

Balance would be key for this theoretical system. The sliding scale should include where those financial benefits are applied; and be consistent for areas of study that are a constant investment for society, (such as a pre-med program, a fast-track to obtaining a masters of education or your CPA) not general business.

For every graduate class, Florida could evaluate where numbers are below a certain percentage. If they are low on business and economic majors, tuition goes down for that year's incoming class. And yes, if anthropologists and philosophers are disappearing, tuition should also be lowered for those areas of study.

My work would be uninformed, boring and lack dimension without the influence of the rest of the world, and areas of study outside of the arts. As a self-indulgent designer, I am worried about the future of society and our lack of math and science professionals; Not business.

Sidenote: To Michael Ruse's underlying point, I attended a great public high school in Western New York and had terrible science teachers, but amazing teachers in the liberal arts. He hit it on the nose. Beyond all the help our public education system needs; We need even more concentration towards our math and science programs.

Dec. 14 2012 12:04 PM

Uhmm... let's first discuss why a college education™ is so expensive in the first place:

E. Gordon Gee, $1,992,221
Ohio State University
Base salary: $814,157
Bonus pay: $296,786 (plus $881,278 set aside for deferred compensation)
Perks: Car, house, $50,400 pension contribution from the state or university
Tenure: 2007–Present
In-state tuition and fees: $9,735

Mary Sue Coleman, $845,105
University of Michigan
Base salary: $570,105
Bonus pay: $100,000 (plus $175,000 set aside for deferred compensation)
Perks: Car, house, $24,500 pension contribution
Tenure: 2002–Present
In-state tuition and fees: $12,590

Kent R. Hance, $757,740
Texas Tech University system
Base salary: $420,240
Bonus pay: $150,000 paid deferred compensation ($187,500 set aside)
Perks: $24,000 car allowance, house, $36,461 pension contribution
Tenure: 2006–Present
In-state tuition and fees: $8,260

Francisco G. Cigarroa, $751,680
University of Texas
Base salary: $751,680
Bonus pay: $0
Perks: $63,893 pension contribution
Tenure: 2009–Present
In-state tuition and fees: $6,869 to $11,168, depending on the school

John C. Hitt, $741,500
University of Central Florida
Base salary: $463,500
Bonus pay: $185,300 (plus $92,700 set aside for deferred compensation)
Perks: Car, house, $37,435 pension contribution
Tenure: 1992–Present
In-state tuition and fees: $5,584

Charles W. Steger, $738,603
Virginia Tech
Base salary: $457,040
Bonus pay: $36,563 (plus $245,000 set aside for deferred compensation)
Perks: $20,000 car allowance, house, $25,948 pension contribution
Tenure: 2000–Present
In-state tuition and fees: $11,100

Patrick T. Harker, $728,329
University of Delaware
Base salary: $669,120
Bonus pay: $59,209
Perks: $1,938 car allowance, house, $26,950 pension contribution
Tenure: 2007–Present
In-state tuition and fees: $10,208

Jay Gogue, $722,500
Auburn University
Base salary: $472,500
Bonus pay: $250,000 set aside for deferred compensation
Perks: Car, house, $1,650 pension contribution from the state or university
Tenure: 2007–Present
In-state tuition and fees: $7,900

Alan G. Merten, $717,363
George Mason University
Base salary: $468,000
Bonus pay: $150,000 (plus $99,363 of paid deferred compensation)
Perks: $2,150 car allowance, car, house, $53,307 housing allowance, $75,507 pension contribution
Tenure: 1996–Present
In-state tuition and fees: $9,116

Michael Hogan, $695,000
University of Illinois system
Base salary: $620,000
Bonus pay: $45,000 (plus $30,000 set aside for deferred compensation)
Perks: Car, house, $22,344 pension contribution
Tenure: July 2010–Present
In-state tuition and fees: $13,558

Dec. 14 2012 11:57 AM

Rick Scott and the GOP touting math and science?? Why was the irony of this laughable alliance not the focus of the conversation? The platform of the GOP is based largely upon the denial of scientific fields of study.

Dec. 14 2012 11:39 AM
Jf from Ny

Education was worthy of being free when public school was invented, now its nessesary to survive being unenslaved by a mere living wage or not even. College is a right as freedom is a right and must be free to stop this corrupt mafia education system.

Dec. 14 2012 11:39 AM

...more narrow-minded, jargon-spewing cogs to fill the bureaucratic machinery of the business world.

MBAs "maximizing" their "core competencies".


Dec. 14 2012 11:38 AM
thatgirl from manhattan

Ridiculous notion. What about Liberal Arts is not "business-friendly?"

As someone who's been in the position to consider new undergraduate candidates for what is considered a "white collar" corporate job that promises a pretty solid path to a sustainable career, we're more likely to hire someone with a well-rounded educational background that includes critical thinking and communications-skills assets than someone whose background is more one-dimensional.

Both skill sets/experiences are important to one's employability/candidature. Since we've decided it's okay to graduate people who cannot spell, punctuate or otherwise communicate succinctly from high schools (no matter how much we test them), the undergraduate experience should not favor a single path of knowledge acquisition over others. Only 18% of Americans report speaking a language other than English; this, too decides how competitive we are in a world economy, and isn't always a prerequisite for a technical degree.

Dec. 14 2012 11:33 AM
David from Ocean, NJ

The idea that the humanities classes should cost students more is so backwards and self-defeating it is hard to listen to this broadcast. As a trial attorney for 30 years I can say this without qualification: If you want better trial juries,and better justice, you will encourage the study of history, literature, sociology, philosophy, etc. Hurry for science! Lets improve it all. To suggest that the nation should discourage the humanities by making it more expensive to study these subjects is unconscionable. Oh what an electorate we will have if this comes to pass.

Dec. 14 2012 11:29 AM
Guy from Brooklyn

If Assad had a better liberal arts education, he'd be better at articulating his barely concealed, short sighted, ill-informed ideological class rage.

Of course people don't want to learn to think, and why should they when their professional lives entail monitoring software that does all the work and their personal lives involve watching tv and liking things on facebook? Perhaps Florida universities should teach their students how to clean firearms and wipe seniors' bottoms to be more in tune with the requirements of the Florida economy/way of life.

Dec. 14 2012 11:28 AM
Vinny from White Plains

No comment except to say the Professor is very entertaining. Brian should make him a regular guest. I love him!

Dec. 14 2012 11:27 AM

Joe from nearby~

My thoughts exactly.

Dec. 14 2012 11:27 AM
Laura from New Jersey

Have you seen how much it costs to get an arts education these days? If they raised tuition more, no one at all would get an arts education. These are not students who are aiming to be pop stars (as one comment mentioned)- these are people who go to study to follow their passion, and are very clear going in that they are not likely to make a fortune.

I also hear that no one thinks they make enough - no matter what field they are in - arts or sciences. Too bad for us all!

Dec. 14 2012 11:25 AM

My particular BFA prepared me for a very "business-friendly" career, with the bonus of a well-rounded overall education. You can't say the same for a degree based only in business.

That said, the libertal arts naysayers seem to have a very limited view regarding the variety of arts programs available. Are you really going to claim, for instance, that a degree heavy in digital interactive arts courses isn't "valuable" in today's workforce? I doubt that.

Dec. 14 2012 11:25 AM
Christine from Westchester

He's just making my case: take humanities, major in something useful. And can't you always enjoy the humanities (arts, language etc) just reading on your own? Start a book club.

As for comments that this will drive out professors. Yes: probably the waste of space humanities types that are paid for spouting BS. Let em leave, save the salaries.

Dec. 14 2012 11:25 AM
Mary from Clinton Hill

That hiring manager was el depresso. I'd rather NOT be hired than have to work among all business majors. Blech! What a bland world that would be.

Dec. 14 2012 11:24 AM
adrienne from UWS

Oh well, the life of the mind has nothing to do with democracy. Deep thinking and ideas don't change the world they are just trivial. The arts, culture, history, who needs it? Languages, literature,bah humbug. if you think these things are just for the elite then we all have the responsibility to reach for knowledge whoever we are. The ancient greeks taught us about forms of governmant from democracy to totalitarianism...oh well I guess that's not so important.

Dec. 14 2012 11:24 AM
Mary from Clinton Hill

That hiring manager was el depresso. I'd rather NOT be hired than have to work among all business majors. Blech! What a bland world that would be.

Dec. 14 2012 11:24 AM
Cynthia from NYC -East Harlem

So the THEATER BUSINESS would have no product if there were no actors, writers, set designers - shall I go on..... When Tony Randell went to NJ to promote NJPAC he did not go saying we need the arts because we are a civilized people - he went and showed how the Theater was good business and development opportunities and used Lincoln Center to show the how. I used to work for the NYS Theater - between the theater directly, NYCO & NYCB we employed over 3000 people (of which 4-500 were performers) and that was just the resident companies of our theater. Not to mention all the restaurants, parking garages and revitalized residential buildings that made that area the destination it is today - it wasn't always so.....

Dec. 14 2012 11:24 AM
Laura from Staten Island

I was an art major from a liberal arts college, and I make a six figure salary with my creative company. It's what you do with it.

Dec. 14 2012 11:23 AM
BK from Hoboken

Martin and jgarbuz-
When you have nothing intelligent to add to the conversation, you go after someone's accent. Really? Nice xenophobia. Say something relevant or keep your personal attacks to yourself.

Dec. 14 2012 11:22 AM
Joe from nearby

@caller Hassan-
So liberal arts are "a bastion of the privileged"? Are you serious??
Open your eyes- plenty of inner city kids are successful now on the stage & in films.
I have a friend who was a theater major & is now a successful lawyer.

You make no sense. It's disturbing that your job is to hire ppl when you have such pre-programmed prejudices. Are you jealous that these kids are doing what they love to do, instead of selling out for the big bucks?

Dec. 14 2012 11:22 AM
jgarbuz from Queens

The main product of a liberal arts education is a semi-educated malcontent.

Dec. 14 2012 11:22 AM
Lois from West Milford

I once worked for the head of a small programming dept who was very leery of hiring people whose education was strictly programming/business because he felt it showed a lack of imagination.

Dec. 14 2012 11:22 AM

Rick Scott is showing again how deeply corrupt and idiotic he is.

But ignore that.

Scott's policy, if carried out, will cause real damage to Florida's higher education system. Professors will leave the system. Students from out of state who might have gone to Florida will go elsewhere. Students in Florida will either go elsewhere or find ways to dodge the system.

As for "practical study" for getting a good job and climbing the economic and social ladder.... The education premium has been flat for 20 years. That is, the much-vaunted benefits of education to earning ability may not be there anyway.

Dec. 14 2012 11:21 AM
Mary from Clinton Hill

So many of my fellow students in art school came from middle and lower class backgrounds!

Dec. 14 2012 11:21 AM
Nick from UWS

ALL people need as MUCH education in ALL subjects as their brains can handle. Lack of education is the biggest danger to the health of general society that there is.

Dec. 14 2012 11:20 AM
carolita from nyc

But aren't we just asking Liberal Arts and Humanities (etc) students to subsidize these other "job-friendly" disciplines? Not everyone who's brilliant in Literature or Philosophy is necessarily rich, after all.

Dec. 14 2012 11:20 AM
Martin Chuzzlewit from Manhattan

BRAVO, HASSAN (sp?) !!!

Dec. 14 2012 11:19 AM

he said Rah-ther!

Dec. 14 2012 11:19 AM
Amy from Manhattan

Decisions shouldn't be made based on stereotypes. You never know--my best friend's daughter graduated this year w/a degree in art history, & she had a job at a museum waiting for her *in her major* when she got out!

Dec. 14 2012 11:18 AM
Nick from UWS

Martin Chuzzlewit's statement below, the statement of a moron, is exactly what happens when education is limited. The man has a simple middle-class British accent. But Chuzzlewit's mind is too limited to realize that.

Dec. 14 2012 11:18 AM

I fear Rick Scott is as moronic as the constituency that elected him...

...and Martin Dimzzlewit, of course.

Dec. 14 2012 11:18 AM
BK from Hoboken

The idea is appealing in theory but lacking in real world execution.
In the end, people choose their studies. They choose knowing full well what their potential job prospects will be after school. People make choices and have to live with those choices. When the philosophy majors watch their engineering major friends landing good jobs, maybe they will rethink their choices.
EBM- good choice by child #3!
-Lehigh engineer '97

Dec. 14 2012 11:17 AM
Christine from Westchester

Why not offer humanities and arts as optional or electives to other majors. Why do we need to major in them (Spoken as an art major that needed to get another degree to be marketable).

Dec. 14 2012 11:17 AM
Ben from Westchester

I majored in the sciences at one of the more prestigious Universities in the United States. My expensive and extensive education tells me that we should not be taking education policy advice from Florida.

I can't remember the last time that we hired someone from University of Florida nor FSU, nor can I remember any of those resumes making it towards the top of the pile. Most Florida kids barely make it out of the state.

Dec. 14 2012 11:17 AM
Nick from UWS

I see we are now seeing the first rumblings of the Military Industrial Complex being dissatisfied with the number of drones the universities are turning out, and that they had better do something about it to prevent further critical and wide-ranging thinking by the upcoming generations. "A poet is as much use to the state as a man who spends his days bowling." said someone.

Dec. 14 2012 11:16 AM
Joe from Brooklyn

It is possible to get a job as an anthropologist.

Dec. 14 2012 11:15 AM
fuva from harlemworld

Nothing wrong with enocuraging scholarship in some areas, I guess. But this need not be a zero-sum game. That said, the professor's emphasis on quality K-12 STEM education is key.

Dec. 14 2012 11:14 AM
Martin Chuzzlewit from Manhattan

This guest, with his phony patrician accent, is exactly the kind of effete windbag that we don't want to produce.

Didn't I see him in an old Sherlock Holmes movie playing the Watson role?

Dec. 14 2012 11:13 AM
jgarbuz from Queens

I thought we won our independence from Great Britain, so why does one only hear British accents on the media these days, even more so than Spanish accents? What are all these Brits doing here taking American jobs? What ever happened to the native Brooklyn accent in New York? I'm more afraid of the British taking back America than the Mexicans. I think they pose a greater threat.

Dec. 14 2012 11:13 AM
Lindsay from Westchester

I have a degree in cultural anthropology. When I graduated from college, I had no idea what to do as a career, and perhaps regretted my major. But since I have started to pursue a career path I see my degree as a plus. I am now applying to graduate school for Speech Language Pathology, and my background gives me an edge. My degree says I am culturally sensitive and will view patients as people, that I am a strong reader and writer, that I will not just do but think!

Dec. 14 2012 11:12 AM

I fear Rick Scott is as moronic as the constituency that elected him.


Dec. 14 2012 11:12 AM

What we need are more CORRUPT bankers raping the WORLD ECONOMY!!

Dec. 14 2012 11:10 AM
J Reilly from Bellmore, NY

It seems to me, the smarter the business executives are, the more I'm gonna have to pay for a can of soup. I think that business students are more likely to benefit economically from their education, whereas society and history benefits from students of the arts and sciences. They are the ones who should get assisstance.

Dec. 14 2012 11:10 AM

John from NYC ~

I think you're on to something!!

Dec. 14 2012 11:09 AM

How about charging based on future earnings

Dec. 14 2012 11:09 AM
John from NYC

My understanding is that Scott was motivated by the fact that his daughter majored in Anthropology and he sees her as a bit of a failure. I didn't major in math but it seems to be bad statistics to make public policy based on a sample size of one. Perhaps a scientist could establish if his daughter's failures might be due to genetics rather than her choice of majors.

Dec. 14 2012 11:06 AM
Bob from Westchester, NY

Wasn't the company Rick Scott ran for many years convicted of many counts of Medicare fraud and other crimes against its patients? Perhaps a few liberal arts courses could have taught him some ethics, knowledge of the law,and empathy for other people, or at least critical thinking in evaluating his subordinates.

Dec. 14 2012 10:58 AM
Martin Chuzzlewit from Manhattan

YES !!!!!!
Time to get realistic about this useless, propaganda-saturated fluff - a waste of precious time and money for most students. It's not like we're really producing "renaissance" men and women in our universities these days ... just airheads imbued with faux-social justice talking points and no skills. They should pay more to eventually become burdensome, unproductive "takers" of the 47%.

And let's begin the process in high school :


"The test of an educational practice is its power to enable a human being to realize his own promise in a constructive way." (

Dec. 14 2012 10:58 AM
ebm westchester

My oldest child is a 2008 graduate from Haverford, a small liberal arts college. She currently works at a financial services company hoping to gain experience that will allow her to return to the non-profit sector. Her boss told her he does not like to hire business majors because they think they know more than they do. My middle child will graduate from Swarthmore, a kindred college, this spring and is hopeful about working for a government agency or an ngo. My youngest is studying engineering at Lehigh. He thinks that liberal arts are a waste of time. What is it that makes science/math people today think that theirs are the only worthy pursuits? I have had many people tell me that my older kids' degrees are/were going to be useless. We cannot allow this thinking to go unchallenged. In my many years of working, I have found that being able to think and analyze are more important than specific knowledge.

Dec. 14 2012 10:52 AM
westchestery from Rivertowns

Looking for a different approach, consider Grinnell College:

Grinnell effectively writes off just over 61 percent of our tuition, on average, for a population of 1,600 academically exceptional students. This is known in higher education as the “discount rate.” Compare that rate to 1978, when Grinnell had just a 25 percent discount rate and just 1,200 students.

Today, more students are paying a smaller share of the cost of an education that is every bit as excellent, if not better, than it was all those years ago. In fact, Grinnell’s current discount rate is the second-largest in the nation among all American colleges and universities that uphold a dual commitment to need-blind admission and meeting 100 percent of demonstrated financial need (there are 45 of these, and the number is shrinking). Grinnellians pay a smaller share of their tuition than students at any other school in that category except Harvard, which funds aid out of an endowment that, at $30 billion, is 20 times larger than Grinnell’s.

Dec. 14 2012 10:20 AM


Dec. 14 2012 10:06 AM

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