What's Your Major? The Answer Might Cost You

Students who stand to make a higher salary may have to pre-pay for the privilege.

While tuition hikes have been a cause for controversy among college students and parents for some time, the cash-strapped University of California is preparing to take more drastic steps to increase revenue -- charging certain students more because of their major.

So who is going to have to fork over even more cash to graduate? Business and engineering students, of course.

Officials say that the reason these particular programs should cost more is that faculty in these departments have a higher average salary than those in other fields. Furthermore, they argue that students who graduate from a UC business or engineering program are more likely to land high-paying jobs after graduation.

So students who are already in competitive majors will not only have to work hard, they’ll have to pay more than their peers because of it.

Does this mean that we will see an increase in enrollment in other, less expensive departments? What does this mean for a student who is changes their major? Will there be fewer budget cuts for these departments? These are all questions that the UC Regents will undoubtedly have to answer, and soon.

The board could vote on this measure as early as next month.

The proposed increase would be about 9% per year for these select undergraduates, which is about $900. According to a Los Angeles Times report, this would affect about 17,000 students throughout the University of California system.

Keep in mind that this charge would be in addition to the already approved $2,514 increase that all students will probably face in the fall. The UC system stands to make about $10 million in revenue if this is approved.

And that could just be the beginning. Other expensive majors such as theater, music, architecture and film may also be affected in the future.

“It is a rational and reasonable source of income,” says Lawrence H. Pitts, interim provost and EVP of academic affairs for the UC system. “There are things being considered today that nobody ever thought were necessary to consider before.”

The University of California, which has been coping with the state budget crisis, points to other public universities for support. Selective tuition hikes have become more common across the country due to cuts in state funding.

According to a study by Glen R. Nelson, the associate VP of financial administration for the University of Wisconsin, just about half of US public research universities charge more for at least one undergraduate major.

Many California students hope that this proposal doesn’t make it past the board because it’s not just the universities that are affected by the economic downturn. Students are already finding it harder to get loans, grants and scholarships without the increases.

With the economy in its current state, is it safe to assume that these business and engineering graduates will secure high paying jobs that will repay these loans after commencement? Maybe not.

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