As states continue to slash funding in an effort to curtail budget deficits, many students at public universities across the nation have had to face rising tuition costs, a lingering result of low revenue and a slowly recovering economy. In order to get the most out of their money, some state governments have proposed performance-based financing systems in higher education. Gov. Scott Walker of Wisconsin recently suggested that the University of Wisconsin system receive funding from the state on the basis of degree attainment and job employment numbers post-graduation. Walker’s proposal for performance-based funding was commented on by this editorial board on Nov. 28, arguing that the role of higher education isn’t limited to job creation.
Republican Gov. Rick Scott of Florida has a similar recommendation. In order to increase value on state dollars invested in higher education, Florida’s government officials have recently suggested putting a tuition freeze on degree programs currently in high demand: engineering, science, health care specializations and technology, the New York Times reported Sunday. The idea, presumably, is to increase the number of applicants and degree seekers in science, technology, engineering and mathematic fields by selectively lowering tuition in these areas. While the quest for a continued legacy of American innovation and ingenuity is admirable, state governments do not have a place in arbitrarily deciding which fields are more important than others. It’s not fair to undecided students and has the potential to create degree-class social structure in a learning environment intended to be open and all-encompassing. Students shouldn’t be attracted to a major because of its price tag; they should be attracted to it because they’re passionate about it. Negative outcomes are inevitable when costs have heavier influences on students than their own passions and interests.