Apr 2, 2012

Should Universities Tell Students in Advance Which Majors Pay the Best, the Worst?



The chart shows that the pay and employment prospects for graduates of the UM system are different depending on what they majored in. Certain majors, like engineering and health professions, tend to earn more money and make it easier to get a job compared to journalism or psychology majors.

This raises several public policy questions:
  1. Is it or is it not the responsibility of the universities to explicitly inform students of the employment and pay outlook for various majors?
  2. Should the universities counsel students to consider majors more likely to lead to more and better jobs, or leave this life-defining decision up to the student?
  3. Is it ethical to accept tuition from students whose job and pay prospects are limited by what they major in?
  4. Is it ethical to allow or facilitate students going into debt to pay for these less valuable degrees?
  5. Who benefits from and who is harmed when students major in journalism, psychology, or liberal arts (411 graduates)? Students? Taxpayers who support the universities and student borrowing? Faculty? 
Many student loans are for life. They can’t be discharged in bankruptcy, so the life prospects of many graduates may be worse than when they started. Should it be mandatory in Missouri for state universities to affirmatively inform students how much they are borrowing, how much they will have to pay each month, and the job and pay outlook for their major? When the average debt of a graduate is $24,000, what happens to the argument that students should be able to major in whatever they like?

Do Missouri taxpayers want to be party to taking tuition from students whose job prospects are not good? Do faculty in these areas benefit from students continuing to major in these areas despite limited job prospects? Whose job situation gets better? Whose gets worse?

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