Free Degrees

Sen. Max Baucus (D-Mont.) plans to propose legislation that will have the federal government pay the full college tuition of anyone majoring in math, engineering, sciences or technology.

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  • ||

    Thanks for leaving out liberal arts majors. Jackass.

  • Jay D||

    You get what you pay for.

  • Christopher Monnier||

    Does the legislation apply retroactively?

  • ||

    Won't this increase tuition across the board?

  • ||

    Like an engineer has any trouble paying off his college loans with the starting salary they get, anyway. Whats the point?

  • ||

    How about plumbing.Ever try to find a good one?

  • ||

    Us poor saps in the biological sciences don't get paid jack-shit when we graduate. A PhD only makes matters worse (something I learned too late).

    So, yeah, can we apply that retroactively?




    /not really, I'm a lucky brat whose mommy and daddy paid for her private college tuition
    //and I was paid slave wages while in graduate school
    ///government stipend, even... had to pay taxes on it.
    ////wtf?

    Here endeth the slashfest

  • ||

    Er, make that "We poor saps..."

    /Didn't major in English

  • Scooby||

    The starting salary for the 4 years of indentured servitude required after graduation might not be quite as high as the market rate for science & engineering graduates.

    My concern is what happens to those lured into college by free tuition only to wash out of engineering school? About 2/3 of the friends I made in freshman level classes were washed out to the business or lib arts colleges by the time junior year rolled around.

  • ||

    Bronwyn-

    Don't most bio majors go to medical school?

  • T||

    Sweet! Does this apply to grad school? Man, I am so totally getting my master's in Engineering if this passes.

    Yes, it's a dumb idea, and I'm opposed for any number of reasons. But if it passes, I have enough shameless self-interest to override my principles and get some of that free education.

  • Timothy||

    1) This is a retarded idea.

    2) It will not stop me from taking their filthy lucre. Mama didn't raise a fool.

  • ||

    Great idea!

    Make the tuition skyrocket, then force those who get the degrees work for 4 years.

    Oh, and fewer people will get an education because students will stick with these freebie majors, despite not having any aptitude in the subjects. End result, more dropouts in the majors and fewer graduated.

    Is there any sort of dumbassery award we can give Sen. Baucus?

    I really hope this doesn't get any traction, as the American public is pretty keen on free stuff, no matter how disastrous the results.

  • ||

    Correction: that should be ..fewer graduates.

    /and I am an English major.

  • ||

    /and I am an English major.

    No free stuff for you then!

  • ||

    Yes, this is incalculably dumb, but I, too, would take advantage of it (part time, when already home with babies, see below.)

    Scientists make a lot of money once they get their advanced degrees, but BS in, say, chem or bio? Almost as worthless as a Communications degree.

    Chemical Engineers, on the other hand, are the highest median-paid bachelors-level grads in the world. And it's one of the few technical fields where you're in the red for lifetime earnings by attending grad school for free right out of undergrad (assuming you do it full-time rather than nights and evenings.)

  • ||

    Senator Baucus? I loved him on Gilligan's Island. ☺

  • ||

    This makes no sense. We can import all the pencil-necked science geeks we need from India, China, Japan, etc on the H1B program.

  • ||

    Can I get reimbursed for my tuition? Why should I not only have to pay my own way, but pay for some young punk to replace me?

  • Russ 2000||

    I'm gonna start me one of them college places.

  • ||

    Full college tuition anywhere or only at state schools? Cuz if the federal government starts paying $42,000 a year per kid to send them to nice liberal arts schools, I'll be pissed.

  • Russ 2000||

    When this program becomes active, I'm goin' back to school.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Siebel_Institute_of_Technology

  • ||

    Chemical Engineers, on the other hand, are the highest median-paid bachelors-level grads in the world.

    Actually, Chem Engineers are second to Aerospace Engineers, but they are often omitted because they are relatively rare.

    Aerospace (my goal before discovering drugs!) requires M.A. level knowledge of Chemistry, Physics (arguably the same field) and Mathematics. Hence the rareness...

  • Alice Bowie||

    Do we need more people majoring in:
    -Math
    -Science
    -Engineering

    Aren't ALl of these jobs getting outsourced. I work in IT and I have an Engineering major.

    Not only have they outsourced what I do to other countries...but they are talking about oursourcing my customers as well.

    So, not only will the computer programmers not be in US...but the Quants and analyst jobs that I support will go to China within the next 5 years..or so.

    Someone explain to me why should ANYONE go to college anymore

    - Nurses come from south asia...for a lot cheaper than any american nurse would work for. In fact, Nursing the the #1 industry that americans study and drop out of within the first 5 years.

    - Doctors are pretty much getting paid crap. Only the people with the heart to be a Doctor really becomes one now-a-days. The Lure of Lots of Money is gone...and has eliminated many ambitious people from the field.
    - Computers/Engineering will be COMPLETELY gone within the next ten years...or so.
    - Any job that can be done at a desk can go to cheaper countries.

  • ben||

    i had a teacher who came up with a plan for kucinich in 04 that would pay for college for everyone and cost 30 billion a year. this included state and private schools. just throwing this out there. as a college student i love the idea. in a couple of years maybe not so much.

  • Alice Bowie||

    You can't Send these jobs to india:

    -Plumbing
    -Truck driving
    -Cooking
    -Electrical
    -Construction
    -Police

    But, u can import cheap labor to do these jobs.

    I say that we all move to 3rd world countries...that is...if u wanna b a professional

  • Russ 2000||

    As a person who already holds a math, engineering, sciences or technology degree, I am extremely against this. Now, if the program were to pay students to NOT work towards a math, engineering, sciences or technology degree, then I might reconsider.

  • ||

    Someone explain to me why should ANYONE go to college anymore

    To be educated? At least thats why I went, and I'm in grad school now.

    If I wanted job training I would have gone to ITT Tech.

  • Alice Bowie||

    Hey Ben,

    30 Billion is not bad...what's that anyway? We can simply take three days off of the IRAQ war every year...and educate everyone.

  • Cesar||

    Cesar,

    Once one has the fundamentals of learning...and do their own research...who needs to sit in a classroom.

    Don't get me wrong...If u can afford it...go to college.

    MOST PEOPLE don't go to GET EDUCATED...
    At least I don't think so.

    Most people go to MAKE MORE MONEY.

  • ||

    MOST PEOPLE don't go to GET EDUCATED...Most people go to MAKE MORE MONEY.

    And thats due mostly to our wonderful (sarcasm) public high school system that tells people you will be a miserable failure in life if you don't go to college. They try to make it seem like college is for everyone, which is such horseshit.

    High school students that are not in advanced level classes should be guided towards vocational training or a hands-on type job.

  • ||

    Outsourcing only seems to have increased the demand domestically for engineers. Mechanical, electrical, and chemical are all in demand now. Not sure about other breeds.

    I don't work next to programmers anymore. There was a glut on the market even ten years ago. And they have been highly outsourced. But I don't consider comp-sci engineering.

  • ||

    The only catch to the free ride is that students would have to work or teach in a related field for at least four years after graduation.

    Wait, so what happens if you can't find a job in a related field after graduation? Pay up or else? How? Working two jobs in the service industry as a waiter?

    That doesn't make any sense. Reward the people who get jobs in their field of study with free tuition, and make those who don't have jobs pay for it, with the money they aren't earning as an engineer.

    ???

  • Alice Bowie||

    OWNER EQUITY = Revenue - Expense

    Please note the EXPENSE part of the equation.

    Businesses grow OWNER EQUITY by either
    A. Increasing Revenue
    B. Decreasing Expense

    The Goal of American Big Business is to eliminate ALL HIGH PAYING JOBS in hopes of significantly lowering expense. This will be true for ALL JOBs accept the Upper Management COmmittee type jobs.

  • Alice Bowie||

    Cesar, I agree...College is not for everybody. In fact, it's probably not for anybody anymore.

  • Alice Bowie||

    When UNIONS demanded $30-$50 per hour for labor jobs...the factories moved to mexico.

    Same is true for data processing professionals.

    And will be true for any field that pays high.

  • Christopher Monnier||

    > Computers/Engineering will be COMPLETELY gone within the next ten years...or so.

    Wrong. These types of jobs will always be available in the US. The demand will ebb and flow, but as India and China become more developed the cost of doing business there will increase and, when combined with the inherent costs related to outsourcing (lost productivity, telecommunications, training, etc.) will make it no longer financially feasible to outsource. In other words, eventually some equilibrium will be reached.

    Besides all of that, with so much [venture] capital in the US, the US will have solid entrepreneurial technological opportunities for a long time. True, ultimately the manufacturing of certain products will ultimately be outsourced, but the development of such products will occur here.

  • Rhywun||

    1) This is a retarded idea.
    2) It will not stop me from taking their filthy lucre. Mama didn't raise a fool.


    Yes, and yes. And getting a free Comp.Sci. degree would totally make up for the waste of a degree I actually paid for and never used.

    Alice Bowie,

    I don't agree with your assessments at all. Outsourcing has proved to be unpopular and far less satisfactory expected. The idea that foreign professionals earn less than native Americans is a myth.

  • Rhywun||

    Once one has the fundamentals of learning...and do their own research...who needs to sit in a classroom.

    I'm of two minds on this. On the one hand, I taught myself everything I know about software development and it's been fairly lucrative and enjoyable so far. On the other hand, there are a lot of gaps in my education I'd love to fill in in a formal setting.

  • VM||

    Cesar - math is a common liberal arts major (hier for example)

  • ||

    VM-

    Wow that website design is godawful.

  • VM||

    no kidding!

    and the purple color all over campus is enough to make you barf!

  • ||

    I'm sure that engineering firms would love to have to figure out which grads actually want to be engineers, and which grads will bail on them in four years. I'm an engineer because I generally enjoy the work, and the pay is great. Being surrounded by people who don't like the work and drive down the pay would really suck.

  • Timothy||

    Oh come on Alice, you're not even as original as TheLoneWhackJob. It's nice of you to demonstrate exactly how fucking stupid one person can be and all, but most of use get more than enough of that at work.

  • jimmydageek||


    Wow that website design is godawful.



    Agreed! The homepage image is nothing but a simple lens flare over difference clouds...

    ...my little puppy could do better than that!!

    ..."roll that beautiful bean footage"...

  • ||

    Step 1: Start "Blue's Sciencey N' Engineerin' College"

    Step 2: Set tuition at Stanford/Cal Tech (out of state)/MIT levels

    Step 3: Fill the available slots with any dumbass that can breath.

    Step 4: Have my efficent staff of former Dept. of Ed. bureaucrats fill out all the required paperwork.

    Step 5: Government checks roll in.

    Step 6: PROFIT!!!11!!

    Yes this is a really stupid idea.

  • jimmydageek||

    ...how fucking stupid one person can be and all, but most of use get more than enough of that at work....



    ...
    Step 3: Fill the available slots with any dumbass that can breath[e]....



    Tip: Before calling anyone stupid, or referring to "any dumbass", be sure to check your comment for errors. ;)

  • ||

    "...have the federal government pay the full college tuition of anyone majoring in math, engineering, sciences or technology."

    Does that include economics?

  • ||

    - Computers/Engineering will be COMPLETELY gone within the next ten years...or so.

    Jesus Christ. Be less stupid, please.

  • ||

    Alice Bowe=Cindy Sheehan?

  • ||

    The idea that computer/software engineers are being outsourced and their numbers are shrinking is dead wrong. I don't have time to dig up the numbers right now but actual design jobs (the good ones that pay really well) are still alive and well in America.

    And of course this idea is absurd. People should be able to study what they want without too much government meddling. And as was mentioned, we could just give visas to plenty of qualified people that already have technical educations to come here if we wanted to. Sounds a bit cheaper.

  • ||

    This legislation already exists. It's called the Patent and Trademark Office, which has starting pay at $62k a year for examiners, and all that is required is a bachelors in the sciences (although I don't think math counts). They're also kinda desperate for hires.

  • ||

    Wait a second. If my children all major in sciences or technology, I'm off the hook? Wow, maybe I'll be able to retire before 90 after all!

    The future of this country most definitely depends on us retaining our edge in science and technology. . .not that I'm advocating this sort of program. Except for the Libertate family.

  • ||

    Actually, way back when the government did have a program where if you took four years of a language from the list they were interested in, you could get a tuition waiver. Again, you had to "work in the field" for four years afterwards.

    So yeah, they've done it before in other areas. They could try this if they really wanted more Arabic speakers, for example--although there probably would be a suspicion that anyone who took them up on the offer would end up forcibly inducted into the military.

    Science and engineering? Hmmm....I think most people end up getting sufficient support (particularly at the grad school level) that I don't think this would change things that much.

    However, this is one of the sorts of things I can see a government (who is taking a long view) could possibily be interested in.

    Oh, but I forgot. Libertarians believe governments evil by existence, so therefore nothing they do can possibly be any good. My bad....

  • Alice Bowie||

    The Future of this country is in a lot of trouble.

    The best career for the future in this country is LAW ENFORNCEMENT.

    As more and more people downsize social classes and become more defiant...the need for more prisons and law enforcement officers will arise.

    And with the New Republican taking over the white house in 2008 (america will not elect a black or woman) the following will happen:

    1.. War will continue (protestors will be jailed during Guiliani Time)

    2.. Civil Liberties and the following concepts will be a thing of the past:
    a> Trials
    b> Appeals
    c> Warrants
    d> Reasonable suspicion
    e> Innocent until proven guilty

    3.. More polarization of the country.

    4.. More terrorism.

  • ||

    Alice, I seriously doubt that your personal employment woes can be traced to either 1) the economic state of this nation; or 2) the lack of opportunities available to people with engineering degrees.

    No, you won't learn common sense or personal skills in college, so yes, college is worthless for Alice Bowie. For other people, however...

  • Alice Bowie||

    Oh...I have no employment woes...Luckly 4 me ... i've been doin' it for over 20 years...and i think i'm prepared for whatever comes along.


    I'm just sayin' that I don't see the point in subsidizing engineering degrees...when they will be pretty much obsolete in just a few years.

  • Rhywun||

    The idea that computer/software engineers are being outsourced and their numbers are shrinking is dead wrong.

    American companies are starting to figure out the unforeseen consequences of outsourcing even "lowly" tech support or programmer jobs. Such as the fact that dealing with people halfway around the world and who have dubious English skills is a pain in the ass. And that when tech support isn't in the same room/floor/building as the developers, all you're going to get are canned answers from a list that don't do anything to solve anything. And when your programmers are halfway around the world you spend more time coordinating meeting schedules than developing anything.

  • ||

    American companies are starting to figure out the unforeseen consequences of outsourcing even "lowly" tech support or programmer jobs.

    I worked in an insurance company that outsourced a significant portion of its operational force to Chennai, India about 5 years ago. The outsourcing is now over, as they discovered exactly that.

    Cultural differences matter, too. None of the Indians wanted to work for anything less than Microsoft or Intel, and if they had any sort of family issue come up (e.g., Mom gets sick), they'd quit the jobs in order to spend more time with the family.

    ...when your programmers are halfway around the world you spend more time coordinating meeting schedules than developing anything.

    Good point. They also develop "solutions" based on their perceptions of the problems, rather than the actual problems. Here's how the process was in my company: upper management talks to middle management about what the IT issues are. MM then talks to desk level employees. Employees mention whatever is currently bugging them, middle management takes a list of these piques, which becomes a "report" given to UM, who then talk to the Indians about the issues they think will be the least expensive to fix. The Indian developers then cherry pick the easiest "fixes" while stating that the other items will need to be fixed after a more in-depth look at the system. The "fixes" implemented by the Indians, based on secondhand information from UM, really amount to little more than a workflow change, and therefore, at best only help out some of the desk level employees, while annoying others, who now have to change their workflow for no real benefit. Yay.

  • Alice Bowie||

    Remember...they can send the entire work-flow to another country...including the programers, analysts, customers, lower managers, middle managers...etc.

  • ||

    Hey Alice its simple--you should immigrate to India.

  • Alice Bowie||

    If u ask me, there's no substitute for having programmers who are also subject matter experts in what theyy work on...as oppose to foreign workers who only know "if statements and semi-colons and how to compile".

    But, american business will do whatever it can to cut costs

  • Alice Bowie||

    Hey Cesar, India is too too hot. We manage a team of seven in Mumbai. I went there in February of this year...and I thought i was gonna die of the heat...couldn't imagine livin' there.

  • ||

    Well, then anyone who wants a job should move there , right? I mean thats why so many Americans are relocating to China and India for a secure job! Oh, wait....

  • Alice Bowie||

    I'd rather be homeless in america then full-employed anywhere else.

  • SIV||

    Don't most bio majors go to medical school?

    No. Even if they wanted to most wouldn't be admitted there are too few slots.

    BS in, say, chem or bio? Almost as worthless as a Communications degree.

    BS in bio can get you a decent enviormental compliance job (hint: study botany) doing endangered species habitat and wetlands delineation.

  • ||

    SIV-

    Thanks for clearing it up. Since it irks me when people who assume I have a history degree, ergo I must teach high school (shudders at the thought), I shouldn't have been so quick to assume bio=pre-med.

  • SIV||

    Cesar,

    Since it irks me when people who assume I have a history degree, ergo I must teach high school

    Well a history degree might get you a job teaching at a private school but not in our great public education system.

    I thought a BA in history meant you must clerk in a bookstore or make overpriced coffee drinks.

  • Russ 2000||

    Baked Penguin,

    You forgot to mention to Sarbanes-Oxley certification process each "fix" has to go through.

  • ||


    Well a history degree might get you a job teaching at a private school but not in our great public education system.


    I'd consider teaching in college, but never in high school public or private. I don't take well to teenagers. I didn't take well to teenagers when I was a teenager!

    I thought a BA in history meant you must clerk in a bookstore or make overpriced coffee drinks.

    Nah, thats just what you end up doing to pay for grad school. I should know.

  • SIV||

    enviormental environmental


    I actually know how to spell when I write in longhand.

  • Rhywun||

    But, american business will do whatever it can to cut costs

    Not if it results in fewer, more-frustrated customers.

  • Nick M.||

    Bronwyn | August 22, 2007, 11:18am | #

    Us poor saps in the biological sciences don't get paid jack-shit when we graduate. A PhD only makes matters worse (something I learned too late).

    So, yeah, can we apply that retroactively?




    /not really, I'm a lucky brat whose mommy and daddy paid for her private college tuition
    //and I was paid slave wages while in graduate school
    ///government stipend, even... had to pay taxes on it.
    ////wtf?

    Here endeth the slashfest



    That's because you went to that hillbilly school in southern Indiana.

  • ||

    Wouldn't a better idea be to cut all federal funding for degrees such as law and liberal arts?

  • Danny||

    Engineers being completely gone in 10 years? You can't outsource the defense industry. So, as long as the US wants to stay secure, I'll still have a job. Apparently, Alice thinks the world is going to explode. I, personally, am crossing my fingers that it doesn't (but with the current state of affairs, who knows what could happen).

    A little common sense goes a looooong way...

  • ||

    Just another step to move us toward completely socialized education.

  • Chavez is a thug||

    "Don't most bio majors go to medical school"

    Not quite. The majority of biology majors don't get in to medical school. I was a biology major in college and everyone I knew claimed they were pre-med (pre-law, same thing). Needless to say, most didn't make it.
    The AMA pressures medical schools to let less people in in order to avoid a glut of doctors, thus lowering doctor salaries.

  • Bopo||

    "American companies are starting to figure out the unforeseen consequences of outsourcing even "lowly" tech support or programmer jobs."

    I wish they would figure it out sooner. Not a week goes by that I am not talking to someone on the phone about my credit card bills, tech support on my computer, etc. etc. who is pretty much unintelligible.

  • Bopo||

    "2.. Civil Liberties and the following concepts will be a thing of the past:
    a> Trials
    b> Appeals
    c> Warrants
    d> Reasonable suspicion
    e> Innocent until proven guilty"


    It is a good thing hyperbole is not a thing of the past.

  • Chavez is a thug||

    "Doctors are pretty much getting paid crap. Only the people with the heart to be a Doctor really becomes one now-a-days. The Lure of Lots of Money is gone...and has eliminated many ambitious people from the field"

    I can tell you from my own personal experience that you are flat out wrong on this account. Maybe general practicioners are not making as much as they used to, but most specialists make excellent salaries. As for money not being a motivating factor, that will never happen at all, ever.
    When I applied for medical school, one of my interviewers informed me, when we were finished, that he automatically recommended rejection for anyone who claimed money was not a motivating factor for them. Admissions committees get tired of hearing the "I only want to help people" bullshit uttered by 99.9% of potential applicants.

  • Chavez is a thug||

    "I'm just sayin' that I don't see the point in subsidizing engineering degrees...when they will be pretty much obsolete in just a few years."

    Because evidently there will not be a need to build things a few years from now.

  • Chavez is a thug||

    "Alice Bowe=Cindy Sheehan?"

    Nah, I think Cindy is more logical and articulate.

  • ||

    I'd rather see the tax breaks adjusted so that employers have an incentive to bring in US citizens for interviews, relocate them, and educate or train them. At least that would be constitutional.

    And yes, even English majors and B-school bozos would benefit, while the employers would be able to make sure their employees got more precisely the education/training they want them to have.

GET REASON MAGAZINE

Get Reason's print or digital edition before it’s posted online

  • Video Game Nation: How gaming is making America freer – and more fun.
  • Matt Welch: How the left turned against free speech.
  • Nothing Left to Cut? Congress can’t live within their means.
  • And much more.

SUBSCRIBE

advertisement