Tuition Increase in Florida Universities' STEM Fields: Justified or Unfair?

02/03/2012 09:26 am ET | Updated Apr 04, 2012

I've recently started discussing tuition costs with my parents, and we've specifically been comparing in-state versus out-of-state tuition. I've also decided about a month ago that I am interested in entering the STEM (science, technology, engineering or math) field, particularly to study optometry, and since I live in Florida, University of Florida seems like a perfect option for me. A few days ago, however, a friend told me that some Florida colleges, including the UF, are considering raising tuition costs for students entering the STEM fields. When I heard this, I thought the idea was absurd because America will always need people that majored in STEM fields, especially females interested in pursuing the sciences because of the current gender disparity.

Before doing any research on this possible adjustment, I was irritated that raising the cost of tuition was even an option. I already researched 10 different colleges for a school assignment and know how much a degree really costs, and can't help but wonder how the price could possibly be higher. I was also irritated that just the price of tuition for students entering the STEM fields increased. This would mean that because I want to study science, I have to pay more than another student majoring in education. Initially, this did not sound fair to me.

After reading more about this issue in the Sunshine State News, I've come to realize that on the surface this change may seem unjustified; however, there are actually many reasons to implement the new cost of tuition. It doesn't seem right to us as students, but from the point of view of the university itself, raising tuition for STEM majors makes sense. For one instance, the expense to run a lab and obtain the essential technology for classrooms is immense. Being in a high school chemistry class has shown me how expensive lab equipment is. Just yesterday my teacher ordered a glass tube for $140.00. Imagine this expense times thousands of students enrolled in the STEM fields. The idea of raising the tuition for only STEM field majors was justified by the hopes of not raising the cost of tuition for other majors. This way, students not majoring in STEM fields will not have to pay for equipment and technology STEM majors are using.

Another point made by University of Florida and Florida State University's presidents was that the salary earned after college would outweigh the cost of tuition necessary in order to obtain a degree in a selected STEM field. In other words, STEM majors typically have higher career earnings and would be better able to pay off their college loans than individuals in other majors.

Last week, 300 Florida students rallied against the idea of increasing the cost of tuition. The Palm Beach Port News reports that tuition at Florida state schools has increased by 60 percent in the last four years. However, Bernie Machen, University of Florida president, argued that the tuition at UF is still $2,500 less than the national average. With the increased tuition, UF hopes to be more competitive and improve the quality of their resources. I can see that Florida's intentions are in the right place; however, the increased cost of tuition will definitely add to the struggle of families in this economy.