Differential tuition for CS undergrads: Worth more, charge more

June 15, 2011 at 9:45 am 4 comments

This makes economic sense.  The rising value of the CS degree does lead to the ability to charge more for the CS degree, though that raises the possibility that students may avoid CS to avoid the additional cost.

I am most interested in carrying this idea through to high school, on the supply side.  If we’re going to charge more for CS education, we ought to be able to pay high school CS teachers more, because what they are teaching has such high economic value. Raising CS teacher’s salaries would improve our odds of competing with industry.  If you know enough to teach Java in AP CS, you also know enough to get a better paying job than teaching high school.  We can never truly compete with industry salaries, but we can make high school teaching more economically attractive.

With a hot market for their skills and employers who offer top-notch salaries and benefits, should computer science students pay more for their bachelor’s degree than theater or history majors? In Washington state, the answer could soon be yes.

via Computer Science Tuition Could Rise Faster than Other Degrees Under New WA Rules | Xconomy.

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4 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Alan Kay  |  June 15, 2011 at 10:53 am

    This leaves a very bad taste in my mouth.

    I think it is a category error of a similar kind — but much large scope — that Art Leurhman pointed out years ago at Dartmouth when they were trying to think of what their time-sharing system was in relation to their community.

    The Hanover town library was the Dartmouth library. Art took the yearly budget/cost of the library and divided the circulation into it. Looked at this way, it would cost a borrower $55 for each book they took out! Art pointed out that this is not a good way to look at something like a library — that in fact it is a community resource and thus should be amortized over the community. This is what most libraries in the US have been in the 20th century, and the service and resource doesn’t charge by transactions.

    So Dartmouth decided to make their time-sharing system a public resource for Hanover, and in the late 60s one could see some of the gas stations and other business with teletype terminals doing their accounts written in Dartmouth BASIC.

    And this is why public schooling is also charged this way, and until relatively recently, state colleges and universities.

    In the many failures of public schooling and state post-high-school education we have to include the failure to educate the public about why living in societies that share their resources and abilities is so much more powerful and civilized and *worthwhile* than living in one in which every person and institution is out for themselves … and most of the values placed on things are in monetary and transactional terms.

    Best wishes,


  • 2. Greg Wilson  |  June 15, 2011 at 11:11 am

    The University of Toronto instituted differential (i.e., higher) fees for CS in the boom of the late 1990s. The administration then insisted on leaving them in place when undergrad enrolment crashed after the dot com bubble burst. Even when times were good, I don’t believe it would have been politically possible to spend that money on high school teachers when so many other groups inside the university were scaling back, shedding staff, etc.

  • 3. Owen Astrachan  |  June 15, 2011 at 2:23 pm

    Be careful what you wish for. At schools were everyone makes the same salary based on years-of-service, degree-earned, and other objective measures it turns out that folks don’t get jealous of what other people make. This makes it difficult to compete with schools that offer great teachers more money. I’m talking about high schools and middle schools here. A school in which administrators, teachers, parents, and the entire community takes the time to develop and nurture a terrific learning environment may not need to rely as much on money to attract talent. This isn’t an abstraction, one of the best teacher’s in my sons (independent) middle school left for another school which uses differential pay. My son’s school doesn’t differentiate on greatness-of-teacher, just on job responsibilities, years-teaching, and so on. There is something to be said for the egalitarian viewpoint, despite that it means losing some teachers because of money.

    Let’s pay all teachers more, not just those in computer science.

  • 4. Alfred Thompson  |  June 15, 2011 at 7:35 pm

    I have talked to several people at both the high school and university level about paying CS faculty more. The response is generally “teaching is teaching” since all subjects are the same work to teach (arguable but seems to be a core belief in most schools) all teachers at the same rank should be paid the same. It is a matter of “fairness” I am told. The suply/demand argument doesn’t seem to carry much weight among school administrators.
    I do agree with Owen that we should pay all teachers more. But there is more than can be done to retain good teachers than just pay. I have seen teachers happily take pay cuts for better working conditions.


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