How fairly is differential tuition being carried out in Minnesota?

“I think it’s all part of the puzzle. Universities have to find out ways to fund their programs, and (differential tuition is) part of it. But from a student’s perspective it can be difficult to continue to watch your tuition increase.”

St. Cloud State student leader Amanda Bardonner to the St. Cloud Times on her university’s increased use of “differential tuition,” or the charging of higher tuition for certain majors.

According to the article, St. Cloud State has added mass communications to nursing and art as the degrees that will carry higher costs for upper-level students.

The idea of charging varying levels of tuition does make some sense. But to me it raises a few questions of fairness:

Are the right programs being charged?

Are universities charging those that truly have the highest costs, or is market demand — the popularity of the degree — a big factor in the price increase? And should that matter?

For example: Where do equipment- and chemical-heavy science programs stand in this “differential tuition” program at various colleges and universities? One might think that costs there would be higher than average — potentially higher than those in art, nursing and mass communications — and thus be the first to take on the price increase. Are those costs being born by grants and donations?

And at what level should universities charge more?

For example, mass comm students have reportedly agreed to pay $25 per credit more in exchange for an upgrade of tech facilities — for its TV facility and some computer improvements.

I wonder how well that sits with non-TV students (print, PR and advertising), since most journalism programs (as I remember) tend to require standard computers and only a few mass-market programs such as Photoshop, InDesign, and the like, as well as some cameras. Do all mass-comm majors use the TV facility?

And is the mass comm department really the one that requires the most critical high-tech upgrades?

Just some preliminary questions. I may be over-thinking it. But I’d like to get some more info to see how this all functions.

Anyone with insight is welcome to chime in.