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Can you really put a price on your college major?

Students walk across the campus of Swarthmore College in Swarthmore, Pa., in this March 3, 2020, file photo.
Students walk across the campus of Swarthmore College in Swarthmore, Pa., in this March 3, 2020, file photo.Michelle Gustafson/NYT

Our view of higher ed has been blinded by greed

Re Nicholas Tampio’s May 2 Ideas piece, “How much money do English majors make? Don’t ask.”: Actually, glad you asked. I’m doing fine, thanks, “regardless of [my] major.” Tampio ends his essay about the ill-conceived proposed College Transparency Act with a reference to what it would produce: “a higher education system in the image of economists and businesspeople.” But he never mentions greed.

We have strangled ourselves with greed. Instead of allowing 18-year-olds to develop their intellect, become curious, and build character by taking a range of courses — and changing their minds while in the process of finding out who they might be — we are continuing the diabolical process of producing limited, iPhone-distracted young adults with no perspective on the world.


Our higher-ed system has become embarrassing. So we’re going to talk college students out of studying history, literature, and philosophy because it won’t put money in their pockets? We truly have become a nation of fools.

Laura Duffy


An English major’s cautionary ode to practical-mindedness

Nicholas Tampio is correct in his opposition to the College Transparency Act, an unnecessary government solution to a problem that doesn’t exist. If prospective college students want to know which majors pay the most (or the least), they can find that information on Google. Took me 10 seconds.

But Tampio is dead wrong in his assertion that students should follow their passions when choosing a college major. I guess if you want to have roommates for the rest of your life, a major in some obscure humanities field would be a good, passionate choice. But don’t forget to buy soap on a rope; it’ll be convenient for the times you trundle back and forth to the bathroom that you share with other passionate degree holders.

Dave Rossow


The writer is a recovering English major.


Family and its liberal arts majors have done quite well, thank you

Our three liberal arts major children (undergraduates in psychology-sociology, graphic design, and English-humanities) have all gone on to successful careers in business, entrepreneurship, and finance, as have I, another English major. English majors may not learn quantum physics, but they can do what a lot of STEM graduates can’t do as effectively: read, write, and analyze. Don’t sell the degree short.

Gail Schubert


Some may have the luxury to opine on the point of college

Nicholas Tampio, a professor of political science at Fordham University, reveals himself by saying he’s worried about “nudging students and families into viewing college as being primarily about making money.” As a first-generation college student who relied on scholarships, loans, and work to attend a great university, I was lucky to have pieced it together to chart my path without even adequate career-counseling advice. This professor might need to sit in on some economics classes to understand that higher ed is, in fact, all about career opportunities for most scholars, not only to inform and motivate students to apply their own skills, but to rationalize the cost of the education itself, with a growing share subsidized by limited taxpayer and endowment resources. This does not exclude any student’s ability to learn, analyze, and appreciate life broadly.

Tom Pappas