LA Times accused of reinforcing right-wing plan to 'dumb-down America' after outlet reveals lackluster ROI from elite schools

A report from the Los Angeles Times found that STEM majors at public universities make more money than social science or humanities majors at elite private schools

A letter to the editor in response said that the article 'reinforces the desperate attempt by the political right to further dumb down America.'

A Los Angeles Times article comparing outcomes at community colleges and elite universities garnered a colorful response in the letters page.

The original piece, written June 21, compared the financial outcomes of college graduates at state vs private schools; and in STEM fields and vocational training vs humanities and social sciences. The data showed that graduates of the hard sciences and even the trades vastly outearn some graduates of California’s elite universities.

The original article began with a story of a young man who took a one-year-long training course at Los Angeles Trade-Technical College to become a power lineman. Upon completion, he is set to make about $105,000 a year, and $165,000, not including overtime, as a journeyman in 3-4 years. In the same amount of time, a graduate of Stanford University with a bachelor’s degree in political science will earn a median income of $75,500; a graduate of UC Berkeley with a sociology degree earns about $64,000; a UCLA graduate in history will make about $47,900.

[RELATED: ‘Free college only deepens the class divide’: electrician’s op-ed blasts credentialism]

STEM fields also yield higher returns on investment. A computer engineering major at San Jose State makes a median $127,047 four years after graduation; a UCLA grad with the same degree earns $128,131; a University of Southern California (USC) grad earns $115,102; graduates in the Cal State system earn more than $90,000. The returns are even higher within the Cal State system because its base tuition is just $5,700 compared to nearly $14,000 within the University of California system and nearly $67,000 at USC.

By contrast, political science majors at UC San Diego earn less than $56,000 a year; a business administration major at the private Vanguard University of Southern California earns a little over $55,000; a similar degree at a community college earns just $40,000. Fine Arts earn the least amount of money, less than $30,000 annually, the report found. 

[RELATED: Ohio House passes bill requiring schools to be transparent about the real cost of college]

The responses were strong in the letters to the editor page. 

“It distresses me that the major focus of a college degree is still income,” one respondent wrote. “Yes, income is important, but it should not define the value of one’s major. Unfortunately, states have steadily decreased their portion of funding for public universities over the last few decades, and the result has been exactly what we have today. If students are forced to pay the bill, they’re going to focus on return rather than what they are truly meant to be.”

“There’s little question that a degree in ethnic studies will earn you far less than majoring in a field that, say, contributes to developing artificial intelligence,” wrote another. “This article, however, reinforces the desperate attempt by the political right to further dumb down America. Banning books, propaganda masquerading as news, and the ongoing damage done by social media are targeted at curtailing education and enlightenment.”

“It should come as no surprise that majoring in computer science at, say, the University of Mississippi will result in a higher-paying job than majoring in gender studies at, say, Harvard,” another writer said. “Yet too many high school seniors continue to buy into the myth about the value of marquee-name colleges.”

Campus Reform reached out to the LA Times for comment. This article will be updated accordingly.