House of Representatives Majority Leader Eric Cantor, a Virginia Republican, said Tuesday that he supported more publicly available information on college graduates' salaries by major, in a speech on domestic policy in which he also called for cutting funding for social science research and granting citizenship to young undocumented immigrants.
The speech at the American Enterprise Institute was intended to lay out the Republican Party's proposals on a range of domestic policy issues, including higher education. "Suppose colleges provided prospective students with reliable information on the unemployment rate and potential earnings by major. What if parents had access to clear and understandable breakdowns between academic studies and amenities?" Cantor said. "Armed with this knowledge, families and students could make better decisions about where to go to school, and how to budget their tuition dollars."
Cantor mentioned legislation introduced by Senators Ron Wyden, an Oregon Democrat, and Marco Rubio, a Florida Republican, that would require states to match information from unemployment insurance databases with individual student data and publish the results, which would show earnings by program at each institution. Colleges have raised concerns about the legislation and about similar efforts, saying that measuring return on investment via salary alone is too simplistic -- especially since students who major in the liberal arts or humanities might start out with lower salaries but will make more than their peers in later decades.
Cantor said he looked forward to working with Wyden and Rubio on a House version of that bill, the Student Right To Know Before You Go Act.
Cantor also called for cutting federal funding for research in the social sciences, with the goal of "reprioritizing existing federal research spending," he said. "Funds currently spent by the government on social science – including on politics of all things – would be better spent helping find cures to diseases."
In doing so, Cantor revived prior efforts by House Republicans to end federal funding for research that goes beyond basic medicine. (Cantor suggested cutting the National Science Foundation's funding for behavioral and social science research in 2009).
Many in the academic blogosphere reacted quickly. "Good thing that disease, mortality, etc. bear no relationship to political institutions. Good thing that there is no politics in whether and how drugs and medical treatments are developed," wrote John Sides, an associate professor of political science at George Washington University, in a sarcastic post at The Monkey Cage, a political science blog. "Cantor’s goal, curing disease and saving lives, can be better accomplished by including social and political science alongside the 'hard' sciences and medicine."