Texas State officials should avoid implementing a plan some universities across the nation have discussed that could abridge degrees and restrict some students from double majoring.
Administrators at Ohio State University and University of Texas discussed banning students from earning two degrees at once unless they could graduate within four years, according to a Jan. 31 Time Magazine article. Lagging graduation rates and internal pressures at many institutions have fueled many similar discussions in the country.
In the same article, it’s said 58 percent of students who enroll in bachelor’s degree programs at four-year institutions in the United States graduate within six years. In addition, statistics from U.S. News & World Report indicate Texas State’s four-year graduation rate is approximately 27 percent. With this in mind, simplifying degree paths and restricting students to only one degree could be a possibility for Texas State administrators in the future.
However, rather than looking for ways to alleviate the overall increasing costs of higher education, why are administrators at other universities interested in banning some students from double majoring in particular? Students should not be barred from double majoring if they need more than four years to do so even when the institution’s four-year graduation rate is an area to improve upon. A report published Oct. 11, 2012 by The Chronicle of Higher Education indicated 30 to 40 percent of all graduates from the country’s “most elite schools” double majored in college. It is likely some of these students required more than four years to complete certain degree plans.
Overall, it seems as though the crackdown on graduation rates is becoming increasingly important to administrators. E. Gordon Gee, Ohio State University president, advised changing the culture of college campuses to improve graduation rates, according to a Jan. 24 report by the National Commission on Higher Education Attainment. He said in the report that this would improve cost efficiency and the utilization of data more effectively.
Gee suggested limiting the choices of coursework per semester within a major and insisting students complete their degrees within a fixed period of time in order to improve cost efficiency. Gee said in the report, “the result has been a much higher rate of degree completion at a much faster pace than in the past.”
Administrators should be concerned with cost efficiency, but this suggestion to fix the problem of low four-year graduation rates by going after the larger trend of double majoring is unfair. Creating strict degree paths and rigid timetables would work in the university’s favor, but it does not seem to fully serve students’ interests. It does not cater to majors that are potentially difficult to finish in four years because of the breadth of knowledge and number of requirements. Take biology or chemistry for example. The upper-division courses are very knowledge-intensive, meaning that it may take a complete grasp of a plethora of loaded terms and applying the knowledge in case studies just to get by. For some, the four-year degree plan model could be too stressful for those intending to dual major.
Administrator suggestions to graduate more students on a strict timetable and potentially create cost effective institutional funding solutions are not fully developed. However, it is understandable university officials want to attain higher four-year graduation rates because they can benefit current and future students and the overall health of the institution.
Despite this, banning some from double majoring, restricting class options and simplifying degree plans is not the answer. This will only create gaps in higher education in an era where dual degrees are becoming increasingly more valuable to emerging job fields.