Soyer: Is offering more degrees to choose from the answer?

BY HANNAH SOYER | APRIL 03, 2015 5:00 AM

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A new major has recently been added to the degrees one can earn at the University of Iowa: entrepreneurial leadership. This degree is a collaboration between the Tippie College of Business and the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences.

The new degree “focuses on developing skills in innovation, creativity, opportunity recognition, leadership, and professional communications,” in the words of Pappajohn Entrepreneurial Center Executive Director David Hensley.

These days, employers are looking more and more for a certain set of skills and experiences, and so this major seems to be a good option if you have the goal of owning your own business or being in a management position. However, it does also make me question whether these sorts of skills can be taught in a classroom.

The development of new majors is something that has always happened since the creation of public universities. While I applaud offering a wide range of options for students, I think it is also worth considering why this trend of offering more and more degrees continues to expand. Are new majors being developed simply to accommodate more students?

It is a well-known fact that since the beginning of university education, more and more people have seen college as simply “the thing to do” after graduating from high school.  According to the National Center for Education Statistics, enrollment in degree-granting institutions increased by 11 percent between 1991 and 2001 and another 32 percent between 2001 and 2011.

It’s important to consider that increased enrollment is a double-edged sword. I completely believe that everyone who desires to attend university should have the chance, and perhaps this trend of increased enrollment reflects that. However, it could also reflect the growing social pressure and expectations that if you do not earn a college degree, you are a failure.

Keeping this in mind, it doesn’t seem that absurd to associate the expansion of degrees being offered with the expansion of students enrolling in universities. But if more and more degrees are being offered, does it necessarily matter what degree you leave college with? “I do believe the degree matters,” Hensley said, especially in regards to the new entrepreneurial-leadership major. “That said, the additional experiences gained through the university experience are also critical in developing a future entrepreneurial leader.”

In the end, it seems as if while what degree you earn affects what career you can land after graduation (don’t expect to get a job teaching at a high school if you have a degree in dentistry), what matters more is your drive to accomplish what you want to accomplish after graduating, which really cannot be accomplished if you are simply going through the motions of getting a college degree.

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