Putting Education Reform To The Test

How Florida College Majors Are About To Get Meta

Florida lawmakers created meta-majors to give students a more defined track toward a college degree.

Trebz / Flickr

Florida lawmakers created meta-majors to give students a more defined track toward a college degree.

College students trying to decide which major and minor to choose have something else to add to the list — meta-majors.

The same law which (mostly) eliminates remedial courses at Florida community colleges also creates meta-majors to help streamline the path to a degree.

What the heck is a meta-major?

In short, they’re eight broad categories that encompass the breadth of degrees available at Florida colleges and universities and correlate with career fields. A meta-major might include multiple majors, but each of those degrees shares a foundation of common courses.

For instance, the science, technology engineering and mathematics meta-major includes students seeking degrees for citrus production technology and computer programming and analysis.

Meta-majors have been pushed by national education groups seeking to increase the percentage of people earning college degrees or certificates.

“One of the things that the Legislature has long been concerned about — and by the way, so have educators — is students getting into the system and then just wandering,” said Jim Wysong, dean of math and science at Hillsborough Community College’s Dale Mabry campus.

The State Board of Education approved eight meta-majors earlier this year: Arts, humanities, communication and design; business; education; health sciences; industry/manufacturing and construction; public safety; science, technology, engineering, and mathematics; and social and behavioral sciences and human services.

What’s the point of meta-majors?  There’s two big goals.

The first is to make it easier for students to finish their studies. Meta-majors make it clear which courses are required for a degree. And all the degrees within a meta-major share the same required courses, so students know those courses are guaranteed to count towards their degree.

Meta-majors are kinda like a prix fixe menu, letting students choose courses from a tailored selection of options. The downside is that students will likely have to choose a major — or at least a broad career path — earlier in college.

“Many years ago when I was in high school,” Wysong said, “you had these different tracks. You had the college preparatory track and you had within it different flavors, different tracks.

“And why? It works. So we’re coming back to use something we know works.”

The second goal for meta-majors is to give students more information as they decide which field to pursue and how much the degree will cost. Florida collects earnings data for college graduates, and meta-majors will provide more data for students if they’re interested in how much they can expect to earn after graduation.

Here’s how the Florida College Access Network describes it:

By engaging in the meta-major selection process, the hope is that students will start college more knowledgeable about the academic programs, career options and opportunities for continuing education available to them to maximize their prospects of earning a degree.  The Florida College System has a database with detailed student success and workforce outcome data, which combined with meta-majors and more intentional advising should help students know better what to expect after graduating when making college decisions.

Click here for a Florida Department of Education presentation explaining meta-majors.


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