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State college students becoming ‘meta-majors’

– Gone are the freshmen days of clueless study paths, meandering majors, unclear goals and random career targets.

Now, freshmen entering a Florida state college won’t be just majoring in studies, they’ll become “meta-majors” in academia.

With the fall 2014 semester beginning Aug. 22, South Florida State College students like Rosa Cuellar are entering a more direct-lined world of academia than their parents or even older siblings would have had during college.

As students trickled onto the campus Thursday morning, freshmen going to advising or registration either found out or learned more about meta-majors.

During the 2013 Florida Legislature, through Senate Bill 1720, changes were made to help guide students who enter the Florida College System get an associate’s degree more directly and more timely.

The National Center for Education Statistics show about 37 percent of full-time, first-time in college students complete a two-year degree in three years. Some reasons for this include performance in introductory classes and changing majors.

The newly-implemented meta-majors, conceived by national higher education reformers, basically, are groups of academic programs with common or related subject matter that students are advised about when they begin college.

Since being approved by the Florida Board of Education, students in the Florida College System students will have eight meta-majors or academic pathways to choose from, with a set of academic and career goals.

At this point, the meta-majors are: 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.

As students began to line up for registration Thursday, Kimberly Batty-Herbert, SFSC dean of arts and sciences, looked over degree-planning materials relating to meta-majors.

Batty-Herbert, in her eighth year at the college, said deciding a major is streamlined by taking all the associate of arts degrees offered at SFSC and lumping them into one of the eight categories. She said by doing that, even if a student changes his or her major, he or she would still have the same core courses.

Along with advisors, any student in the Florida College System -- including two-year colleges -- will now have to devise a course plan based on how they did on placement exams to make sure they’re ready for math and English entry courses that go with the meta-major. Students generally need to declare a major once they reach 30 credit hours.

“This gives students courses more appropriate to their majors,” said Batty-Herber, who teaches public speaking at the SFSC.

Through the meta-major process, administrators, teachers, advisors and staff hope students have more knowledgeable about academic programs, career choices and continuing education opportunities available to them to get them closer to earning degrees.

The Florida College System has a database with detailed student success and workforce outcome statistics, which combined with meta-majors and more intentional advising, should help students know better what to expect after graduating when making college decisions.

Charla Ellerker, a SFSC counselor and department chair of advising and counseling who has been with SFSC for 15 years, said meta-majors help students and the colleges get through their educations “more efficiently.” She said it gets them to focus on more succinct educational and career paths.

“There is a reduction in excess hours, which in turn, expedites their graduations. It helps them focus on an intended field early on. So many of our students come in undecided; through this, at least we can get them to focus on an area...that they can investigate in order to make a decision.”

The meta-majors also share gateway courses in mathematics and English. For example, business majors take the same core courses -- freshmen English I and college algebra or elementary statistics. Students would also have the same elective courses for an AA degree regardless of the intended business program of study.

“The whole goal is to get students to focus on college majors early on to eliminate excess hours,” said Batty-Herbert.

And that’s one of the goals for Cuellar on her quest for a college degree as an athletic trainer.

“It (meta-majors) should make it easier and quicker,” she said. “And this will make the courses I select more beneficial.”


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