The Tennessee Board of Regents is trying to do away with undecided majors. According to the data, officials say, students who choose a college major right away are more likely to graduate.
“What we know is, a student who makes no choice has made a bad choice,” says TBR chancellor John Morgan.
Without a major, he says, students end up taking extra classes that don’t count toward their degree. Morgan told a group of policy makers, including the governor, that the TBR system would no longer have students with undeclared majors, by the end of December.
Morgan wasn’t implying that schools would kick the students out, just that they wanted students either in a program of study or a focus area, like social science.
But this change makes Katie Fults skeptical. Fults is a recent MTSU graduate with a degree in organizational communication. When she was a freshman, she was considering something completely different: math.
“I think if I would have chosen that major, it would have definitely added on a semester or two,” she says.
She would have likely taken classes in her math major before figuring out she wanted to switch, she says, and those classes ultimately wouldn’t count toward a communication degree. Instead, she started off undeclared, which worked out well for her — she ended up graduating in three and a half years.
Fults wasn’t alone in making that choice. Nearly a third of incoming students don’t have a major, says MTSU spokesman Andrew Oppmann.
Oppmann says the school recognizes that exploration is important. So despite the push from TBR, it’s still technically letting students come in as undeclared. But there is a change:
“That’s going to be used as a signal for us to immediately work to get them moved into a major,” he says, or a focus area.
MTSU hired 47 new academic advisers this past semester alone — doubling the size of the staff. Rather than waiting for students to seek them out, advisers will be actively making sure students are on a path to graduate in four years.