It’s no secret that the educational system here in the United States is in serious trouble. If you take a look at our standardized test scores in reading, science, math and history as compared with those coming out of the other developed nations in the world you’ll find a troubling trend. Elite students are no longer coming out of our school system. While that’s a problem in elementary and high schools, it becomes even more of an issue at the university level. First of all, it’s tougher now than at almost any other moment in history to afford a secondary education. Competition for grants and scholarships is incredibly stiff, and since much of the country is still suffering through a difficult recession, kids can’t rely on their parents to pay their way through school anymore. That means student loans, and most graduates are now forced to enter a less than ideal job hunt with five or six figures of loan debt staring them in the face. It’s clear that something has to change, and a small university in Newberry, South Carolina is betting that a new major program focused on social media may be the first step towards that change.
The new degree program offered by Newberry College is a true social sedia degree. Tania Sosiak, an Associate Professor in the department that will manage this new discipline described it to the Fox affiliate WACH based in Columbia, South Carolina. According to Ms. Sosiak, it’s not just going to be the study of the perfectly crafted tweet. In fact, social media majors will study a cocktail of marketing, graphic design, psychology, communications and business. That’s actually a hefty load, and if you consider the various requirements of many of the entry level jobs graduates contend for, it sounds like a fantastic preparation. Whether parents will agree that shelling out money for their kids to study the ins and outs of Facebook is worthwhile remains to be seen. But Ms. Sosiak and her contemporaries hope it will encourage kids who may be trending in the other direction to stay in school.
That mission may be tougher than ever. And it isn’t only rising tuition costs that are to blame. Ever since the computer age has truly taken off the media has been inundated with stories of success that are unrelated to completing a degree program. Some of the biggest names is the tech game dropped out of school, including Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg and Microsoft boss Bill Gates. Of course, both of them were enrolled in programs at Harvard, so clearly they would have been fine regardless. But Steve Jobs, the late CEO of Apple actually mentioned dropping out of college during his famous Stanford University commencement address. He even declared that it was one of the best decisions he made in his entire life. In addition, forward-thinking college kids are finding some seriously enticing offers that go against completing college. Peter Thiel, the founder of PayPal is giving some lucky kids $100,000 to drop out of school and start a company. How can a social media major and a mountain of student loan debt compete with that?
Other detractors suggest that now is not the time to spend hard-earned money on an unpredictable degree. Although there are plenty of career opportunities in social media, including work within marketing agencies and major corporations, it remains to be seen if this hodgepodge major will be acceptable on a resume. It will take some kids risking it, but this is a tough time to make a risky educational move. Hiring is very slow, and competition for even low paying jobs is stiff. How can a new, untested degree compete with options such as earning an online RN to MSN degree and immediately landing a dependable, well-paying job? The first availability of the social media major won’t begin until the fall semester next year, so it will take several more years to find out for sure.