72 Hours to a New Degree Program

As a Return-on-Investment mindset plows through higher education like Sherman’s 1864 March to the Sea, legislators, parents, and students are increasingly asking, “How will a bachelor’s degree in ________ translate into a a well-paying job after graduation?”  It’s not enough anymore to simply tell Art History majors that they can use their department’s extensive alumni network to obtain part-time employment arranging window displays of hand-painted postcards in a Wiscasset, Maine gift shop.

Colleges and universities are feverishly scrambling to come up with programs and majors that promise a more secure financial future to vocationally obsessed students and their families.  For schools that are struggling with this challenge, I offer the following 6-step plan for building a new degree program in less than 72 hours.  The plan is accompanied by a real-life example that can easily be generalized to other domains.

STEP 1Identify an activity that human beings are currently being paid to perform (e.g., cooking french fries at a fast-food restaurant).

STEP 2:  Think of every conceivable topic associated with this activity and develop one or more 3-credit courses for each topic.  Let’s pursue the french-fry example.

HS 101        The Potato from Antiquity to the Industrial Revolution

ECON 212   Tuber-Based Economies and the Irish Potato Famine

MATH 103  One Potato, Two Potato: Mathematics for French Fry Majors

SOC 489       Mr. and Mrs. Potato Head: Gender Politics in Popular Culture

ME 317         Scooping Dynamics in Fry-Bagging: Wrist Movements

ME 318         Scooping Dynamics in Fry-Bagging: Thumb Positioning

PHIL 233      Hand-Cut vs. Machine-Sliced: Current Debates

PS 304           Studies in Leadership: Ray Kroc

PHIL 610      Extra Salt, High Blood Pressure, and The Nicomachean Ethics of Consumer Choice

HUM 220      Curly, Krinkle-Kut, or Wedge?  New Directions in Fry Aesthetics

BIO 375         Heat Lamps, Hot Fries, and Cancer

PSYC 704       Taterphobia: Causes, Symptoms, and Treatment

MUS 421        Spud Sounds: Dee Dee Sharp and “Mashed Potato Time”

STEP 3Take any 10 of the courses you’ve established and declare a major (treat remaining courses as electives).  Pay attention to sequencing (e.g., ME 317 should be a prerequisite for ME 318).  Be sure to select a catchy name for the major (e.g., BFF: Bachelor’s in French Frying)

STEP 4Put as many of these courses online as you can.  In general, students who pursue a BFF are not people you want to meet in person.

STEP 5:  Require an unpaid internship as part of the program in order to provide students with “real-world” experience (easy to accomplish with the BFF).

STEP 6:  You’re done!  Announce the program and watch the tuition roll in!

IMPORTANT:  Offering a BFF program will only lead to an increase in the wage rates of french-fry employees if it is accompanied by passage of state regulations that require all such workers to be certified, licensed holders of a BFF degree.  Contact your local legislator, as well as your school’s legal counsel, for lobbying advice.