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Major Matters

Major Matters

It used to be that if you were to ask a Black person who graduated from a traditionally White college to name the first Black person to earn a degree from that institution in say, electrical engineering, they could probably do it within the blink of an eye.
More often than not, the person who held that  distinction of being the  first Black, first Hispanic or first woman graduate prominently included it in their biographical sketch. And that is the way it should be, because these pioneering designations did not come easily, often earned with untold amounts of perseverance, diligence and endurance.
It mattered, therefore, that Dr. Shirley Ann Jackson got a doctorate in physics from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. It mattered that Dr. John Hope Franklin got a doctorate in history from Harvard. And please excuse the personal reference, but it certainly mattered to the Matthews family that my older brother Jeff got that chemical engineering degree from the University of South Carolina back in 1976.
I’m sure that you too can name friends, family and even strangers who got those important breakthrough degrees — degrees that say to those who follow “if they can do it, maybe I can do it.”
So wouldn’t you agree that it would be a tragic irony if we allow our children to be seduced by the fallacious notion that “it doesn’t matter what I major in as long as I get a degree?” Or, “Look at Bill Gates and Tiger Woods — they don’t have degrees and are doing extremely well. Today, all you need are the right skills to make it.”
Statistics can be deceptive but they are clear on this matter — those who earn degrees do very well and those who earn tough-to-get degrees in difficult majors do even better.  It’s a matter of simple economics and the law of supply and demand.
The feature story, “Do Majors Matter,” by Senior Writer Eric St. John — a father of two college students — affirms the case for preparing and pushing our students to earn the degrees and skills needed to succeed in the ever-changing economy.
And speaking of change, our cover story by Senior Writer Michele N-K Collison details the great expectations associated with the selection of renowned trench warrior Dr. William B. Harvey to head the American Council on Education’s Office of Minorities in Higher Education. ACE didn’t have to make such a bold appointment, but they did. For all of those who are alarmed by recent affirmative action and minority achievement trends, this appointment is indeed a major, major matter.

Frank L. Matthews
Publisher and Editor-in-Chief

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