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UC Vice President of Academic Affairs speaks for the value of a well-rounded education

Williamsburg, Ky. - A recent report put out by Georgetown University along with the Lumina Foundation shows that those who have a bachelor’s degree will now make up to 84 percent more than those who have only a high school diploma. This percentage, reported in 2011, is up from 75 percent reported in 1999. Presently, those with a bachelor’s degree can expect to earn nearly $2.3 million within a lifetime. Those with a high school diploma will earn almost half that much, with expected median lifetime earnings reaching only $1.3 million.

While these numbers seem to be incentive for students to finish college, many students worry about finding jobs after graduation. Furthermore, students who have finished their undergraduate education often find the job market lacking in the fields in which they had studied. Nevertheless, statistics show that any degree pays off more than no degree at all.

Vice President of Academic Affairs at the University of the Cumberlands Larry Cockrum urges students not to worry about what to study as an undergraduate; instead he encourages them to broaden their educational experiences. Cockrum believes that by taking a variety of classes, students will gain the most value from any degree.

“What I would suggest to our students is to get as many majors and minors as they can in their time here. Double majors are better than a single major, in my opinion, and it’s simply because you don’t know where life is going to steer you. I’m convinced that the broader based your education is, the more marketable you will be,” said Cockrum.

Other reports are also showing positive results for academic disciplines of all kinds. According to U.S. News & World Report, the nine “hottest” (or most popular) major fields of study for 2012 include biomedical engineering, computer game design, environmental studies and sustainability, health information and management, homeland security, information assurance and cyber security, nanotechnology, new media, and public health. Still states that there are plenty of job opportunities for non-technical majors. The website’s article entitled “Highest Paying Majors for 2011-2012,” highlights both English and design as majors that can lead to decent entry-level salaries.

University of the Cumberlands offers four undergraduate degrees in over 40 different majors in fields including pure sciences, arts, social sciences, languages, media arts, business, ministry, health and criminal justice. The university also offers nine pre-professional programs, eight master’s degree programs, and two doctoral programs. Emphasizing variety in education, UC provides students with a liberal arts basis that is supplemented with Christian principles.

“We’re a broad based liberal arts Christian university, and we’ll always stay that way,” said Cockrum; “Students have to get a little bit of all of it to go through. Some colleges have it set up to where you can just go into your concentration area after meeting very few general education requirements. Liberal arts colleges are known for trying to give you a broader-based education, so students are exposed to more history, math, science, arts, and other disciplines. I personally believe that a broad-based education is best, and that’s what we do here.”

UC is unique in that 29 percent of its undergraduate students major in biology, chemistry, physics or math. According to Cockrum, that number is between five and seven percent in most other colleges and university.

“Why we’re that way, I don’t know. I don’t have a reason for it other than at some point in time they have been really great programs, or maybe it’s just the nature of a lot of the kids from the area. I don’t know, I don’t have a reason why, but I can tell you it’s an anomaly. Most schools aren’t that way,” said Cockrum.

Biology is the largest major on UC’s campus, followed by education, business administration, psychology and criminal justice. Cockrum reported that the criminal justice department (one of UC’s newest undergraduate programs) will house over 100 majors this academic year.

UC has also made some changes to their general education requirements to allow students more flexibility within majors. Under the old catalog, students had to earn 47 general education credits; now students must only earn 37. These adjustments have made a difference for those students who take on double majors as well as those who want to try out several classes before choosing a major.

“It can be hard for students to see that bigger picture because some have an interest in one thing or another and others don’t know what their interests are, and they kind of dabble in a lot of things trying to figure it out. It’s a little bit of a catch-22, but that’s one of the reasons we lowered our general education requirements, to allow students more flexibility within majors and minors. These changes allow students to build a broader base; I’m convinced that’s important,” said Cockrum.

While Cockrum believes that students can benefit greatly from broadening their education as undergraduates, he also acknowledges the growing need for additional education after college.

“My simplistic approach to this is that when my father was coming up, a high school diploma was good enough for a person to get a pretty good job. In my era, a bachelor’s degree, if you used it right, could make you a decent living. Presently, I’m convinced that you not only have to have a bachelor’s degree, but you’ve also got to have some kind of extra training or a masters degree or above to move in the direction that you want to,” said Cockrum.

More students are choosing to obtain bachelor’s degrees, and consequentially more are seeking after master’s degrees and doctorates. Economic experts say this increase in college retention will only help the stagnant economy. However, many college graduates still debate whether or not to continue their education. The decision is made more difficult because of additional costs as well as statistics showing that those with master’s degrees do not earn much more than those with bachelor’s degrees. Georgetown University’s report shows that those who have a master’s degree will earn only $0.4 million more than those with only a bachelor’s degree. This difference doesn’t seem like much incentive for students to further their education, and many students do not want to put in the time; however, the same report shows that those with doctoral degrees will earn nearly $3.3 million over a lifetime. While Cockrum doesn’t believe that a college education is for everyone, he does consider additional education to be important as society becomes increasingly more educated.

“There is a value to education that people with degrees make more money. I told my kids, ‘it doesn’t mean you’re any better than anybody else; there are a lot of people who don’t have degrees who make a good living, and that’s fine,’ but sometimes you can’t get through the door without the degrees,” said Cockrum.

No matter the educational goals of a student, Cockrum still emphasizes students’ need of versatility.

It’s kind of like I told my kids when they were going through, ‘I don’t really care what you get a degree in, just get one, and don’t spend too much time studying, and don’t spend too much time playing.’ Student really have to find a a happy medium because part of college is about growing up and seeing who you really are and what you really want to do,” said Cockrum; “It used to be that you started in one career and you stayed in it for 20-30 years. Today, people change jobs and change job fields several times, so it’s a different game. Again, that’s my reason for saying, the broader based you can be, the better off you are.”

Located in Williamsburg, Ky., University of the Cumberlands is an institution of regional distinction, which currently offers four undergraduate degrees in more than 40 major fields of study; nine pre-professional programs; twelve graduate degrees, including two doctorate, two specialist and eight master’s degrees; certifications in education; and online programs.

Article Provided by Kristin Gotch, UC Multimedia & Athletic Services Assistant