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Students face restrictions stacking cross-college majors.

February 6, 2024

Undergraduates Argue Against Cornell’s Restriction on Cross-College Double Majors

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Eva Pérez ’27 originally opted to study biology within the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences rather than the College of Arts and Sciences due to qualifying for CALS in-state tuition, which drops Cornell’s annual tuition from $65,204 to $43,888. But Pérez said that her academic path is consequently out of alignment with her interdisciplinary interests, due to Cornell’s restriction on double majoring across different colleges.

“I do not plan on going into agriculture or just life sciences but rather computational biology,” Pérez said. “If I were permitted, I would be a computer science major as well as a CALS biology student.”

CALS is a contract college, meaning it is affiliated with and partially funded by New York State. There are two other undergraduate contract colleges at Cornell: the College of Industrial and Labor Relations and the College of Human Ecology. 

For access to multiple majors, not all schools are created equal. For example, CAS offers 40+ majors, whereas ILR offers only one major from which students can take classes under five academic departments.

While students can pursue minors outside of their home college, some students believe that double majoring offers greater benefits.

“You get to learn a variety of concepts that connect with each other through double majoring,” said Carina Lau ’27, who is double majoring in communication and information science in CALS.

Cornell’s restriction on double majoring across colleges is due to the inability to reasonably complete general education requirements from both colleges within four years, according to Cornell Undergraduate Admissions.

The University previously operated a concurrent degree program, which “allowed both a bachelor of science and either a bachelor of arts or bachelor of fine arts degree to be earned in about five years.”

But this program was discontinued for students who matriculated after fall 2021. The concurrent degree program was also only open to students in endowed colleges — excluding students enrolled in contract colleges. 

When asked if the existence of Cornell’s contract colleges affected the availability of double majors or dual enrollment across schools, a representative of the University simply replied “No.”

Jacqueline Jamsheed, the parent of a Cornell student, described a recent conversation with a member of the College of Architecture, Art and Planning as to whether her daughter, a CALS student, could double major.

“The response was no because she attended one of Cornell’s [New York State] schools,” Jamsheed said, recalling her conversation.

Jamsheed emphasized that a clear distinction was made between the endowed and contract colleges during this conversation. 

“We then said that she was an out-of-state student paying full tuition, which was comparable to that of AAP,” Jamsheed said. “The person then responded that these were the rules and had no explanation as to why.”

Altogether, double majoring is a desired path for many Cornell students both able and unable to pursue their intended subject combination. 

“I’ve learned many things that I wouldn’t have been able to learn in just a single major, and applying these across the majors has been really influential in me developing new perspectives,” Lau said.

Correction, Feb. 7, 8:03 p.m.: A previous version of this article incorrectly stated that undergraduates in the College of Industrial and Labor Relations can choose between four concentrations. Undergraduates can instead take classes within five academic departments. The Sun regrets this error, and the article has been corrected.