The Death Of Humanities Majors

Tyler Durden's picture

"People say you should do what you love," but in the new normal reality, it appears - based on the flagging applications at Harvard's humanities division - that oft-used phrase has been appended with, "but, I don't want to be doing what I love and be homeless." As The WSJ reports, among recent college graduates who majored in English, the unemployment rate was 9.8%; for philosophy and religious-studies majors, it was 9.5%; and for history majors, it was also 9.5%. By comparison, recent chemistry graduates were unemployed at a rate of just 5.8%; and elementary-education graduates were at 5%. Students have taken note. At Harvard, humanities majors have fallen to 20% in 2012 from 36% in 1954. School presidents and administrators at liberal-arts colleges have already started to take a more job-oriented approach to a liberal-arts education, but face an uphill battle in the wake of stepped-up global economic competition, a job market that is disproportionately rewarding graduates in the hard sciences, rising tuition and sky-high student-debt levels.

 

Via The WSJ,

The humanities division at Harvard University, for centuries a standard-bearer of American letters, is attracting fewer undergraduates amid concerns about the degree's value in a rapidly changing job market.

 

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Universities' humanities divisions and liberal-arts colleges across the nation are facing similar challenges in the wake of stepped-up global economic competition, a job market that is disproportionately rewarding graduates in the hard sciences, rising tuition and sky-high student-debt levels.

 

Among recent college graduates who majored in English, the unemployment rate was 9.8%; for philosophy and religious-studies majors, it was 9.5%; and for history majors, it was also 9.5%, according to a report this month by the Georgetown Public Policy Institute that used data from 2010 and 2011. By comparison, recent chemistry graduates were unemployed at a rate of just 5.8%; and elementary-education graduates were at 5%.

 

Students have taken note.

 

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"People say you should do what you love," Mr. Lytle said during a break from his job giving tours of the Ivy League campus Wednesday. "But the reality is that it's kind of a tougher economic time, and we do have to worry about living after graduation. I don't want to be doing what I love and be homeless," he added.

 

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The weaker job prospects in certain fields have led four Republican governors to call for funding cuts at departments in public universities that they don't believe prepare students for the workforce.

 

"If you want to take gender studies, that's fine, go to private school," North Carolina GOP Gov. Patrick McCrory said in a radio interview in January. "But I don't want to subsidize that if it's not going to get someone a job."

 

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"I think that's because they have a very primitive and reductive view of what is essential in society," [Homi Bhabha, director of the Humanities Center at Harvard] said. "There are jobs, and even in business, the humanities play a major role."