The demise of the humanities

With the start of the fall semester, high school seniors who intend to earn a college degree will soon have to begin thinking about their major (“Oh, the Humanities!” The New York Times, Aug. 8).  In fact, some colleges and universities require applicants to state their major.  It’s little wonder that the humanities are way down on the list.

I say that because skyrocketing tuition today means most students must take out loans, which are not dischargeable in personal bankruptcy.  As a result, students are far more cost conscious than my generation was.  I realize that the value of a college degree cannot be determined solely by what its holders command in the marketplace.  But who can blame them for shunning the humanities?  They have to earn enough to pay off monthly student at the same time they have to pay the rent and other necessities.

Studies show that those majoring in the humanities earn far less at the start of their careers compared with their peers who choose technology.  That was not always the case. There was a time when college students had the luxury of majoring in whatever truly interested them, without worrying about its market value.  For example, when I was an undergraduate in the late 1950s at the University of Pennsylvania, tuition was $800, plus an additional general fee of $135.  Both were payable in two equal installments.  I spent the next 28 years as an English teacher in the Los Angeles Unified School District.

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