Humanities on the rocks for good reason

The decline in the number of students majoring in the humanities these days comes as no surprise (“Dear Humanists: You Have Done That Yourself,” The James G. Martin Center for Academic Renewal, Dec. 9).  The blame lies with its marketability.

When students assume heavy debt to finance a bachelor’s degree, they understandably want some assurance that their choice of a major will pay off in a well-paying job. Unfortunately, the humanities can’t compete with other majors.  You can’t blame them. 

Studies show that in the long run humanities majors do catch up with other majors. The problem is that college graduates can’t wait that long.  They have expenses today.  There will always be a handful of students who chose to major in the humanities for various reasons, but they are outliers.

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2 Replies to “Humanities on the rocks for good reason”

  1. Surprised the undergraduate humanities majors eventually catch up with undergraduate science/business majors. Perhaps it’s the effect on lifetime income of graduate school degrees — that is, if you excluded from the study all the undergraduate humanities majors who went on to law school or business school, then the undergraduate humanities majors would never catch up with the undergraduate science/business majors.

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  2. Labor Lawyer: According to the Census Bureau’s American Community Survey conducted in 2017, computer science and engineering majors earned an average of $61,744, which was 37 percent higher than the average starting salary of $45,032 for history or social science majors. But by age 40, the earnings of the latter group have caught up.

    One explanation is that the technical skills in high demand today become obsolete when technology progresses. Another reason is that liberal arts majors learn soft skills that have long-run value in a wide variety of careers.

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