In 2009 78% of students surveyed were going to college with a predominant goal—wealth! As college costs have risen, college has become an investment for families. Now students and families want to know their investment will pay off in a job.
Colleges have changed their curricula to reflect this new and growing sentiment. Declining enrollments in philosophy majors, the classics, and majors in American Studies have meant these majors are being removed on campuses. The last 15 years have shown that business is the most popular major. Other majors that are increasing in popularity are public health, environmental sciences, and global majors in Arabic and Asian languages.
Colleges are also adding majors that help fledgling entrepreneurs create businesses, with even a Master’s degree in starting high tech companies. If you major in English at the University of Texas, Austin, you have to take a class called “The English Major in the Workplace” and learn to network, write a résumé, and interview. Thomas College in Maine even advertises if you don’t have a job in 6 months from your graduation, they will provide you with free classes or pay your student loans for a year! Other colleges are adding internships and involving alumni in job placement.
On the other hand, some schools are worried that students specialize too early and don’t explore course work that may help them find their niche. Knowledge of the great thinkers was considered a cornerstone of education, and liberal arts school curricula were designed to help students become better analyzers and debaters. There is definitely a debate over careerism and elitism as colleges adjust to present student needs. The Association of American Colleges has surveyed businesses that hire many of their member colleges’ graduates. Companies responses indicate they want a broad set of skills more than specialization. They cite effective written and oral communication as one of their most sought-after skills, along with critical thinking.
Now is the time to think about your fall course load. What will you take for courses this fall? What will your major be? Will you go more for skills and experiences or look at specialized majors?