A humanities degree is worth much more than you realize

As far as undergraduate enrolments are concerned, the humanities are on the decline.According to a report by the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, while the sciences, engineering and health-related fields continue to grow, the humanities have lost nearly half of their students over the last decade.

In 2016, only about 20 percent of all degrees granted by elite liberal arts colleges were in the humanities, a proportion that was barely above 10 percent at elite research universities and well below that threshold at the rest of the universe of American higher education, which accounts for over 80 percent of all students.

Alarmingly, the bedrock disciplines of English and History have taken the brunt of the decline, followed by foreign languages and literatures. The conventional wisdom attributes the downward trend to the new economic and technological realities of the early-21st century. The crisis of 2008 appears to have shifted students’ preferences toward fields of study offering greater and more lucrative employment opportunities.

In turn, shifts in enrollments have led university administrators to balance budgets by cutting funding for the humanities. These explanations, however, do not seem to be consistent with some surprising patterns in the data.

For instance, over the same time period, undergraduate degrees in business have also declined, and by nearly as much as the humanities. Intriguingly, at community colleges, degrees in the humanities have grown from 37 to 42 percent of the total, and at the three U.S. military academies interest in the humanities remains stable.