The current economic situation is causing universities across the country to prepare for possible enrollment decreases in their liberal arts departments, but the university’s program is not following that pattern, a university official said.
Nowell Donovan, provost and vice chancellor for academic affairs, said enrollment in liberal arts classes has increased.
Andy Schoolmaster, dean of AddRan College of Liberal Arts, said enrollment for the spring semester credit hour generation in the college was up this spring over last spring.
According to the Office of Institutional Research, there was a 3.3 percent enrollment increase from 1,118 undergraduate students in spring 2008 to 1,155 students in spring 2009.
Arthur Aven, sophomore radio-TV-film and history major, said there are generally more students in his history classes than there were last year, but it usually depends on the class size limit.
Aven said liberal arts classes are more like the core of education.
“A lot of times when you get to college, you only take history and English to get the credit,” Aven said. “But I feel like people are more interested in it now.”
Aven said he originally planned to attend graduate school to become a teacher, but the financial strain of three more years of schooling caused him to change his mind. He said he added a major in radio-TV-film to have more career options.
Kelly Barnes, junior political science major, said he’s also noticed more students in his AddRan classes.
“I feel that in the current economic climate, students are realizing that a liberal arts degree will have more weight with potential employers as it works on writing skills and more discussion-based classes,” Barnes said.
However, according to a Feb. 24 article in the New York Times, past economic downturns have lead to decreased enrollment in humanities courses because some students fear that the career world does not place a high importance on knowledge of religion, language and history.
The economy does play a role, however, in the number of liberal arts students who decide to attend graduate school, said John Thompson, executive director of Career Services.
About 25 percent of liberal arts students decide to attend graduate school, but the economy will probably increase that number, he said.
Schoolmaster said some liberal arts students choose to attend graduate school during tough economic times to get more credentials before entering the workforce. A liberal arts basis will help prepare students for the future because of the focus on critical thinking and good communication skills, he said.
“A degree in the liberal arts prepares you to go to your professional schools, say for example law school,” Schoolmaster said. “It also prepares you to take positions in business.”
Some students decide to forgo graduate school to enter the workforce. Thompson said those students should not change their minds because of the economy.
“There are jobs; there are opportunities,” Thompson said. “It’s just going to take a longer process than normal.”
Employers are looking to hire smart and talented employees, but what they really want is someone with experience, Thompson said.
“What we recommend to all students is that they have an internship on their resume before they get in the job market because companies hire experience,” Thompson said.