With college costs continuing to rise, and some students rethinking the “college experience,” the value of university degrees has come under closer scrutiny. In particular, it seems wise to consider whether a degree in the humanities, which can vary from the classic humanities majors of English, history, or a foreign language to the newer fields of ethnic or gender studies, is setting students up for success in their professional lives.
The Washington Post analyzed data from a Federal Reserve survey and found that “nearly half of humanities and arts majors have studier’s remorse as of 2021.”
The WaPo suggests that the Great Recession “sparked the beginning of a downward spiral in humanities such as history, art, philosophy, English and foreign languages.” Instead, students turned to majors that had a clear and practical path ahead; majors like nursing, medicine, engineering, and computer science have seen significant growth in the last decade.
This is both a good and a bad thing. There is a lot to learn from the classic humanities. They can teach their students about the decisions and mistakes of those who came before them and help minds to think critically and deeply about a wide variety of issues, skills that can be used far beyond the confines of a specific area of study.
But few courses in the humanities function that way anymore. Instead, many, if not most, have reformed themselves after the “woke” ideas of today. Instead of studying Shakespeare or Plato, students are flooded with literature on gender and race relations. Many courses may even reject many of the great classics, due to their being written by those categorized as “white, privileged men.” And the WaPo article notes that such majors as described above are the only ones that have gained students: “Among the humanities, only two increased: cultural, ethnic and gender studies, and linguistics.”
Overall, it’s likely a good thing that students are being more pragmatic in their choice of major. If a student is going to invest tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars in their education, with many carrying student loan debt for years after graduation, there has to be value in their education beyond something like the “college experience.” After all, there are many jobs that don’t require a four-year degree and many alternative education options like trade schools that will lead students toward steady and good-paying jobs without the weight of debt from an overpriced university.