Number of humanities degrees fell 5% in latest analysis

The number of degrees awarded in the humanities is on the decline, Scott Jaschik writes for Inside Higher Ed.

Just under 12% of the bachelor's degrees awarded in 2015 were in the humanities, according to an analysis of data from the Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System by the American Academy of Arts & Sciences (AAA&S). That's a decline of roughly 5% from the year before.

Within the humanities, the greatest declines came within history and English, which were previously among the most popular majors. Together, degrees awarded in these two majors fell 16% from 2012 to 2015, including a 10% drop in 2015 alone, Jaschik reports.

The most popular major within the humanities is now communication (although some schools classify this major under the social sciences). The AAA&S analysis notes that communication was the only major within the humanities to see an increase in the number of degrees conferred in 2015.

"We live in a communication age," says Trevor Parry-Giles, director of academic and professional affairs at the National Communication Association. He also told Inside Higher Ed that he's seeing more students choose communication as their first choice of major, rather than switching into it later after trying something else first.

However, a separate analysis from the AAA&S suggests that humanities programs at community colleges may be bucking the trend, Jaschik writes, noting that the data on associate degrees is not as detailed. The number of humanities degrees awarded at community colleges has increased by around 4.3% each year since 1987. Humanities degrees made up nearly 42% of all associate degrees in 2015, an increase from around 26% in 1987 (Jaschik, Inside Higher Ed, 6/7).

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