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Majors see shifts in numbers

Oct 28, 2013   |   by Jessica Avitabile   |   The Dartmouth

Fewer Dartmouth students are majoring in the humanities and are shifting toward the social sciences, mathematics and engineering. The change in enrollments across departments has affected staffing and faculty decisions, as well course offerings, as some departments work to stretch resources while others attempt to bolster student interest.

The number of social science majors has increased to 650 for the Class of 2013 from 573 for the Class of 2004, while the number of humanities majors has dropped to 214 from 289 over the same period, according to the Dartmouth Fact Book. Graduating class sizes have remained roughly the same.

Part of the shift away from the humanities can be attributed to anxiety about employment after graduation since the 2008 recession, religion department chair Randall Balmer said.

“There is a perception that certain majors are more likely to yield jobs in a shorter period of time than other majors,” Balmer said. “I regret that students are so single-minded about career-track trajectories in college.”...

...The number of mathematics majors has increased to 50 in 2013 from 39 in 2002. Former chair Daniel Rockmore said the department can accommodate all students despite the increase, which he attributes to the broad scope of the department, the strong applied mathematics offerings and the increasing need in today’s world for strong quantitative skills.

The popularity of calculus courses has remained the same, while there has been a rise in enrollment of lower-level major courses, such as linear algebra and differential equations.

Rockmore said the increase in enrollment may be due to non-majors, who recognize how this sort of “training of the mind” may better serve them in their intended majors, such as economics or computer science.

There has also been in increase in the number of engineering majors, to 85 in 2013 from 66 in 2004.

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