Fewer Freshmen Interested In Business

Compiled By Yaffa Klugerman
January 22, 2010

school of businessA new survey has found that the number of college freshmen planning to study business has dropped to the lowest level since 1976.

The 2009 annual "Freshman Survey," which was conducted by the Higher Education Research Institute at the University of California at Los Angeles, found that from 2008 to 2009, freshmen who planned on majoring in business dropped from 16.8 percent to 14.4 percent. During the same time, incoming first-year students who listed business as their intended career fell from 14.1 percent to 12.1 percent. The results of the survey were based on responses from about 220,000 first-time, full-time freshmen at 297 four-year colleges and universities.

"I think that a business career doesn't look as appealing as it once did, nor does it come with a guarantee of being well-off financially as in the past," explained Linda DeAngelo, who co-authored the report and was interviewed by Inside Higher Ed. "Some of that can definitely be attributed to the general sense that we spent a lot of time over the past year raking business executives and people in high finance over the coals. . . . I don't think high school students are immune to that overall feeling about business."

Indeed, the survey also indicated that the recession is clearly playing a role in how freshmen choose colleges and how they will pay for their higher education. The New York Times reports that about two-thirds of incoming students said that they had "some" or "major" concern about paying for college, with 55.4 percent voicing "some" concern--the highest level since 1971. And 41.6 percent said that cost was a "very important" factor in deciding which college to attend--the highest level since the question was added five years ago.

Freshmen attitudes are also clearly being shaped by family circumstances during the recession. A record 4.5 percent of freshmen said their fathers were unemployed, while 7.9 percent said their mothers were unemployed. And the number of students who planned to take out higher education loans rose to 53.3 percent, the highest level in nine years.

"We expected that, given what we were seeing last year in the economy, we would see some significant changes in how finances were impacting people's ability to pay," noted John H. Pryor, director of the survey, who was quoted by the Times. "What was more surprising was that it goes beyond just that into other areas. Everywhere we turned, whether it was how you chose your college or what do you think you are going to do in college, everywhere the finances piece popped out."

Avoiding business careers is just one more example of how the recession is changing freshmen attitudes. "I would speculate that the reason why we see fewer students who are interested in business both as a major and a career," Pryor told The Chronicle of Higher Education, "is that they have seen a pretty spectacular fail in those areas over the last year."

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