Droppin’ Knowledge

Business majors among

college students decrease.

by Inside Higher Ed:

The drop has been particularly stark at Pennsylvania State University, which, since 2008, has seen a 30 percent decline in undergraduates accepting offers from its Smeal College of Business, said Anne Rohrbach, executive director of undergraduate admissions. “Fewer students see that a business degree guarantees career and financial returns,” she said via e-mail. She attributed this decrease, in part, to Smeal limiting its enrollment and admitting students with a stronger record of academic achievement, which can depress yield rates. But the number of applications to Penn State’s program during this period has dropped by nearly the same percentage as acceptances, she said.

Penn State is not alone. The share of business majors in the University of Central Florida’s undergraduate student body is down by nearly 15 percent this semester relative to 2008. At Purdue University, nearly 13 percent fewer students enrolled at the Krannert School of Management this semester compared to two years ago, and in 2009 the number of applicants dropped 26 percent from the year previous before edging back up this year. The tumult in the business world has made students and their parents more wary about job prospects after graduation, said Mitch Warren, senior associate director of admissions at Purdue. “There are cyclical trends in many areas; business is no different,” said Warren, who added that these cycles of popularity need to be seen as part of a longer-term pattern of natural ups and downs.

But beneath such anecdotes lies a more notable and widespread change, according to researchers from the Higher Education Research Institute at the University of California at Los Angeles. Researchers gathered data from nearly 220,000 first-year students at almost 300 colleges, and asked what major and career path they planned to pursue. Results in 2009 revealed that 14.4 percent of first-year students planned to major in business — a more than 3 percentage-point drop since 2006 — and a low not seen since the Ford Administration. “They will likely be graduating with higher debts and have shifted majors and career aspirations away from business fields,” researchers wrote in their summary of findings from the American Freshman survey.

But the path to riches trodden by Gates and Zuckerberg has not gone unnoticed by students. According to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, it is not business, but the sciences — a broad category encompassing behavioral, health, life, medical, and physical sciences — that now command the greatest share of bachelor’s degrees.

Inside Higher Ed

It’s true. Academic advisors for liberal arts majors have been pushing for students interested in business to major in econ/math/sciences as they fields teach you the concepts of business. Business majors are seen as ‘tainted’ or hard to train in the real business world.

FYI, any majors doing business interviews might want to brush up on their math skills. Rumor has it that businesses like to ask questions like, “about how many ships are out at sea each day,” or other math riddles to see the approach you would take in solving the question. An approach you might not learn with a business concentration but you might learn that in econ or math…just saying 🙂