This is what happens when students become more concerned about employment after graduation.

Kellie Woodhouse of Inside Higher Ed reports.

Arts and Sciences Deficits

Larry Singell saw the writing on the wall well before his college was hit with a possible $8 million deficit.

Though the College of Arts and Sciences is by far the largest college at Indiana University’s Bloomington campus, more and more students were enrolling with credits earned through high school programs and community colleges. Students, worrying about employability after college, were leaving majors like English and anthropology behind and picking professional colleges instead.

“There’s no one reason why this is happening. As usual, it’s complicated,” Singell, dean of the college for the past four years, said of Indiana’s deficit, which he says is a symptom of larger problems faced by liberal arts divisions within universities. “The budgetary problems are not one-year problems. This is not something that’s going to be different next year.”

Trends present in Indiana are present in colleges of arts and sciences across the nation.

Tim Johnston, president of the Council of Colleges of Arts and Sciences and the University of North Carolina at Greensboro’s dean of Arts and Sciences, says enrollments in departments like English and history, which historically have been staples of humanities programs, are down nationally.

“That’s partly a result of the economic situation, and students being very focused on the question of employment immediately after graduation,” he said. “We are sensitive to, and affected by, shifts in student interest and the consequences of that interest on our programs.”

Ohio State University’s College of Arts and Sciences faces a $10 million deficit, a shortfall of about 4 percent of its $266 million operating budget. Administrators blame trends in enrollment. Department chairs, however, charge that administrators have placed a high priority on admitting students unlikely to be arts and sciences majors and are turning away students who could provide a better financial base for the college.