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Part II. Undergraduate and Graduate Education in the Humanities

Section A. Undergraduate Education

NOTE TO READERS: Please include the following reference when citing data from this page: "American Academy of Arts and Sciences, Humanities Indicators, http://HumanitiesIndicators.org."
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Indicator II-1 Undergraduate Degrees in the Humanities
Indicator II-2 Disciplinary Distribution of Undergraduate Degrees in the Humanities
Indicator II-3 Institutional Distribution of Undergraduate Humanities Degrees
Indicator II-4 Racial/Ethnic Distribution of Undergraduate Degrees in the Humanities
Indicator II-5 Gender Distribution of Undergraduate Degrees in the Humanities
Indicator II-6 Most Frequently Taken College Courses
Indicator II-7 Postsecondary Course-Taking in Languages Other than English (OTE)
Indicator II-8 Humanities Students’ Scores on the Graduate Record Exam
Indicator II-9 GRE English Literature Subject Test Scores


See the Note on the Data Used to Calculate Undergraduate Humanities Degree Counts and Shares.

The following indicators seek to describe the character and gauge the vitality of humanities undergraduate education in the contemporary United States. The first several indicators chart the number of humanities bachelor’s degrees granted over the last several decades and to whom. Where appropriate, the data for the humanities are accompanied by comparable data on other fields in order to provide a sense of the relative performance of the academic humanities at the undergraduate level. These indicators reveal that the academic humanities have grown appreciably since a low point in the mid-1980s but have not regained the prominence in the university that they enjoyed in the late 1960s and early 1970s. They also demonstrate that although gender parity has been largely achieved the percentage of humanities degrees awarded to minority students is still disproportionately small.

Degree information, while plentiful and reliable, cannot fully capture the influence of the humanities on young people over the course of their college careers. This section draws on additional data about what all students, not just humanities majors, study in college.

Two indicators in this section report on trends in college course-taking. A key source of such data is the transcript studies that form part of the longitudinal studies conducted by the U.S. Department of Education of the high school classes of 1972, 1982, and 1992. Another important source of course-taking data is the Modern Language Association’s (MLA) periodic survey of enrollment in postsecondary language courses.

Standardized tests are not nearly as prominent a feature of postsecondary life as they are in America’s elementary, middle, and high schools. the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) or the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development’s Programme for International Student Assessment measure at regular intervals younger students’ mastery of reading (see Indicator I-1, Reading Competency among School-Age Children) and writing (see Indicator I-2, Writing Proficiency) and their knowledge of subjects such as history (see Indicator I-3, Knowledge of U.S. History). No comparable regular assessment of postsecondary student achievement exists. The Graduate Record Examination (GRE), which is taken by students who wish to enroll in graduate school, is the best available measure of college students’ mastery of such core humanistic competencies as verbal reasoning and analytical writing. Through its Subject Test program, the GRE also provides a measure of student knowledge of English literature. Although the GRE is a valuable source of data, it has a number of significant limitations as a measure of national collegiate achievement in the humanities; these are discussed in the narratives accompanying the GRE-related indicators.

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Indicator II-1 Undergraduate Degrees in the Humanities
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Figure II-1a updated 7/26/2013 with degree data for 2011. The trend line has also been extended from 1966 back to 1948.

See the
Note on the Data Used to Calculate Undergraduate Humanities Degree Counts and Shares.

Since the Second World War, the trend in undergraduate humanities majors has passed through three distinct phases. As Figure II-1a demonstrates, from the mid-1950s to 1971 the number of bachelor’s degrees awarded in the “core” humanities disciplines of English language and literature, history, languages and literatures other than English (including linguistics and classics), and philosophy1 rose steadily to just over 130,000 degrees conferred.2

Figure II-1a, Full Size
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After 1971, the trend reversed, with the annual number of humanities degrees conferred declining through the 1970s and into the mid-1980s, so that by 1985 the humanities were awarding less than half the number of bachelor’s degrees conferred in the early 1970s. By the late 1980s the situation had begun to improve, and in the early years of the following decade the number of bachelor’s degrees crested again, rising back above 100,000. Following a modest decline toward the end of the 1990s, the number of degrees conferred on humanities majors increased throughout the 2000s before declining in the two most recent years reported here (2010 and 2011).

Note that this is not the only way of assessing the number of students receiving degrees in the humanities. With the introduction of the finer-grained Classification of Instructional Programs (CIP), the U.S. Department of Education has enabled more complete tabulations of degrees conferred in the humanities, starting with degrees conferred in 1987. The CIP allows the inclusion of degrees in additional humanities disciplines such as area and gender studies, nonvocational religious studies, and some art studies. The more encompassing CIP-based tally of 185,148 humanities degrees in 2011 is appreciably higher than the 1971 zenith for the core humanities. (For an explanation of the advantages of using the CIP to tally humanities degree completions, see the Note on the Data Used to Calculate Undergraduate Humanities Degree Counts and Shares.) For an inventory of the specific degree programs that together constitute the academic humanities as they are conceptualized by the Humanities Indicators, see the NSF and CIP Discipline Code Catalog.)

As a percentage of all degrees, the core humanities remained in the 10–11% range from 1948 until the late 1950s, when the humanities share began to increase steadily, cresting at 17.2% in 1967. Along with the drop in absolute numbers of humanities bachelor’s degrees that occurred over the course of the 1970s and early 1980s, the humanities experienced a substantial decline in their share of all bachelor’s degrees. Although the number of humanities degree completions increased thereafter, so did the total number of bachelor’s degrees awarded. Consequently, the humanities’ share of all bachelor’s degrees remains well below the 1970s high. When core degrees are counted, the humanities’ share of all bachelor’s degrees conferred in 2011, 6.9%, was less than half the 1967 high. When CIP categories are used for tabulation purposes, humanities degrees represented 11.1% of all bachelor’s degrees awarded in 2011. By either measure, the share of all degrees that were earned in the humanities declined approximately 7% from 2009 to 2011.

In 2010 the share of bachelor’s degrees awarded in the humanities (11.5%) was approximately 19 percentage points smaller than that for the sciences (Figure II-1b). The humanities also awarded a substantially smaller proportion of bachelor’s degrees than the business and management field, which produced 21.5% of all such degrees.

Figure II-1b, Full Size
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The number of students who complete a “second major” in the humanities (i.e., a degree in a humanities discipline earned at the same time as another degree in a nonhumanities field or a different humanities discipline) has risen steadily since 2001, the year for which NCES first collected data on such degrees (Figure II-1c). In 2010, 22,709 humanities second majors were completed by undergraduates at U.S. institutions of higher learning. This figure represents a 72% increase over the 2001 level. In 2010, second majors in the humanities were completed by approximately 1.4% of bachelor’s degree recipients, up from 1.1% in 2001.

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Note

1 The HI takes these disciplines as its focus because together they constitute the majority of humanities degrees and also because they are the only disciplines for which comparable data are available that allow for the construction of a long-term trend.

2 The degree counts and shares depicted in Figures II-1a and II-1b do not include “second majors” in the humanities. Data on such degrees are presented in Figure II-1c.

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Indicator II-2 Disciplinary Distribution of Undergraduate Degrees in the Humanities
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Updated (12/12/2012) with data for academic year 2010 (July 1, 2009–June 30, 2010).

See the
Note on the Data Used to Calculate Undergraduate Humanities Degree Counts and Shares.

From 1987 (the first year for which data are available by detailed disciplinary classification) through 2010, the shares of all humanities bachelor’s degrees produced by the different humanities disciplines changed little. (For an inventory of the specific degree programs included in the broad disciplinary categories of the humanities accounted for in this indicator, see the NSF and CIP Discipline Code Catalog.) In 2010, English degrees represented the greatest share, amounting to approximately 28% of humanities bachelor’s degrees (Figure II-2). Archeology awarded the smallest share, 0.1%. At 2%, the share of all humanities degrees awarded in ethnic/gender/cultural studies was also small. Although scholarly activity in these subject areas increased over the period,1 students doing work in them continued to receive their degrees in more-traditional humanities disciplines such as history and English.

Figure II-2, Full Size
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Note

1 Barbara J. Risman, “Gender as Social Structure: Theory Wrestling with Activism,” Gender and Society, vol. 18, no. 4 (August 2004): 429–450; and Patricia H. Collins and John Solomos, “Introduction: Situating Race and Ethnic Studies,” in Handbook of Race and Ethnic Studies, ed. Patricia H. Collins and John Solomos (London: Sage, 2010), 1–16.

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Indicator II-3 Institutional Distribution of Undergraduate Humanities Degrees
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Updated (12/12/2012) with data for academic year 2010 (July 1, 2009–June 30, 2010).

See the
Note on the Data Used to Calculate Undergraduate Humanities Degree Counts and Shares.

In 2010, the nation’s master’s/comprehensive postsecondary education institutions and its research universities were the two largest producers of humanities undergraduate degrees, with each category of institution responsible for approximately a third of such degrees (Figure II-3a; this indicator uses an NSF-standardized version of the Carnegie Foundation’s system for classifying institutions of higher education). Doctoral institutions bestowed 13.3% of all humanities bachelor’s degrees, while just under 20% of humanities degrees were earned at baccalaureate institutions. For almost every institutional type the share of humanities degrees awarded was similar to the type’s share of all bachelor’s degrees awarded, with the exception of the “specialized, tribal, and not classified” grouping1 and institutions classified as “baccalaureate/liberal arts I.” The latter are selective undergraduate institutions awarding at least 40% of their degrees in the liberal arts. These schools accounted for less than 4% of all degrees, yet they generated slightly more than 8% of humanities degrees.

Figure II-3a, Full Size
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While they produce a modest share of all humanities degrees, these same selective liberal arts institutions are distinctive in terms of the concentration of humanities degree earners among their graduates (Figure II-3b). In academic year 2010, approximately a quarter of all degrees bestowed by these schools were in the humanities. All of the other institutional types conferred 10–12% of their degrees in humanities disciplines (with the exception of specialized, tribal, and unclassified institutions, which awarded 2.4% of their degrees in the field).

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Note

1 This is unsurprising in view of the fact that this category includes medical and technical training schools, as well as seminaries.

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Indicator II-4 Racial/Ethnic Distribution of Undergraduate Degrees in the Humanities
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Updated (3/6/2013) with data for academic year 2010 (July 1, 2009–June 30, 2010).

See the
Note on the Data Used to Calculate Undergraduate Humanities Degree Counts and Shares, Note on the Calculation of Shares of Degrees Awarded to Members of Traditionally Underrepresented Racial/Ethnic Groups, and Note on the Racial/Ethnic Composition of the U.S. Young Adult Population.

Between 1995 and 2000, the share of humanities bachelor’s degrees awarded to students from traditionally underrepresented racial/ethnic groups rose steadily for a total increase of approximately three percentage points (Figure II-4a). Over the next decade, the share grew approximately 1.5 percentage points. In 2010, the percentage of humanities degrees awarded to these students, 17.6%, was similar to the percentage in the combined science fields, as well as in health/medical sciences and business. Among the various academic fields, the share in the social service professions awarded to these students, 36.6%, was the largest, while the shares in the physical sciences (11.6%) and arts (13.4%) were the smallest. Throughout the 1995–2010 period, the humanities’ share of bachelor’s degrees awarded to such students closely tracked that for all fields combined. (For an explanation of how these percentages were calculated, see the Note on the Calculation of Shares of Degrees Awarded to Members of Traditionally Underrepresented Racial/Ethnic Groups. For a point of comparison, see the Note on the Racial/Ethnic Composition of the U.S. Young Adult Population.)

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In 2010, the distribution of humanities bachelor’s degrees among racial/ethnic groups was similar to that for all fields combined. Hispanics were the best represented among minority bachelor’s degree recipients in the humanities, earning 9.0% of all degrees completed in the field (Figure II-4b). Only the social service field awarded a substantially greater share of its degrees to Hispanic students. African American students received 7.8% of all humanities degrees, placing the humanities field in the middle of the rankings for completions by such students. In 2010, the humanities had one of the smallest proportions of both Asian/Pacific Islander (4.7%) and temporary-resident (1.8%) degree recipients at the bachelor’s level. The humanities, like all other fields, awarded only a very small percentage of bachelor’s degrees, 0.8%, to students of American Indian or Native Alaskan ancestry.

Figure II-4b, Full Size
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Indicator II-5 Gender Distribution of Undergraduate Degrees in the Humanities
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Updated (3/11/2013) with data for academic year 2010 (July 1, 2009–June 30, 2010).

See the
Note on the Data Used to Calculate Undergraduate Humanities Degree Counts and Shares.

Just over half of all bachelor’s degrees in the humanities were awarded to women in 1966, with the percentage rising to approximately 60% by 2010 (down slightly from 2003’s historic high of 62%; Figure II-5). In 2010, the proportion of bachelor’s degrees awarded to women was substantially greater in only two fields: health/medical sciences and social services/education. The percentages of 2010 bachelor’s degrees awarded to women by the arts, behavioral/social sciences, and life sciences fields were similar to the percentage for the humanities, whereas women’s shares of physical sciences and engineering bachelor’s degrees were considerably smaller. The percentage of humanities bachelor’s degrees awarded to women has been traditionally higher than that for all fields combined, although the gap has been narrowing.

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The gender distribution of bachelor’s degrees varies substantially among humanities disciplines. Although women are the majority of recipients in English, they are still in the minority in other fields such as history and philosophy. Part II, Section C, Undergraduate and Graduate Degree Information for Specific Humanities Disciplines, presents data on the gender composition of the degree-earning population for individual disciplines (as well as the total number of degrees granted and their racial/ethnic distribution).


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Indicator II-6 Most Frequently Taken College Courses
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While U.S. Department of Education data provide a detailed picture of the number of undergraduate students majoring in various humanities fields (see Indicators II-1, II-2, II-3, II-4, and II-5), the actual number of humanities courses taken by nonhumanities majors is more elusive. Available data on college course-taking are not as recent as those on degrees; nor are they compiled as frequently. Nonetheless, data collected by NCES as part of its longitudinal studies of academic and employment outcomes do reveal the general trends in college course-taking over the last part of the 20th century. These data shed some light on the extent to which young Americans are bringing humanistic knowledge and skills with them into civic and occupational arenas after college.

Two humanities courses, freshman composition and U.S. history, were among the ten college courses most commonly taken by students who graduated from high school in the years 1972, 1982, and 1992 (Figure II-6). A greater percentage of students graduating from U.S. colleges and universities took a freshman composition course than any other course, and the proportion increased over time. In 1992, 85% of high school graduates who went on to obtain their bachelor’s degrees took such a course, up from 75% in the 1970s. Although students’ taking of U.S. history surveys waned in the 1980s, by the 1990s it had risen again, with 44% of the 1992 cohort taking such a course.

As for other humanities courses that provide nonmajors with instruction in major branches of humanistic thought, the most widely taken over the three cohorts were introductory literature and Western civilization/culture, although both experienced a decline in share during the two decades between 1972 and 1992. Over this time period literature and art history classes also experienced net decreases in the percentage of students enrolled. On the other hand, courses in introductory philosophy, general and comparative religion, music history/appreciation, and Spanish saw increases. In fact, Spanish gained more than any course except freshman composition, with the percentage of students taking this language increasing 10 percentage points over the three cohorts (since the initial rate of Spanish coursetaking was lower than that for freshman composition, this 10 point gain for Spanish represents a much larger percentage increase than that experienced by composition). The increase is not surprising in light of the growth in high school Spanish course-taking described under Indicator I-7, Language Course Enrollment in Public High Schools. These gains must be kept in perspective, however: other than freshman composition and U.S. history, no humanities course attracted more than 32% of any of the three cohorts, with most drawing a considerably smaller proportion.

Figure II-6, Full Size
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Indicator II-7 Postsecondary Course-Taking in Languages Other than English (OTE)
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Updated (4/20/12) with data from the Modern Language Association’s 2009 survey of postsecondary enrollments in languages other than English.

Because of regular, detailed surveys conducted by the MLA, data regarding the extent of OTE language course-taking in the postsecondary educational setting are plentiful. They reveal that, while the number of enrollments in such courses has more than doubled since 1960, the ratio for 2009 of these enrollments to the total number of postsecondary students was substantially lower than it was five decades prior (Figure II-7a).1 In 1965 this ratio, expressed as a percentage, was 16.5%, the greatest ever recorded by the MLA. By 1980, the figure had dropped to 7.3%,2 a level from which it has risen only slightly in subsequent years, reaching 8.6% in 2009.

Figure II-7a, Full Size
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That postsecondary OTE course enrollment did not decrease even more sharply as a percentage of the student population is due to the same phenomenon witnessed at the secondary level: a considerable increase in the number of enrollments in Spanish (see Indicator I-7, Language Course Enrollment in High Schools). Such enrollments more than quadrupled from 1960 to 2009, while enrollments in both French and German were lower in 2009 than in the middle of the previous century (although enrollment in these two languages did increase somewhat from 2006 to 2009; Figure II-7b). Enrollments in Italian and American Sign Language (ASL) experienced even greater percentages of growth than Spanish, but the numbers of enrollments in Italian and ASL were far smaller than those for Spanish over the time period. Figure II-7c highlights the growing popularity of Spanish. In 1960, enrollments in Spanish were only 42% as numerous as the enrollments in all other modern OTE languages combined. But by 1995, enrollments in Spanish exceeded the total for the other languages. In 2009, enrollments in Spanish were 13% higher than the combined total for all other modern languages (excluding English).

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Figure II-7c, Full Size
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Though once the foundation of a liberal arts education, ancient Greek and Latin were much less frequently studied in recent decades than French, German, and Spanish, the most commonly taken modern OTE languages in American institutions of postsecondary education (Figure II-7d). In 1980, enrollments in Greek and Latin combined were only 6.2% of those in French, German, and Spanish combined, and that percentage dropped steadily in subsequent years, reaching a low of 4.5% by 1998. However, both languages have experienced increases in enrollments since the late 1990s. In 2009, enrollments in Latin were up 30% from their 1980 level, while a rise in enrollments in Greek beginning in 1998 had resulted in a full recovery by 2006—although from this year to 2009, enrollments in Greek declined by 9%, bringing them back below the 1980 level.

Figure II-7d, Full Size
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Figure II-7e charts enrollment trends for the most commonly taken languages identified by former President George W. Bush in 2006 as “critical need” from a national security standpoint (see Indicator I-7, Language Course Enrollment in High Schools for more on the Bush administration’s National Security Language Initiative). From 1960 to 2009, enrollments in both Chinese and Japanese increased substantially, with Japanese being the more frequently studied language of the two. Another clear growth trend was the marked increase, after many years of stagnation, in enrollments in Arabic. In 2009 enrollments in Arabic, after increasing 689% from 1995 to 2009, exceeded, for the first time, the figure for Russian, which experienced a sharp drop in enrollments after the collapse of the Soviet Union.

Figure II-7f presents enrollment figures for the other “critical need” languages on which the MLA collects data. In most cases, enrollments rose considerably between 1998 and 2006 but then leveled off or declined between 2006 and 2009. Even with the large percentage increases in these languages since the late 1990s—166% in the case of Hindi, for example—relatively few students pursue training in these languages (e.g., Hindi enrollments for 2009 were 2,207, compared to 91,763 enrollments in ASL).

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Figure II-7f, Full Size



Notes

1 “To our knowledge, there are no data available on course enrollments in all subjects in United States institutions of higher education. To complicate matters, students, particularly majors, may enroll in more than one class in languages per semester and therefore be counted more than once. Thus numbers of students attending institutions of higher learning and enrollments in language courses are not equivalent groupings. Nonetheless, the ratio of language course enrollments to total students registered in postsecondary institutions is a figure that over time can serve as an important indicator of student involvement in the study of languages.” Nelly Furman, David Goldberg, and Natalia Lusin, Enrollments in Languages Other than English in United States Institutions of Higher Education, Fall 2006 (New York: Modern Language Association of America, 2007), 2, http://www.mla.org/pdf/06enrollmentsurvey_final.pdf.

2 This period was one of dramatic decline in the proportion of postsecondary institutions with OTE language-related requirements for bachelor’s degrees. In 1965–1966, 88.9% of institutions reported such a requirement. By 1982–1983, the proportion had dropped to 47.4%. See Richard Brod and Monique Lapointe, “The MLA Survey of Foreign Language Entrance and Degree Requirements, 1987–88,” ADFL Bulletin, vol. 20, no. 2 (January 1989): 18 table 1.

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Indicator II-8 Humanities Students’ Scores on the Graduate Record Exam
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The Educational Testing Service (ETS), which develops and administers the Graduate Record Exam (GRE), has declined to provide the Humanities Indicators the data necessary to update this indicator. ETS considers the measurement of learning outcomes an inappropriate use of GRE scores (see “GRE: Guide to the Use of Scores” for ETS’s policy regarding the uses for which it will make score information available).

Although national data assessing collegiate achievement do not currently exist, recent movement in this direction suggests such data might be available in coming years. The September 2006 report of the U.S. Secretary of Education’s Commission on the Future of Higher Education (more commonly known as the Spellings Commission after former U.S. secretary of education Margaret Spellings) contained a recommendation that the federal government encourage colleges and universities to measure student learning using tools such as the Educational Testing Service's Proficiency Profile (formerly known as the Measure of Academic Proficiency and Progress) and the Collegiate Learning Assessment (CLA). Some U.S. colleges and universities already require students to take such assessments as a condition of graduation. In 2004–2005, for example, the University of Texas system contracted with the Council for Aid to Education (CAE) to administer the CLA to at least a sample of students at every academic unit within the system.1 The CAE has also partnered with the Council for Independent Colleges (CIC) to sponsor the Collegiate Learning Assessment Consortium, a group of 47 CIC-member institutions that are using the CLA instrument as a means of evaluating students’ cognitive growth. (In early 2010, the United States announced its willingness to participate in an OECD-led effort to develop a global higher education outcomes assessment.)

Although a growing number of postsecondary institutions are administering standardized exams to measure student learning, the majority of U.S. colleges and universities still do not utilize such assessments. In the absence of such data, the Humanities Indicators Project utilizes Graduate Record Examination (GRE) scores to shed some light on humanities majors’ proficiency in key areas. (For another perspective on college-level learning by humanities majors, see Indicator III-5, Undergraduate Humanities Majors and the Professions, which examines humanities undergraduates’ performance on law, business, and medical school admissions exams.) The GRE, a test that most U.S. graduate schools require for admission to their programs, is taken by a nonrepresentative subset of students (those hoping to pursue advanced academic degrees in their fields). The GRE is taken mostly, but not exclusively, by students educated in the United States. For these reasons, GRE scores constitute an imperfect measure of the proficiency of humanities students emerging from U.S. colleges and universities. Nonetheless, the data permit rough comparisons of the level of verbal, quantitative, and analytical writing skills demonstrated by students of the humanities with those of science and engineering students, as well as among students in different humanities disciplines.

Humanities majors demonstrated, on average, the highest level of verbal skills among those taking the GRE between 2004 and 2007, outperforming the next highest scoring group, social science majors, by 63 points and exceeding the national average by 83 points (Figure II-8a). On the quantitative portion of the exam, examinees who had studied engineering or natural science scored considerably higher, on average, than humanities majors. Humanities majors’ average quantitative score was approximately 33 points lower than that for all examinees.

Figure II-8a, Full Size
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Humanities majors were notable for the balance between their verbal and quantitative scores. On average, humanities students scored in the mid-500s on both the verbal and quantitative exams (800 is the highest score). In the sciences and engineering, quantitative scores tended to outstrip verbal scores by a substantial margin.

Figure II-8b shows examinees’ performance on the analytical writing portion of the GRE and again categorizes test takers according to their undergraduate major. Humanities majors were more likely than those in engineering and the sciences to score in the upper brackets, 4.5–6.0 (The analytical writing exam is scored on a 0–6 scale. See the description of skills demonstrated by students scoring at each of the analytical writing levels). Only among humanities and social science majors did at least 50% of students demonstrate such developed writing skills. Humanities majors were also the most likely to receive the highest possible scores, with 23% of examinees who had studied humanities scoring in the 5.5–6.0 range. From 4% to 14% of engineering and science majors scored at this level.

Figure II-8b, Full Size
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When the humanities disciplines are compared, classics and philosophy students emerge as consistently high performers. Classics majors had the highest average verbal score (614), followed by examinees who had majored in philosophy (580; Figure II-8c). Students of classics and philosophy, along with linguistics majors, were also the top performers on the quantitative exam, with average scores ranging from 611 to 615.

When it came to demonstrated writing ability, at least 50% of majors in every humanities discipline received a score of at least 4.5 (Figure II-8d). Classics and philosophy students were again the most likely to demonstrate such proficiency, with approximately 75% of examinees scoring at or above this threshold. But even in the disciplines with the smallest share of such “strong” writers (archeology, languages and literatures other than English, linguistics, and music) approximately 60% of majors scored at this level—a larger proportion than in any nonhumanities discipline. Observed differences among the humanities disciplines in the share of strong writers were attributable almost entirely to disparities in the proportion of examinees earning the highest possible scores.

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Note

1 For a discussion of the University of Texas assessment initiative and test results, see Pedro Reyes, Student Learning Assessment in Higher Education (Austin: University of Texas System, 2006), http://www.utsystem.edu/osm/commission/StudentLearningAssessment-021606.pdf.

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Indicator II-9 GRE English Literature Subject Test Scores
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Updated 11/15/2013 with data for years 2009–2012.

Currently no national examination assesses undergraduate humanities learning, but the GRE Subject Test score in English literature does provide an indicator of general readiness for graduate study in the discipline.

Examination of rolling three-year average scores of examinees who took the test between July 1, 1990, and June 30, 2012, reveals four distinct phases in average examinee performance (Figure II-9). Scores fell in the early 1990s (from an average of 525 to 508), increased gradually over the next decade (up to the average of 540 reported for 2005), and then remained relatively static for the next five years. In reporting year 2011 another period of improvement in performance began, with the mean rising to 547, followed in 2012 by a rise of an additional two points.

Figure II-9, Full Size
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When evaluating these findings, several significant qualifications should be kept in mind:

  1. The GRE subject exams are not taken by a representative sample of the U.S. undergraduate population. GRE scores gauge the performance only of those undergraduates who apply to graduate programs that require the exam, a population that can change dramatically in size and composition from year to year.
  2. The GRE data presented here include examinees who have been out of college for several years. A genuine assessment of undergraduate learning (as opposed to readiness for graduate study, which is what the GRE is designed to measure) would ideally be administered immediately before or after graduation.
  3. A portion of the test takers did not major in English literature as undergraduates. A GRE subject exam is taken by students who wish to pursue graduate studies in that discipline, irrespective of their college background.

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Note on the Data Used to Calculate Undergraduate Humanities Degree Counts and Shares

The bulk of the data that form the basis of this indicator is drawn from the U.S. Department of Education’s National Center for Education Statistics’ (NCES) Higher Education General Information System (HEGIS; 1966–1986) and its successor, the Integrated Postsecondary Educational Data System (IPEDS; 1987–present), through which institutions of higher learning report on the numbers and characteristics of students completing degree programs (as well as a variety of other topics; for more on IPEDS, see http://nces.ed.gov/ipeds/). The HEGIS/IPEDS degree-completion data have been made accessible to decision-makers, researchers, and the general public by the National Science Foundation (NSF) via its online data analysis tool WebCASPAR.

Degree-completion data for years 1948 through 1965 were derived from the Survey of Earned Degrees, which was first administered by the Office of Education (the Department of Education’s predecessor) and later by NCES. The Survey of Earned Degrees data were culled from printed publications, because the information is not included in WebCASPAR. For the trend lines extending back to 1948, data are presented only for a limited portfolio of humanities disciplines, because the academic discipline classification systems employed by NCES in its reporting on the Survey of Earned Degrees and HEGIS are not fine-grained enough to capture the full complement of disciplines considered by the Humanities Indicators (HI) to be within the scope of the humanities. (For an inventory of the disciplines and activities treated as part of the humanities by the HI, see the Statement on the Scope of the “Humanities” for Purposes of the Humanities Indicators.)

For 1987 and later years (1995 and later for data on the race/ethnicity of degree recipients), however, WebCASPAR categorizes earned degrees according to the more detailed Classification of Instructional Programs (CIP). The CIP was first developed by NCES in 1980 as a way of accounting for the tremendous variety of degree programs offered by American institutions of higher learning and has been revised three times since its introduction, most recently in 2009 (this version is referred to as “CIP 2010”). The CIP has also been adopted by Statistics Canada as its standard disciplinary classification system. An analysis of completions using CIP permits the HI to include earned degrees in a substantially greater number of the disciplines considered by the HI to be part of the humanities field.

With CIP-coded data academic disciplines such as comparative religion can be separated from vocational programs such as theology and thus can be included in the humanities degree tally. Additionally, when using CIP-coded data, the HI can include degrees in such disciplines as archeology, women’s studies, gay and lesbian studies, and Holocaust studies in its counts of humanities degrees from 1987 onward.1 For an inventory of the CIP disciplinary categories included by the HI under the field heading of “humanities” (as well as those categories of the NSF-developed taxonomy of academic disciplines that are the basis of the HI’s tabulations of 1) degrees in nonhumanities fields and 2) certain tabulations of humanities degrees for years 1966–1986), see the NSF and CIP Discipline Code Catalog. This catalog also indicates which degree programs the HI includes within specific humanities disciplines (e.g., for the purposes of the HI, English degrees include those classified under CIP as being in “English Language and Literature,” “American Literature,” and “Creative Writing,” among others).

In the case of several of the degree-related indicators, the humanities are compared to certain other fields such as the sciences and engineering. The nature of these fields is specified in the Statement on the Scope of the “Humanities” for Purposes of the Humanities Indicators. These broad fields do not encompass all postsecondary programs. Therefore, where fields are being compared in terms of their respective shares of all degrees, the percentages will not add up to 100%. Also, none of the graphs showing change over time in the share of degrees awarded to members of traditionally underrepresented ethnic/minority groups includes a data point for the academic year 1999, because the NCES did not release such data for that year.

The bachelor’s degree counts presented in Figures II-1a and II-1b do not include “second majors,” because NCES began collecting data about these degrees only in 2001. The HI deals separately with the issue of second majors in Figure II-1c (“Humanities Bachelor’s Degrees Earned as ‘Second Majors,’ 2001–2010”).

Data on the number of students completing minors are not collected as part of IPEDS, but such information was compiled for selected humanities disciplines as part of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences–sponsored Humanities Departmental Survey (HDS; see the HDS final report, page 8, Table 12).


Note

1 For those indicators reporting only degree data for years 1987 and onward (1995 and onward for the charts and tables describing the proportions of all degrees received by members of traditionally underrepresented racial/ethnic minority groups), CIP-coded data are always the basis of the humanities degree counts presented.

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Note on the Calculation of Shares of Degrees Awarded to Members of Traditionally Underrepresented Racial/Ethnic Groups

For each academic discipline or field, the share of all degrees earned by members of traditionally underrepresented racial/ethnic groups was calculated by dividing the number of degrees completed by students identified by their institutions as African American (non-Hispanic), Hispanic, or American Indian/Alaska Native by the total number of degree completions in that field. Not included in the count of traditionally underrepresented minorities were (1) students of Asian or Pacific Islander ancestry, (2) students designated by their educational institutions as being of “Other/Unknown Ethnicity,”* and (3) international students—that is, temporary residents who were in the United States for the express purpose of attending school and who were likely to return to their home countries upon graduation (significant numbers of these individuals may be of African or Hispanic background, but the National Center for Education Statistics , the compiler of these data, does not request that institutions of higher learning collect racial/ethnicity data for such students).


* According to the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), the compiler of these data, a student is assigned to this category only if he or she does not select a racial/ethnic designation and his or her educational institution finds it impossible to place the student in one of the NCES-defined racial/ethnic categories during established enrollment procedures or in any post-enrollment identification or verification process. Over time the percentage of students categorized as “Other/Unknown” has grown, thereby reducing the ability of postsecondary institutions, policymakers, and the general public to reliably track the racial/ethnic diversity of degree recipients.

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The National Science Foundation’s Standardization of the Carnegie Classification of Institutions of Higher Education

"Description

The Carnegie Code attribute is derived from the Carnegie Foundation’s copyrighted, ‘A Classification of Institutions of Higher Education,’ which categorizes institutions based on level of degree offered and other indicators of the ‘comprehensiveness’ of an institution’s mission. For active, degree-granting institutions, the Carnegie Code attribute is based on the 1994 Carnegie Classification; for other institutions, it is based on the most recent available Carnegie classification. In general, system offices [administrative units overseeing two or more semiautonomous academic institutions] have been assigned the Carnegie Code attribute of the academic institution having the highest Carnegie Code attribute among all academic institutions with which they are associated.

Possible Values

The Carnegie Code attribute has the following values:

R1 Research Universities I
These institutions offer a full range of baccalaureate programs, are committed to graduate education through the doctorate, and give high priority to research. They award 50 or more doctoral degrees each year. In addition, they receive annually $40 million or more in federal support.

R2 Research Universities II
These institutions offer a full range of baccalaureate programs, are committed to graduate education through the doctorate, and give high priority to research. They award 50 or more doctoral degrees each year. In addition, they receive annually between $15.5 million and $40 million in federal support.

D1 Doctoral Universities I
In addition to offering a full range of baccalaureate programs, the mission of these institutions includes a commitment to graduate education through the doctorate. They award at least 40 doctoral degrees annually in five or more disciplines.

D2 Doctoral Universities II
In addition to offering a full range of baccalaureate programs, the mission of these institutions includes a commitment to graduate education through the doctorate. They award annually at least 10 doctoral degrees—in three or more disciplines—or 20 or more doctoral degrees in one or more disciplines.

C1 Master’s (Comprehensive) Universities and Colleges I
These institutions offer a full range of baccalaureate programs and are committed to graduate education through the master’s degree. They award 40 or more master’s degrees annually in three or more disciplines.

C2 Master’s (Comprehensive) Universities and Colleges II
These institutions offer a full range of baccalaureate programs and are committed to graduate education through the master’s degree. They award 20 or more master’s degrees annually in one or more disciplines.

LA1 Baccalaureate (Liberal Arts) Colleges I
These institutions are primarily undergraduate colleges with major emphasis on baccalaureate degree programs. They award 40 percent or more of their baccalaureate degrees in liberal arts fields and are restrictive in admissions.

LA2 Baccalaureate (Liberal Arts) Colleges II
These institutions are primarily undergraduate colleges with major emphasis on baccalaureate degree programs. They award less than 40 percent of their baccalaureate degrees in liberal arts fields or are less restrictive in admissions.

2YR Associate of Arts Colleges
These institutions offer associate’s and certificate programs, and, with few exceptions, no bachelor’s degrees.

ART Schools of Art, Music, and Design

BUS Schools of Business and Management

ENG Schools of Engineering and Technology

HLT Other Separate Health Profession Schools

LAW Schools of Law

MED Medical Schools and Medical Centers

REL Theological Seminaries, Bible Colleges, and Other Institutions Offering Degrees in Religion

TEA Teachers Colleges TRI Tribal Colleges and Universities (These institutions are members of the American Indian Higher Education Consortium.)

OTH Other Specialized Institutions

N/A Not Classified”

Source: National Science Foundation, WebCASPAR, https://webcaspar.nsf.gov/.

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Note on Enrollment Data for Courses in Languages Other than English

School enrollments refer to students, whereas language course enrollments refer to class registrations. The collector of the data on which this indicator is based assumes that a one-to-one relationship exists between these units—that is, each student is taking only one language course—although this is not always the case. However, multiple course registrations are a rare enough phenomenon that the data collector feels it is appropriate to equate school enrollments with course enrollments for the purpose of its calculations.

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Note on the Racial/Ethnic Composition of the U.S. Young Adult Population (18–30 Years Old)

Using information provided by the U.S. Census Bureau, the Humanities Indicators has calculated the following estimates of the share of the total national young adult population represented by each of the categories employed by the National Center for Education Statistics for the purpose of reporting the percentages of degrees awarded to students of different races/ethnicities* (estimates are for April 2010):

African American, Non-Hispanic
Asian or Pacific Islander
Hispanic
Native American or Alaska Native
13.7%
5.6%
17.7%
0.8%

Source: Data drawn from U.S. Census Bureau, Population Division, “US-EST00INT-ALLDATA: Intercensal Estimates of the Resident Population by Single Year of Age, Sex, Race, and Hispanic Origin for the United States: April 1, 2000 to July 1, 2010” (data file,September 2011), downloadable under the heading “Intercensal Estimates of the Resident Population by Single Year of Age, Sex, Race, and Hispanic Origin for the United States: April 1, 2000 to July 1, 2010” at http://www.census.gov/popest/data/intercensal/national/nat2010.html.

* The racial/ethnic categorization scheme employed for the purposes of the Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS), which is the basis of the Humanities Indicators items dealing with the distribution of degree completions among racial/ethnic groups, and the system used by the U.S. Census Bureau’s Population Estimates Division, which is the source of the information provided in this note, differ in important ways. Whereas IPEDS has traditionally used a “one-question” approach that requires institutions to use mutually exclusive reporting categories, one of which is “Hispanic,” the Census Bureau employs a “two-question” format that inquires separately about race and Hispanic origin. In further contrast to IPEDS, the Census Bureau permits respondents to select more than one race to describe themselves.

In view of these differences the Humanities Indicators could not develop size estimates for racial/ethnic groups that provide strictly comparable points of reference for the percentages supplied as part of Indicators II-4 and II-12. The following table indicates which Census-defined group(s) were used as the basis for the estimates provided in this note.

IPEDS-Defined
“African American, Non-Hispanic”
“Asian or Pacific Islander”

“Hispanic”
“Native American or Alaska Native”

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Census-Defined
“Not Hispanic, Black alone”
“Not Hispanic, Asian alone” and
“Not Hispanic, Native Hawaiian and Other Pacific Islander alone”
“Hispanic, White alone”
“Not Hispanic, American Indian and Alaska Native alone”

Beginning with the data collection for academic year 2011–2012, IPEDS required that institutions report information on degree completers’ race and ethnicity in a way similar to the Census Bureau and most other data collections sponsored by federal government agencies. See http://nces.ed.gov/ipeds/news_room/ana_Changes_to_10_25_2007_169.asp for details.

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