The College and the Class of 2014
In a year that the numbers of high school seniors nationwide is beginning a predicted decline, when the economy is still struggling, and the job market is increasingly competitive, liberal arts enrollments are doing something remarkable. They’re growing.
This year, the College of Liberal Arts enrolled 1,133 first-year students, 101 more than last year.
“Employees are looking for good students who can think critically, write well, and solve problems,” notes Associate Dean Ted Kirkpatrick.
Kirkpatrick’s reasoning is in agreement with author Daniel Pink’s thesis in his book, A Whole New Mind. Pink writes that our society is moving from an information age to an age of creativity. This is an era when thinking out of the box is essential. And, it seems first-year students understand now, more than ever, that a good liberal arts education will stand them in good stead.
The most popular “major” of first-year liberal arts students at UNH is really just a status called “undeclared”—with 615 students.
“Some colleges have all of their students begin their studies in the liberal arts,” Kirkpatrick says. “It’s the biggest open door. Students need an entry point to higher education. There also needs to be a place where a student can, if necessary, rethink his or her direction.”
The next top three liberal arts majors here are psychology, communication, and English with political science and history close in line. This has been a stable pattern for many years.
But what distinguishes UNH is its emphasis on undergraduate research. Nationally, the University has one of the largest undergraduate research conferences. “A remarkable number of faculty members publish with their undergraduate students,” Kirkpatrick says.
The prestige of faculty publications has certainly drawn students to the College as well. Just this past year, faculty books have been mentioned or reviewed in the New York Times, Los Angeles Times, and Boston Globe.
The class of 2014 will undoubtedly study abroad, perhaps several times during the course of their undergraduate years. According to the Chronicle of Higher Education’s Almanac, the number of American college students who study abroad continues to grow. Europe is still the most popular destination with the largest contingent going to Britain. But Asia and Latin America are increasingly popular destinations. Short-term programs remain popular with summer programs and those lasting less than eight weeks enrolling about 46 percent of all study-abroad students.
Other UNH stats: More than half of these first-year liberal arts students are from New Hampshire. Their ages range from 17 to 21. Students who have traveled the farthest to attend UNH? Two from Alaska.
Across the entering class, minority enrollments are at 8.7 percent, the highest ever at the University. Women make up 56 percent—a percentage that reflects a national trend.
However, educational attainment remains a key factor in determining income according to a report from the Department of Education: in 2008, among young adults ages 25-34, those with a bachelor’s degree earned 53 percent more than those with just a high school diploma.
Chronicle’s Almanac reports that the majority of this year’s college students will attend the college of their choice, and they are all determined to ensure their gainful future employment.
“We have no ambivalence about setting the bar high for our students,” Kirkpatrick says. “They learn how to do it. Young people have this resilient ability to clear that bar and realize a sense of accomplishment.”
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