Drop in history majors?

In Alerts, Spotlight on March 25, 2016 by Randolph Hollingsworth Tagged: ,

In the most recent issue of the American Historical Association’s Perspectives on History, Julia Brookins described some disturbing findings on the latest trends in the number of history degrees in higher education.


“The number of history BAs and BSs completed in the United States fell for the third time in four years, this time by 9.1 percent from the previous year, from 34,360 to 31,233. This is the largest year-to-year change for undergraduate history degrees since a 9.8 percent increase in 1992.”


Using data from the National Center for Education Statistics, Brookins asserts that the large drop in history baccalaureate degrees earned last academic year is part of a downward trend that will continue through the decade.

chart showing drops in history bachelor's degrees by institution type

from Brookins, “New Data Show Large Drop in History Bachelor’s Degrees,” AHA Perspectives on History (March 2016)

The institution types listed above are based on the Carnegie classification system – for example, the University of Kentucky and the University of Louisville are classified as “Research Universities: Very High Research Activity.” This is the group of universities, nationally, that saw the deepest drop in history bachelor’s degrees.

In Kentucky, according to the Kentucky Council on Postsecondary Education’s data profiles (baccalaureate degrees by institution and major start on page 91), the drop over time has been happening since 2008 for our research institutions, while the public comprehensive institutions are generally doing well, with Northern Kentucky University offering a huge increase in history degree production. Overall, the public comprehensive institutions have kept our history bachelor’s degree production on the increase in Kentucky.

KY Public Postsec Institution ’08-09 ’09-10 ’10-11 ’11-12 ’12-13 Total in 5 yrs
Morehead State University 7 11 15 15 17 65
Murray State University 31 26 24 22 13 116
Eastern Kentucky University 25 27 42 33 47 174
Western Kentucky University 18 39 30 43 49 179
Northern Kentucky University 49 60 34 43 73 259
University of Louisville 57 54 53 63 47 274
University of Kentucky 83 75 73 67 70 368
Totals by Academic Year 270 292 271 286 316

(Note: Kentucky State University does not offer a degree in history.)


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