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A PROJECT OF THE AMERICAN ACADEMY OF ARTS AND SCIENCES

     
       

Part II. Undergraduate and Graduate Education in the Humanities

Section A. Undergraduate Education

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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 Construct Degree-Related Indicators.

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 disciplines 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 1970s. They also demonstrate that although gender parity has been largely achieved, the number 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—unfortunately less extensive than might be desired—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 (a fourth study, of the class of 2004, is currently underway; however, because several years must pass before comprehensive information on college course-taking can be compiled and because of the time-consuming nature of the collection process, no additional data of this kind will be available for some time). Another important source of course-taking data is the Modern Language Association’s (MLA) biennial survey of enrollment in postsecondary language courses. The indicators in this section on humanities course-taking represent the limited extent of data collection on this topic at the national level. The Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS, the source of the degree-completion data discussed in the Note on the Data Used to Construct Degree-Related Indicators)documents postsecondary enrollment levels but does not collect data on students’ course-taking or majors that would permit a more comprehensive analysis of the extent of humanities courses taken by nonhumanities students at the undergraduate level.

Standardized tests are not nearly as prominent a feature of postsecondary life as they are in America’s elementary, middle, and high schools. There are no regular assessments of student achievement comparable to the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) or the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development’s Programme for International Student Assessment, both of which measure younger students’ mastery of reading and writing and their knowledge of subjects such as history at regular intervals. 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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Updated (3/12/2010) with data from 2007.

See the
Note on the Data Used to Construct Degree-Related Indicators.

The last four decades have been a roller-coaster ride for undergraduate degrees in the humanities. As Figure II-1a demonstrates, the 1966–1971 period was a high point, with the number of bachelor’s degrees awarded increasing steadily. But as the 1970s progressed, this trend was reversed sharply. The number of degrees dropped as steadily as it had grown in the previous decade, so that by the early 1980s the humanities were awarding less than half as many bachelor’s degrees as they had in the early 1970s. By the late 1980s the situation had begun to improve, and in the early 1990s bachelor’s degree numbers crested again, reaching 78% of their 1971 high. After a slight depression toward the end of the decade, degree completion numbers have increased modestly each subsequent year. When standardized National Science Foundation (NSF) disciplinary categories are used to count humanities bachelor’s degrees for 2007, the resulting number of awards, 121,151, is close to that recorded during the banner days of the 1970s. When the Classification of Instructional Programs (CIP) is used, however, the number of degree awards in the humanities, 182,772, is appreciably higher than the 1971 zenith. (For an explanation of the differences between the two disciplinary classification systems, see the Note on the Data Used to Construct Degree-Related Indicators.. 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.)

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Along with the drop in absolute numbers of humanities bachelor’s degrees occurring 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 degrees awarded increased thereafter, so did the number of all bachelor’s degrees awarded. Consequently, the humanities’ share of all bachelor’s degrees remained well below the 1970s high. Although CIP-based degree counts (which do the best job of capturing degrees for all disciplines within the humanities, as that term is used by the Humanities Indicators Project) are available only as far back as 1987, the trend corresponds closely to that constructed using the NSF’s disciplinary categories. When degrees are counted using the latter categories, the humanities’ share of bachelor’s degrees in 2007, 8%, was just 46% of that recorded in the late 1960s. When CIP categories are utilized, humanities degrees represent 12% of all bachelor’s degrees awarded in 2007.

Hovering between 10% and 13% of all bachelor’s degrees since 1987 (using the CIP-based counts), the share of all bachelor’s degrees awarded in 2007 was approximately 15 percentage points smaller than that awarded in the sciences (Figure II-1b). The humanities also awarded a significantly smaller proportion of bachelor’s degrees than the business and management field, which produced 21% of all undergraduate degrees in 2007.

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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, Table 12).

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Indicator II-2 Disciplinary Distribution of Undergraduate Degrees in the Humanities
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Updated (3/4/2010) with data from 2007.

Between 1987 (the first year for which data are available by detailed disciplinary classification) and 2007, 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 2007, English degrees represented the greatest share, amounting to almost one-third 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 quite small. Apparently, although scholarly activity in these subject areas increased over the period, students doing work in them continued to receive their degrees in more traditional humanities disciplines, such as history and English.

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Indicator II-3 Institutional Distribution of Undergraduate Humanities Degrees
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Updated (3/4/2010) with data from 2007.

In 2007, the nation’s research universities were the biggest producers of humanities undergraduate degrees (Figure II-3a;; this indicator uses the 2000 edition of the Carnegie Classification of Institutions of Higher Education to categorize the nation’s postsecondary schools1). Just under half of all humanities bachelor’s degrees were awarded by such institutions, an unsurprising finding in view of the size of these schools. Approximately one-third of humanities undergraduate degrees were awarded by master’s colleges. Baccalaureate colleges bestowed 17% of all humanities bachelor’s degrees, with liberal arts institutions responsible for the bulk of these.

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Doctorate/research institutions may produce the largest number of humanities degrees, but the campuses of the liberal arts colleges were home to the highest concentration of students engaged in humanistic education (Figure II-3b). More than one-quarter of all degrees awarded by such colleges were in the humanities. On the largest research campuses, the humanities were not nearly as dominant, representing only 12% of all bachelor’s degrees conferred by these institutions.

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Note

1 For a complete description of the classification, see the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching, The Carnegie Classification of Institutions of Higher Learning, 2000 Edition (Menlo Park, CA: Carnegie Publications, 2001), http://classifications.carnegiefoundation.org/downloads/2000_edition_data_printable.pdf. In 2005, the foundation revised its classification (for more information about the new system, see http://www.carnegiefoundation.org/classifications/). The earlier edition is cited here because it is the version used by the National Center for Education Statistics, the collector of the degree completion data that are the basis of this indicator.

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Indicator II-4 Racial/Ethnic Distribution of Undergraduate Degrees in the Humanities
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Updated (3/9/2010) with data from 2007.

See the
Note on the Data Used to Construct Degree-Related Indicators, Note on the Calculation of Shares of Degrees Awarded to Members of Traditionally Underrepresented Ethnic Groups, and Note on Racial/Ethnic Composition of Total U.S. Population.

Between 1995 and 2000, the share of humanities bachelor’s degrees awarded to students from traditionally underrepresented racial/ethnic groups rose steadily from 13 to 16%, a level near which it remained through 2007 (Figure II-4a). In that year, the percentage of humanities degrees awarded to these students was similar to the percentage of degrees conferred to these students in most science fields, as well as in education and business. Among the various academic fields, the social service professions awarded the largest share of degrees to these students, 37.5%, while the physical sciences (approximately 12%) and arts (also approximately 12%) awarded the smallest shares. Throughout the 1995–2007 period, the percentage of humanities 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 Ethnic Groups). For information regarding the racial/ethnic composition of the total U.S. population, see the Note on Racial/Ethnic Composition of Total U.S. Population.

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In 2007, the distribution of humanities degrees among racial/ethnic groups closely mirrored that for all fields combined. Hispanics were the best represented among minority bachelor’s degree recipients in the humanities, earning 8.5% of all degrees (Figure II-4b). Only the social service professions awarded a substantially greater share of its degrees to Hispanic students. African American students received 7.6% of all humanities degrees, placing the field in the middle of the rankings for completions by such students. In 2007, the humanities had one of the smallest proportions of both Asian (5.1%) and temporary-resident (1.4%) degree recipients at the bachelor’s level. The humanities, like all other fields, awarded only a very small percentage of bachelor’s degrees, approximately 1%, to students of American Indian or Alaskan ancestry.

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Indicator II-5 Gender Distribution of Undergraduate Degrees in the Humanities
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Updated (3/9/2010) with data from 2007.

Since 1966, the humanities have had one of the most balanced gender distributions of bachelor’s degrees among academic fields (Figure II-5). Just over half of all bachelor’s degrees in the humanities were awarded to women in 1966, with the percentage rising to approximately 61% by 2007. At the beginning of the 21st century, 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 bachelor’s degrees awarded to women by the arts, behavioral/social sciences, and life sciences fields were similar to the percentage for the humanities, while 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, though the gap has been narrowing.

Substantial variation exists among humanities disciplines with respect to the gender distribution of bachelor’s degrees. While women are the majority of recipients in English, they are still in the minority in other fields such as history. 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’ U.S. history course-taking waned in the 1980s, by the 1990s it had risen again, with 44% of the 1992 cohort taking a U.S. history survey course.

As for other introductory humanities courses that provide nonmajors with instruction in major branches of humanistic thought, the most widely taken courses 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 by 10 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.

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Indicator II-7 Postsecondary Course-Taking in Languages Other than English (OTE)
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Updated (12/11/09) with data from the Modern Language Association's 2006 survey of postsecondary enrollments in languages other than English.

See the
Note on OTE Language Course Enrollment Data.

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 absolute number of enrollments in such courses has more than doubled since 1960, the percentage of all postsecondary students taking these languages in 2006 was substantially lower than it had been four decades prior (Figure II-7a). In 1965, 16.5% of all enrollments in higher education were in OTE languages, the greatest proportion ever recorded by the MLA. By 1980, this figure had dropped to 7.3%, a level from which it has risen only slightly in the subsequent 20 years.1 (For more on how an “enrollment” is defined, see the Note on OTE Course Enrollment Data.)

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That OTE course enrollment did not decrease even more sharply as a percentage of all enrollments is due to the same phenomenon witnessed at the secondary level: a staggering increase in the number of Spanish enrollments (see Indicator I-7, Language Course Enrollment in Public High Schools). Such enrollments more than quadrupled between 1960 and 2006, while enrollments in both French and German declined (Figure II-7b). Italian and American Sign Language (ASL) enrollments experienced even greater percentage growth than Spanish, but the absolute numbers of enrollments in ASL were far smaller than those for Spanish over the time period. Figure II-7c demonstrates even more forcefully the growing popularity of Spanish. In 1968, Spanish enrollments were only 52% as numerous as the enrollments in all other OTE languages combined. But by 1995, Spanish enrollments exceeded the total for the other languages. In 2006, Spanish enrollments were 18% higher than the combined total for all other modern languages (excluding English).

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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 languages in American institutions of postsecondary education (Figure II-7d). In 1980, enrollments in Greek and Latin combined were only 8.5% of those in French, German, and Spanish combined, and that percentage dropped steadily over the subsequent quarter century, reaching 4.9% by 2006. In terms of absolute numbers of enrollments, however, both languages have experienced increases since the late 1990s. In 2006, Latin enrollments were up 29% from their 1980 level, while an upsurge in Greek enrollments beginning in 1998 has resulted in a full recovery from their decline over the course of the 1980s.

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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 Public High Schools for more on the Bush administration's National Security Language Initiative). Between 1960 and 2006, enrollments in both Chinese and Japanese increased substantially, with Japanese being the more frequently studied language of the two. Another clear growth trend is the marked increase, after many years of stagnation, in Arabic enrollments between 1995 and 2006. Rising 439%, the number of Arabic enrollments now rivals 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 even with large percentage increases—271% in the case of Persian, for example—relatively few postsecondary students are currently pursuing coursework in these languages (e.g., 2,280 students were enrolled in Persian courses nationwide in 2006).

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Notes

1 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 had such a requirement. By 1982–1983, the proportion had dropped to 47.4%. (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): table 1.)

Note on OTE Language Course Enrollment Data

School enrollments refer to students, while 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 believes equating school enrollments with course enrollments is appropriate for the purpose of its calculations.

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Indicator II-8 Humanities Students’ Scores on the Graduate Record Exam
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Updated (3/12/2010) with data from 2007.

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.

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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.

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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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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 (3/12/2010) with data from 2007.

As in the case of college achievement generally, currently no examination specifically assesses undergraduate learning in specific disciplines. In the absence of such an assessment, the Humanities Indicators Project employs data from the GRE Subject Test program in an attempt to gauge undergraduate achievement in the humanities. These data, however, have several limitations.

One major shortcoming is that unlike the NAEP, which is administered to a carefully drawn national probability sample of elementary and secondary students, 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. Another difficulty with the GRE data presented here is that some examinees have been out of college for several years. A formal 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. Moreover, the subject exams are taken only by students who wish to pursue graduate studies in those disciplines—and some of these students may not have majored in those fields during college. Finally, and most limiting for the purposes of the Humanities Indicators Project, is the fact that Educational Testing Service, the organization that develops and administers the GRE subject exams, offers the exam in only one humanities discipline, English literature.

Figure II-9 presents mean score data for this exam (it is scored on a scale ranging from 200 to 990). Each data point is a moving average, representing the average score of all examinees who took the exam in the previous three years. The 16 years between 1991–1992 and 2007–2008 have seen a net increase in mean scores. More specifically, the data indicate that while examinees’ scores dropped in the early to mid-1990s, they have risen by small increments almost every year since then. By 2000–2001, mean scores were at their pretrough levels, and in the most recent year for which data are available, 2007–2008, scores were 16 points higher than they were in 1991–1992.

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Note on the Data Used to Construct Degree-Related Indicators

The data that form the basis of these indicators are drawn from the U.S. Department of Education’s National Center for Education Statistics’ (NCES) Higher Education General Information System (HEGIS) and its successor, the Integrated Postsecondary Educational Data System (IPEDS), through which institutions of higher learning report on the numbers and characteristics of students completing degree programs (as well as various other areas of information; for more on this major data collection program, see http://nces.ed.gov/ipeds/). The HEGIS/IPEDS degree-completion data going back to 1966 have been made easily accessible to researchers and the general public by the National Science Foundation (NSF) via its online data analysis tool WebCASPAR. The NSF has traditionally used the NCES data to tabulate science and engineering degree awards as part of its Science and Engineering Indicators Program, which since 1973 has issued a biennial report designed to provide public and private policymakers a broad base of quantitative information about the U.S. science, engineering, and technology enterprise.

In the process, the NSF has developed a set of standardized disciplinary classifications that can be used across the various data sources it relies upon to construct its indicators. Because the NSF focuses on trends in science and engineering education, the disciplinary classifications are most detailed in these areas. By contrast, the NSF’s disciplinary categories for the humanities are neither as inclusive nor as specific, and this limits the usefulness of the NSF classification system for the purposes of the Humanities Indicators. Thus, for example, the NSF scheme does not distinguish between the academic study of the arts, considered by the Humanities Indicators to be part of the humanities, and art performance. This makes it impossible for the Humanities Indicators to include in its tally those degrees conferred in the areas of musicology, art history, film studies, and drama history/criticism. Moreover, while the NSF system does provide degree counts for disciplines such as archeology, women’s studies, gay and lesbian studies, and Holocaust studies, it treats these disciplines as social sciences, not humanities as they are considered to be here. Additionally, in the NSF system, interdisciplinary degrees in areas such as general humanities and liberal studies are placed in a broad “Other” category that includes degrees for many disciplines that are clearly not within the purview of the humanities as they are used by the Humanities Indicators Project. Consequently, such interdisciplinary degrees, along with those mentioned above, cannot be captured in humanities degree counts from 1966 to 1986.

For the year 1987 and later (1995 and later for data on the race/ethnicity of degree recipients), however, the NSF also categorizes earned degrees according to the more detailed Classification of Instructional Programs (CIP), which permits a more precise count of humanities degrees; that is, a count that includes degrees in all those programs that are part of academic disciplines included within the scope of the “humanities” for the purposes of the Humanities Indicators. (For an inventory of the disciplines and activities treated as part of the “humanities” by the Humanities Indicators, see the Statement on the Scope of the “Humanities” for Purposes of the Humanities Indicators.) The CIP was first developed by the NCES in 1980 as a way to account 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. While the CIP greatly facilitates comparisons between the two countries, such comparisons are beyond the present scope of the Humanities Indicators Project.

For the purposes of the Humanities Indicators, though, the CIP has several advantages over the NSF system. For example, because the older system grouped degrees in the nonsectarian study of religion with those awarded in programs designed to prepare students for religious vocations and because the latter type of degree is much more common, the Humanities Indicators could not include what the NSF considers to be degrees in religion in the humanities degree counts for years prior to 1987. With CIP-coded data, however, 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 Humanities Indicators can include degrees in all the disciplines mentioned above, from art history to Holocaust studies, in its counts of humanities degrees from 1987 onward. For an inventory of the NSF and CIP disciplinary codes included by the Humanities Indicators under the broad field headings used throughout this document (“humanities,” “natural sciences,” etc.), see the NSF and CIP Discipline Code Catalog. For the humanities, this catalog lists the many degree programs that are counted within specific disciplines (e.g., English degrees include those classified under CIP as being in “English Language and Literature,” “American Literature,” and “Creative Writing,” among others).

In constructing indicators that use IPEDS data to track long-term historical trends in the academic humanities, the project has employed completion data that were classified using both the NSF and CIP systems. In these cases, either a note accompanying the chart or a break in the trend line indicates where the NSF classification leaves off and the CIP-based one begins. For those indicators reporting degree data gathered in 1987 or more recently (1995 or more recently for the charts and tables describing the proportions of all degrees received by members of racial/ethnic minority groups), CIP-coded data are used.

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 includes a data point for the academic year 1999, because the NCES did not release data for that year.

The degree counts presented as part of the Humanities Indicators are for first degrees only. Although second degrees (which result in a student graduating with a “double major”) are not common (in the 2006–2007 academic year, they accounted for 5.2% of all degree completions), anecdotal evidence suggests that a preponderance of such degrees are in the humanities. Second-degree data are not available via WebCASPAR. In order to obtain counts of such degrees, a separate analysis will need to be performed using NCES’s online Data Analysis System. If resources permit such an analysis in the future, degree counts included in subsequent editions of the Humanities Indicators would represent a more complete tally of humanities degrees awarded in the United States. 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, Table 12).

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

The shares of all degrees earned by members of traditionally underrepresented racial/ethnic groups were calculated by dividing the number of humanities 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 the humanities.Not included in the count of traditionally underrepresented minorities were (1) students designated by their educational institutions as being of “Other/Unknown Ethncity”1 and (2) 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 (NCES), the compiler of these data, does not request that institutions of higher learning collect racial/ethnicity data for such students).


Note
1 According to the 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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2000 Carnegie Classification of Institutions of Higher Learning

Reproduced from the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching, The Carnegie Classification of Institutions of Higher Learning, 2000 Edition: A Technical Report (Menlo Park, CA: Carnegie Publications, 2001), 1, http://classifications.carnegiefoundation.org/downloads/2000_edition_data_printable.pdf.

Doctoral Institutions

Doctoral/Research Universities—Extensive: These institutions typically offer a wide range of baccalaureate programs, and they are committed to graduate education through the doctorate. During the period studied, they awarded 50 or more doctoral degrees per year across at least 15 disciplines.

Doctoral/Research Universities—Intensive: These institutions typically offer a wide range of baccalaureate programs, and they are committed to graduate education through the doctorate. During the period studied, they awarded at least 10 doctoral degrees per year across three or more disciplines, or at least 20 doctoral degrees per year overall.

Master’s Colleges and Universities

Master’s Colleges and Universities I: These institutions typically offer a wide range of baccalaureate programs, and they are committed to graduate education through the master’s degree. During the period studied, they awarded 40 or more master’s degrees per year across three or more disciplines.

Master’s Colleges and Universities II: These institutions typically offer a wide range of baccalaureate programs, and they are committed to graduate education through the master’s degree. During the period studied, they awarded 20 or more master’s degrees per year.

Baccalaureate Colleges

Baccalaureate Colleges—Liberal Arts: These institutions are primarily undergraduate colleges emphasizing baccalaureate programs. During the period studied, they awarded at least half of their baccalaureate degrees in liberal arts fields.

Baccalaureate Colleges—General: These institutions are primarily undergraduate colleges emphasizing baccalaureate programs. During the period studied, they awarded less than half of their baccalaureate degrees in liberal arts fields.

Baccalaureate/Associate’s Colleges: These institutions are undergraduate colleges where the majority of conferrals are below the baccalaureate level (associate’s degrees and certificates). During the period studied, bachelor’s degrees accounted for at least 10 percent of undergraduate awards.

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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 Racial/Ethnic Composition of Total U.S. Population

Using information provided by the U.S. Census Bureau’s Population Division,* the Humanities Indicators has calculated the following estimates of the share of the total national population represented by each of the categories employed by the National Center for Education Statistics for the purpose of reporting the percentage of degrees awarded to students of different races/ethnicities (estimates are for July, 2008):



African American, Non-Hispanic
Asian or Pacific Islander
Hispanic
Native American or Alaska Native
12.4%
4.6%
14.8%
0.8%

* Data drawn from U.S. Census Bureau, “Table 3: Annual Estimates of the Resident Population by Sex, Race, and Hispanic Origin for the United States: April 1, 2000 to July 1, 2008 (NC-EST2008-03),” released May 14, 2009, http://www.census.gov/popest/national/asrh/NC-EST2008-srh.html.

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