Humanities Enrollment Is Struggling At Long Island Colleges

Math 1
Getty Images

Long Island college humanities degree programs are struggling with nationwide enrollment dropping, and the programs’ direct competition is science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) and business majors. 

Humanities at Stony Brook University

At Stony Brook University, the anthropology, philosophy, journalism and English programs have all experienced enrollment decline since 2012. Anthropology dropped from 151 students enrolled in Fall 2012 to 76 in Fall 2022. Philosophy declined from 107 students to 36, journalism from 242 students to 173 and English from 408 students to 267. 

“We started experiencing the enrollment decline with the recession in 2008, as the [English] degree became harder to justify to parents,” said Andrew Newman, Chair of the SBU English department. “It seemed less employable than degrees in STEM and business.”

SBU’s business and STEM enrollment prove this trend to be true. In the same period the humanities departments saw decline, the business management program increased from 978 enrolled students to 1,343 students. Computer science rose from 478 students to 1,039, and economics enrolled 834 students in Fall 2022 vs. the 618 students enrolled in 2012.

“Thankfully, we’re seeing a shift in students and employers valuing the critical thinking skills that majors such as anthropology and philosophy teach,” said Dawn Medley, vice provost for Enrollment Management and Retention at SBU. “We’ve seen an uptick in philosophy interest for Fall 2023.” 

Humanities at Farmingdale State College

At Farmingdale State College, enrollment for most majors has remained consistent or increased. The majority of programs at Farmingdale are STEM or business focused, but the professional communications major decreased from 250 students in Fall 2018 to 183 in Fall 2022. 

Degrees at Farmingdale such as aeronautical science, applied psychology and sport management stayed within 10 to 20 students from 2018 to 2022.

“Farmingdale State College’s enrollment has remained stable as it returns to pre pandemic levels,” said Dr. Laura Joseph, FSC provost and vice president for Academic Affairs. “Like most colleges, the small dip in enrollment from 2020 to 2021 can be attributed to the pandemic.”

Humanities at Adelphi University

In Garden City, Adelphi University’s humanities programs follow the same trend. The drama/theater program enrolled 69 students in Fall 2018 and 40 students in Fall 2022. Communications dropped from 112 students to 88 in the same time period, and English enrolled 88 students in Fall 2022 after seeing 112 in Fall 2018.

Compared to the humanities decrease by at least 20% from 2018 to 2022, the business program as a whole stayed at an 8% decrease, and the psychology department saw a 28% increase. 

“I think that we, especially post-pandemic, live in a world where people aren’t necessarily as adept at going out and finding their own kind of jobs or their career path,” said Louise Geddes, Adelphi English Department chair and professor. “And when college is this expensive, I think it’s difficult to think ‘I will graduate with a rough sense of the field that I will go into, and I will try a job in that field… and if it doesn’t work out, I’ll try something else.”