Over the past decade, national trends show students at major universities are studying the humanities less, and the same is happening at Fordham. In the fall of 2008, 595 students at Fordham took a major that fell within the field of the humanities, according to the Office of Institutional Research. In the fall of 2017, that number dropped to 482.
On a nationwide scale, the humanities, and history in particular, have seen a drop in enrollments since 2008, according to David Hamlin, Ph.D., professor of history and chair of the department at Fordham. This downward trend for the humanities is happening at Fordham too, according to Hamlin. “There is this grand nationwide trend. It’s playing out on Fordham as well,” he said.
Several areas in the humanities started to decline in the early 70’s and have been declining since then. Since 2008, there has been an acceleration of that decline, according to Hamlin. The drop-off in humanities students after 2008 can be attributed to the economic recession of that year. “The continuing fallout from the 2008 financial crisis has impacted the humanities by raising questions about the financial reward, the return on investment, if you will,” Hamlin said.
According to Christopher Dietrich, Ph.D., director of American Studies and the chair of the Core Curriculum Committee, the humanities at Fordham are valuable. “What humanities and social science majors get at Fordham is the ability to tackle important problems in creative and responsible ways; employers in all sorts of fields value that,” Dietrich said. Amidst the decline, Hamlin said there is hope for the future. The history department has seen an increase in major declarations in the past two years, according to Hamlin.
Dietrich also said he sees hope in the humanities. “There have been crises in the humanities before and because of its intrinsic value, humanistic disciplines have always survived,” Dietrich said.
Fordham is one of the top 1040schools for receiving National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) grants, ranked 83rd by The Chronicle of Higher Education.