Humanities Indicators
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Higher Education  >  Undergraduate Education
 
Institutional Distribution of Bachelor's Degrees in the Humanities
(Updated May 2017)

The distribution of humanities bachelor’s degrees among types of higher education institutions is similar to that for all bachelor’s degrees.

Findings and Trends

  • As of 2015, private not-for-profit colleges and universities and their public counterparts differed little as far as the share of their bachelor’s degrees awarded to students in the humanities, as the field accounted for 12% of baccalaureate degrees from both types of institutions (Indicator II-3a). The gap between the two types of institution narrowed from over four percentage points in 1987 to less than one in 2009. Since that time, the humanities field’s share of degrees has been shrinking at roughly the same rate at both types of institutions.
  • While the humanities’ share of bachelor’s degrees shrank at private nonprofit institutions and public colleges and universities from 2007 to 2015, the humanities’ share of baccalaureate degrees conferred at for-profit institutions, although tiny, tripled over the same time period (increasing from 0.7% to 2.1% of the total).
  • Although the humanities are often associated with elite private colleges and universities in the popular imagination, public colleges and universities have awarded a majority of the baccalaureate degrees in the humanities over the past 30 years (Indicator II-3b). The share of humanities degrees awarded by public institutions increased from 59% of the humanities bachelor’s degrees awarded in 1987 to 68% in 2015. For-profit colleges and universities conferred a tiny share of all humanities degrees (rising from 0.1% of the total in 1987 to as high as 0.8% in 2013, before declining to 0.4% in 2014 and 2015).
  • In 2015, institutions classified by the Carnegie Foundation as doctoral or research universities conferred almost half (47%) of all humanities bachelor’s degrees (Indicator II-3c). The nation’s master’s colleges and universities also conferred a substantial number, accounting for an additional 39% of humanities undergraduate degrees.
  • While doctoral and research universities awarded a plurality of humanities bachelor’s degrees in 2015, they conferred larger shares of the baccalaureate degrees in science and engineering. Almost 70% of baccalaureate degrees in engineering were awarded by doctoral and research universities, and those same institutions conferred 57% of the degrees in natural sciences and 53% of the degrees in the behavioral and social sciences.
  • Aside from small and specialized institutions, the Carnegie institution types were similar in the share of their bachelor’s degrees that they awarded to students in humanities (Indicator II-3d). Baccalaureate colleges had the highest concentration of humanities bachelor’s degree earners among their graduates (14%), but master’s and doctoral/research institutions awarded 13% and 12% respectively.
II-3a: Humanities Bachelor’s Degrees as a Percentage of All Bachelor’s Degrees Awarded by Public versus Private Institutions, 1987–2015
Source: U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, Integrated Postsecondary Data System; accessed via the National Science Foundation’s online data system, WebCASPAR. Data analyzed and presented by the American Academy of Arts and Sciences’ Humanities Indicators (www.humanitiesindicators.org).
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II-3b: Percentage of All Bachelor’s Degrees in the Humanities Awarded by Public versus Private Institutions, 1987–2015
Source: U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, Integrated Postsecondary Data System; accessed via the National Science Foundation’s online data system, WebCASPAR. Data analyzed and presented by the American Academy of Arts and Sciences’ Humanities Indicators (www.humanitiesindicators.org).
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II-3c: Distribution of Degrees among Carnegie Institution Types, by Field of Degree,* 2015

* Institutions have been categorized using the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching’s Basic Classification of college and university types.

Source: U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, Integrated Postsecondary Data System; accessed via the National Science Foundation’s online data system, WebCASPAR. Data analyzed and presented by the American Academy of Arts and Sciences’ Humanities Indicators (www.humanitiesindicators.org).

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II-3d: Distribution of Bachelor’s Degrees among Academic Fields, by Carnegie Institution Type,* 2015

* Institutions have been categorized using the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching’s Basic Classification of college and university types.

Source: U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, Integrated Postsecondary Data System; accessed via the National Science Foundation’s online data system, WebCASPAR. Data analyzed and presented by the American Academy of Arts and Sciences’ Humanities Indicators (www.humanitiesindicators.org).

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