Why Does No One Major in English Anymore?

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I’m a proud English major. That used to not make me all that unique; English has long been one of the most popular majors among undergraduates. But that trend may be beginning to shift.

The Washington Post reports that in fall 2009, the University of Maryland had about as many English majors as computer science majors–approximately 800 of each. Then the recession hit, people started questioning whether college was a good investment, and suddenly an English major didn’t seem like such a good idea anymore. By last fall, the number of computer science majors at UM had nearly doubled–while the number of English majors plummeted by nearly 40%, to a mere 483. Other un-marketable liberal arts degrees in subjects such as history and anthropology also saw dramatic declines.

The university’s English department has started trying to recruit promising undergrads, sending complimentary letters to any students who earn an “A” in a UM English class but who isn’t yet an English major, the Post reports. Will a flattering (and, presumably, beautifully worded) letter be enough to save a dwindling English department? Only time will tell. Probably the best news English profs could hope for is an improving economy. Once undergrads (and their parents) don’t feel so panicked about the job market anymore, I bet they’ll start flocking back to English classes once again.


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