A post here back in November picked up on a Harvard Crimson report about a steep decline in the number of humanities concentrators at Harvard from 2008 to 2016. Now new information disclosed in connection with a Harvard admissions lawsuit charts an even further decline, with the percentage of Harvard applicants intending to major in humanities plunging to a mere 12% or so in the Class of 2019 compared to about 20% in the class of 2014. Computer Science and engineering gained.
My earlier post discussed some of the possible causes of this, but the consequences are also interesting. I predict some strains between the computer science and engineering departments, which are understaffed relative to the influx of students, and the humanities departments, which have the same number of endowed professors they had before, but fewer students to teach. The imbalance may be less acute because students do take courses outside their concentration, but even so the institution of lifetime tenure makes it difficult, or at least slow, to adjust the relative size of these departments to meet the demand. The admissions office can manage this somewhat by admitting enough humanities concentrators to keep the professors busy, and by limiting the would-be computer science concentrators so as not to overwhelm the professors.
Elsewhere on the higher education front, Bloomberg reports that new IRS guidance offers colleges a "reprieve" from the endowment tax, at least as far as calculating the basis for taxable gains. Says the guidance: "A private college or university, subject to the new 1.4 percent excise tax on net investment income, that sells property at a gain generally may use the property's fair market value at the end of 2017 as its basis for figuring the tax on any resulting gain, the Internal Revenue Service said today. In many instances, this new stepped-up basis rule will reduce the amount of gain subject to the new tax. Normal basis rules will continue to apply for calculating any loss."