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Students may be Shifting Toward Science and Engineering Studies

Students may be Shifting Toward Science and Engineering Studies

Posted - Mar. 8, 2004 at 8:05 a.m.



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SALT LAKE CITY (AP) -- Utah colleges award more bachelor's degrees in business and marketing than in any other fields, but a change may be on the horizon.

"I think more and more we're heading toward science and engineering disciplines," said Commissioner of Higher Education Rich Kendell.

Last year, Utah colleges and universities awarded 11,168 bachelor's degrees, and 2,248 of them were in business and marketing, according to the Utah System of Higher Education.

Social sciences and public administration drew 1,211 degrees, education 1,168 diplomas, communications 700 degrees and psychology had 634 degrees.

On the rise, though, were biological and physical sciences and science technologies.

The change is partly due to a movement toward having a more "highly trained" work force in Utah.

Kendell points to former Gov. Mike Leavitt and now Gov. Olene Walker, who believe that having more people trained in engineering and science fields is an economic advantage to the state.

John G. Francis, University of Utah vice president for academic affairs and undergraduate studies, said the economy tends to dictate what programs students gravitate toward. In the 1990s business was more popular because the economy was good and fewer undergraduates were interested in law. In troubled times, he said, the reverse is true.

Psychology is always popular because it presents an opportunity for people to learn about themselves. Communications degrees are up because areas like TV, film, radio and journalism present an expanding component of the economy, Francis said.

Liberal arts and social sciences continue to be popular, and many schools maintain that a well-rounded student is the ideal graduate.

"What we want out of a work force is adaptability and flexibility," Francis said.

"Westminster has always tried to maintain a balance between liberal arts and professional studies," said that school's president, Michael S. Bassis. "We think beyond the student's first job, we think about their entire career and the kinds of changes that will inevitably occur."

However, Westminster also is seeing a shift toward science and engineering, and it has plans for a $25 million science center.

Weber State University emphasizes a strong blend of liberal arts and career preparation, said interim provost Kathleen Lukken.

Of WSU's 1,949 bachelor's degrees awarded last year, business and health professions topped the list.

Over the past four years, Brigham Young University has produced the most graduates, 4,171, in the general area of social sciences, and family sciences has been the third-most in-demand degree since 1999.

Unlike BYU, social sciences accounted for a mere five four-year degrees awarded last year at neighboring Utah Valley State College. But UVSC is quickly on its way to becoming the second- or third-leading provider of business and marketing degrees in Utah. It awarded 427 such diplomas last year, about 40 behind Utah State and nine behind Weber State.

(Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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