An Intellectual History of Sophism versus Virtue
Chapter 1: Introduction: Markets, Competition, and Higher Education
In 1860 institutions of higher education in the US enrolled 20 000 students, nearly all of them majoring in the traditional liberal arts (Burke 1982: 216). By 2000, over 20 million students in the US were attending a college or university. While we do not know what they had as majors, there is information regarding the majors of those earning a bachelor’s degree. Of 1 237 875 bachelor’s degrees conferred in 2000, 36 104 were awarded to students majoring in the liberal arts and humanities; if we add in the subjects that were part of the liberal arts education of 1860, the total of degrees awarded in the liberal arts rises to 185 960, a tremendous growth in numbers in 140 years (IPEDS, Table 248). Growth is only part of the story, for higher education also experienced a significant transformation between 1860 and 2000. While the number of liberal arts majors greatly exceeds that of 1860, it is only 15 percent of all degrees conferred. In 2000 many students earned degrees in areas that rarely existed in 1860, including 108 168 in education (9 percent), 72 555 in engineering (6 percent), 78 458 in health professions (6 percent), and 257 709 in business (21 percent) (IPEDS, Table 250). These numbers tell us that the history of higher education in the US has been one of a revolution in both size and diversity of study. Economists might readily interpret the transformation of higher education indicated by these numbers as a case...