U.S. college students are increasingly concerned with such social issues as the environment and racial discrimination and less interested in making money, according to a survey released yesterday.
The 25th annual survey of college freshmen, conducted by the American Council on Education and the University of California at Los Angeles, found student activism on the rise.
While student interest in business careers continued its steep decline -- 18.4 percent of 1990 freshmen chose a business major compared with 24.6 percent in the peak year of 1987 -- interest in teaching and nursing careers continued to rise.
"These trends show that there is a rapidly expanding number of American college students who are dissatisfied with the status quo and who want to become personally involved in bringing about change in American society," said Alexander W. Astin of UCLA's Graduate School of Education, who directed the survey.
Still, relatively few students choose teaching or nursing.
The survey found that 9 percent of college freshmen were interested in elementary and secondary teaching, up from 8.2 percent in 1989, while only 3.8 percent wanted to pursue nursing, compared with 2.7 percent last year.
The national survey was based on the responses of 194,182 freshmen students at 382 of the nation's two- and four-year colleges and universities.
The data were adjusted to reflect the responses of the 1.6 million first-time, full-time students entering college as freshmen in fall 1990. No margin of error was given.
Nearly 88 percent of the freshmen surveyed said "the federal government is not doing enough to control environmental pollution." That compares with 86.3 percent who gave that response last year and 77.6 percent in 1981, the all-time low.
Similarly, the number saying it's "essential" or "very important" to personally "become involved in programs to clean up the environment" jumped to 33.9 percent, from 26.1 percent in 1989 and the low point of 15.9 percent in 1986.
Almost 43 percent -- described by the survey as an all-time high number -- of the college freshmen said it's "essential" or "very important" to "influence social values."
Student commitment to "being very well off financially" declined for the second straight year, falling from 75.4 percent to 73.7 percent. The decreases followed 17 consecutive years of increases -- from 39.1 percent in 1970 to 75.6 percent in 1987.
The survey found 79.4 percent of the students believe that racial discrimination continues to be a major problem in America.
Thirty-eight percent of the students said it's "essential" or "very important" to "help promote racial understanding," up from a low of 27.2 percent in 1986.
The American Council on Education is the umbrella organization for the nation's colleges and universities.