Students want to work for man, not just money Social issues are valued in survey

January 12, 1993|By Boston Globe

In the strongest signal yet of the passing of the decade of greed -- and a hint that '60s-style social activism is on the rise -- a survey of college freshmen shows that students today are more interested than ever in racial harmony and social causes, while fewer say they want to make a lot of money or major in business.

An all-time high of 42 percent of freshmen say "helping to promote racial understanding" is an essential or very important goal, according to the annual survey of 213,630 first-year students by the Higher Education Research Institute at the University of California-Los Angeles.

Slightly more than 43 percent said "influencing social values" was an essential or very important personal goal, up nearly 5 percent from last year, and 2 out of every 5 freshmen said they participated in an organized demonstration in the past year, according to the survey, which was released yesterday.

At the same time, the number of students who said "being very well off financially" was an important life goal dropped from 76 percent to 73 percent. That is still significantly higher than it was 20 years ago, when about 50 percent proclaimed a commitment to making a lot of money. But it is the fifth straight year the figure has declined.

Only 14 percent of the freshmen surveyed were interested in business careers, down from 16 percent last year and a peak of nearly 25 percent in 1987. The sharpest increase was in the percentage of students interested in biological sciences and health professions, which has almost doubled since 1987.

"Taken as a whole, these findings suggest that students are substantially more committed to serving their communities and working for social and political change than were students who entered college just a few years ago," said Alexander W. Astin, a professor of higher education at UCLA's Graduate School of Education and founding director of the survey.

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