Mar 15, 2024 - News

Texas students drop foreign language classes

Data: University of Texas; Chart: Axios Visuals
Data: University of Texas; Chart: Axios Visuals

University of Texas students are showing less and less interest in foreign language classes, mirroring national trends.

Why it matters: The trend is part of a broader movement from liberal arts to STEM classes on university campuses.

By the numbers: The total number of undergraduate enrollees in 11 foreign language classes, from Arabic to Spanish, dropped from 4,750 in the fall of 2014 to 4,224 in the fall of 2023, per data provided by UT to Axios.

  • In 2014, Spanish classes made up 39.2% of all of the university's foreign language enrollment. By 2023, that number was 48.9%.

What they're saying: Richard Meier, adviser to the dean of the College of Liberal Arts for Languages and Area Studies, told Axios the decline could be because many popular degree plans do not require extensive coursework in a foreign language.

  • "A second factor that we discuss often is that many students do not feel that they can devote the time that is required by a six-credit hour course in one of the foreign languages," Meier added.

Zoom out: Enrollment in languages other than English at U.S. colleges and universities dropped 16.6% between the fall of 2016 and the fall of 2021, the Modern Language Association (MLA) reported last year.

Between the lines: Language study on college campuses peaked in 2009 and has been dropping ever since, the MLA noted.

  • Some of the drop in enrollments can be tied to the overall decrease in college students, but the phenomenon also seems linked to the overall denigration of non-STEM fields on campus, Axios' Jennifer A. Kingson writes.

Yes, but: "People who speak another language score higher on tests and think more creatively, have access to a wider variety of jobs, and can more fully enjoy and participate in other cultures or converse with people from diverse backgrounds," the American Academy of Arts & Sciences says.

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