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University shouldn’t limit business majors

The Observer Editorial Board | Wednesday, November 12, 2003

After performing extremely well in high school and being accepted out of a highly competitive applicant pool, students come to Notre Dame expecting to receive a top-notch education in any field they choose.

But for students interested in business, that freedom to choose any major could soon be limited. Because 32 percent of Notre Dame students major in business – as compared to seven percent at other top 20 universities – the dean of the College of Business said last week the College is considering capping the number of undergraduates allowed to major in business.

Some University officials and professors worry that such a high percentage of business majors harms Notre Dame’s traditional mission as a liberal arts university. But the high percentage of business students also places a severe strain on the business faculty, which comprises only one-eighth of Notre Dame’s faculty, while its majors constitute one-third of all undergraduates. Ultimately, such an imbalance may cause the excellence of Notre Dame’s high-quality business education to suffer.

In recent years, officials opted to limit acceptance for incoming freshmen signaling their intent to major in business to just 18 percent of the freshman class. Still, the number of undergraduate business majors has increased by 20 percent over the last 10 years.

Although the large number of business majors poses problems for the University, students who survive Notre Dame’s difficult admission process shouldn’t be told they must choose another major if they are not accepted into the business program.

Instead, the University must consider other alternatives that could decrease the number of undergraduates who major in business and create more interest in the liberal arts.

One alternative the business school could implement is an undergraduate minor in business – a proposal currently under consideration by University officials. A business minor would allow students interested in the liberal arts to choose a more academically-oriented field of study and still receive practical business training. Though some business professors are concerned that such an option would lead to increased business enrollment and greater strain on the faculty, this would not be the case if the University generates more interest in liberal arts majors among undergraduates.

After all, if administrators are so concerned that most students are choosing to major in a business-related field, perhaps they should examine why students believe liberal arts degrees won’t help them in the future. By better marketing a degree from the College of Arts and Letters to students who might otherwise choose business, officials could show career-minded students that a liberal arts degree can prepare them for the job market as well as a business degree.

While Notre Dame should make Arts and Letters majors more attractive to undergraduates and increase interest in the liberal arts, it cannot do so at the expense of students’ freedom to choose any major – even if a third of their peers choose similar courses of study.