Wealth Tops List of College Freshmen's Ambitions
This year's college freshmen are more interested than ever in careers that offer an opportunity for financial success and are less influenced by social causes that result in personal growth and fulfillment, according to the latest findings of a nationwide survey of college freshmen.
'Well Off Financially'
More than two-thirds of the freshmen surveyed, (68.9 percent) chose ''being very well off financially" as a "very important" career goal, according to the new survey, The American Freshman: National Norms For Fall 1982. The poll has been conducted annually for the past 17 years by researchers associated with the University of California at Los Angeles (ucla).
In 1982, 65.2 percent of the fresh-men chose the same response. In 1967, however, only 43.5 percent of the freshmen listed earning money as an important goal.
Fewer of this year's first-term freshmen endorsed altruistic goals that were popular during the 1960's and 1970's, such as "developing a meaningful philosophy of life" (46.7 percent this year compared to 82.9 percent in 1967), "helping to promote racial understanding" (30.7 percent this year compared to 35.8 percent in 1977, the first year the question was asked), and "helping others in difficulty" (61.6 percent down from 66 percent in 1975, the year in which student responses began a continuous decline).
Consistent with that pattern, the survey found a continuing decline in the number of freshmen aspiring to become teachers (from 21.7 percent in 1966 to 4.7 percent this year). Sci6entific research also declined as a career choice (from 3.5 percent of freshmen in 1966 to 1.5 percent in 1982).
On the other hand, the survey showed continuing growth in the popularity of other career choices: business (from 11.6 percent in 1966 to 20.2 percent this year), engineering (4.7 percent in 1974 to 12 percent this year), and computer programming (2.9 percent in 1977 to 8.8 percent this year).
"The continuing pattern of increasing materialism and declining altruism and idealism may in part be a byproduct of the women's movement since the women have shown much larger changes in career interests and values than have the men," according to Alexander W. Astin, professor of education at ucla and the director of the survey.
Nevertheless, Mr. Astin said in releasing the survey results last week, since the values and career plans of men have also changed in similar directions, the trends found in the survey "appear to be a general societal phenomenon."
Although materialism increased among college freshmen, this year's survey showed a reversal of the trend toward political conservatism.
The proportion of "liberal" and "far left" students increased slightly (from 19.7 percent last year to 20.7 percent this year), while the proportion of those who considered their political orientation to be "conservative" or "far right" declined (from 20.7 percent last year to 19.4 percent this year).
The majority (59.8 percent) continued to label themselves "middle-of-the-road."
Reflecting this political self-labeling, according to Mr. Astin, the changes in student attitudes on other issues showed a mixture of liberal and conservative trends.
Student support increased for such liberal causes as a national health-care plan (from 54.8 percent in 1981 to 57.5 this year), legalization of abortion (from 53.9 percent last year to 54.8 percent this year), and busing to achieve racial balance in the schools (from 43.8 percent last year to 46.8 percent this year).
The findings of the survey are based on questionnaires completed by more than 267,000 freshmen entering a national sample of 492 two- and four-year institutions.
The annual survey was co-sponsored by the American Council on Education.
Copies of the survey are available for $7.50 from the Cooperative Institutional Research Program, Graduate School of Education, ucla, Los Angeles, Calif. 90024.