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Proportion of College Freshmen Interested In a Career in Teaching Up, Survey Finds

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The proportion of college freshmen interested in teaching careers has increased by two-thirds since 1982, reflecting the impact of the school-reform movement, according to a report on the results of an annual survey released last week.

The survey found that 8.1 percent of the 1987 freshmen polled last fall planned to pursue careers as elementary- or secondary-school teachers. This compares with 7.3 percent in the fall of 1986 and 4.7 percent in 1982.

"The 1987 data show that students again see viable career opportunities in teaching," said Alexander W. Astin, director of the Higher Education Research Institute at the University of California at Los Angeles, which conducted the survey with the American Council on Education.

"The overall climate is good for future teachers," added Mr. Astin, professor of education at ucla "The public is once again interested in education, salaries are up, the jobs are there, and the demographics point to continuing strong demand."

But he cautioned that despite the increase, the level of interest shown by this year's freshmen falls short of meeting the projected need for teachers, and is well below the levels recorded in the late 1960's, when 23.5 percent of entering freshmen said they were interested in teaching careers.

The gains made by teaching--especially among women--have been accompanied by decreasing interest in other careers, such as nursing, the survey found. The proportion of freshman women who plan to become nurses has fallen by more than half since 1983; in four-year colleges, more women said they would prefer to be doctors than nurses.

Business continued to be the most popular career choice among freshmen, with an increasing proportion of women citing it as their goal. In the 1987 poll, 22 percent of the women surveyed said they wanted to pursue a business career, more than six times the levels recorded in 1966.

Aid Levels 'Stabilized'

The authors of the 22nd annual survey of incoming freshmen also noted that freshman participation in federal student-aid programs "may have stabilized after six years of steady decline."

The proportion of students in the poll who had received Pell Grants, the federal aid program serving the poorest students, rose from 16.9 percent in 1986 to 17.5 percent in 1987. The 1987 level, however, was far below the 31 percent recorded in 1980.

Participation in the guaranteed student loan program, on the other hand, fell from 25.4 percent in 1986 to 22 percent. But it remains higher than the 20.9 percent participation found in 1980. A number of studies have found that student indebtedness has increased dramatically over the past few years.

In their answers to questions on social concerns, the freshmen gave indications that they may lack fundamental information about how aids is transmitted. The proportion of students who agreed with the statement, "if two people like each other it's all right for them to have sex, even if they have known each other for a short time," reached a new high in 1987. More than half the freshmen surveyed agreed with the statement, compared with 46.8 percent of the respondents in the 1984 poll, the last time the question was asked.

At the same time, the report's authors note, support for laws outlawing homosexuality increased fromel10lthe previous year, reflecting the growing public concern about aids.

"These data imply that college freshmen have a 'can't happen to me' attitude about aids," the report states. "The survey results highlight the need for aids-education programs in high schools and on college campuses."

Other Findings

The survey also revealed that:

Cigarette smoking continues to be less prevalent among freshmen. In 1987, only 8.9 percent of entering students admitted that they smoked frequently, compared with 9.8 percent last year and 13.9 percent in 1978.

More than three-fourths of freshmen--twice as many as in 1970--indicated that "being very well-off financially" is an essential or very4important life goal, while the proportion who considered "developing a meaningful philosophy of life," once the most popular student goal, reached an all-time low, with fewer than two-fifths rating it as an important aim.

The survey is based on questionnaires completed by 289,875 students entering 562 two- and four-year colleges and universities. Of these, 209,627 questionnaires from 390 institutions were used to compute national norms.

Copies of the report on the survey results, The American Freshman: National Norms for Fall 1987, are available for $15, postpaid, from the Higher Education Research Institute, ucla Graduate School of Education, 405 Hilgard Avenue, Los Angeles, Calif., 90024-1521.

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