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At Universities nationwide, trendy majors mirror current issues

Unlike most fads, popular college majors do not often come and go. In fact, the three most popular majors – business administration, social sciences and education – have been the same since 1985, according to the National Center for Education Statistics.

But with the advent of new technology and the need for a greener economy, there are five new ‘on-the-rise’ majors, according to an article in the Chronicle of Higher Education published earlier this month. The fields of study gaining popularity at undergraduate institutions around the country are service science, health informatics, computational science, sustainability and public health.

Health informatics is gaining popularity because of the renewed discussion of health care reform in Congress, according to the Chronicle article.

‘There is just no shortage of growth in the information field,’ said David Dolling, dean of George Washington University’s School of Engineering and Applied Science. ‘We have people working with all kinds of information, especially information assurance.’

In the recent stimulus package, $19 billion were pledged to digitize health care records across America, according to the Chronicle article. This means that the health care industry will need a new kind of professional, one who can read and update digital records, which is what a health informatics major teaches students.

‘Electronic health records have been mentioned by both sides of the aisle as a way to save health care dollars,’ GWU professor of health administration Robert Burke said in an e-mail. ‘Policy makers realize there are not a sufficient number of people trained to design, implement and maintain these systems.’

Computational science, often confused with computer science, is less about the study of computers and more about how to use the computer as a tool, according to the Chronicle article.

A service science major would focus on the science of how people use daily services, from telephones to ordering coffee, the Chronicle said.

While these majors might not break into the Princeton Review’s list of the most popular majors anytime soon, their existence does show that in a time of economic and environmental uncertainty, universities are responding with a new set of skills for students.

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