There’s nothing micro about the introductory microeconomics course Social Analysis 10. With 965 undergraduates enrolled in it this semester, the Core course better known as “Ec 10” is Harvard’s largest class—and it’s 42 percent larger than last year.
And as economics students learn about demand curves, their own concentration is on an upward slope.
The enrollment in the intermediate-level Economics 1010a, “Microeconomic Theory,” has climbed from 297 undergrads last fall to 412 this semester.
In sum, Economics 1010a and its more mathematical sister-course, 1011a, boast a combined enrollment of 574 undergraduates this fall—a 21 percent rise from 2005.
Visiting Professor of Economics Jeffrey A. Miron, who teaches 1010a, admitted that he has “no idea” why enrollment might have risen to such an extent. But he speculated that the course’s rising popularity may be due to an “increase in the interest in economics as a concentration.”
The rising number of economics students at Harvard reflects a nationwide trend. The number of degrees awarded to economics majors in the U.S. rose nearly 40 percent from 1999 to 2004, according to The Wall Street Journal.
The number of Harvard students concentrating in economics—either as their sole major or as one of two fields—totalled 764 last year, an increase of 21 percent over a half-decade.
The surge in students this fall forced Miron to move the class from Emerson 105 to the 435-seat Paine Hall.
Miron said the course now features a stronger emphasis on multi-variable calculus than last year, when it was taught by the College’s chief planning officer, Jeffrey Wolcowitz. Multi-variable calculus is not a prerequisite for the course.
After Ec 10, the next largest fall semester course is Life Sciences 1a, with 635 undergrads. Ec 1010a takes the bronze medal in course enrollment, followed by fourth-place Chemistry 17, with 304 undergrads.
Assistant Professor of Astronomy David Charbonneau, who announced last month that he and a team of researchers had found a new planet named TrES-2, now finds himself with the fifth largest course on campus, Science A-47, “Cosmic Connections.”
That course’s enrollment fell from 335 last fall to 293 this September, but the subject matter, according to Charbonneau, enjoys wide appeal. “That question of whether of not the stars of the night sky have solar systems and life on those planets extends beyond astronomers. It’s a question everyone has asked at some point or another,” he said.
Despite the size, Charbonneau said he tries to “teach the course interactively,” because a similar “classically lectured course in the sciences would be rather dry.” Students in the class use remote-control voting devices to express their views on questions that Charbonneau poses.
And Charbonneau said his students will have the chance to view the transit of Mercury, when the planet passes between the earth and the sun on Nov. 8.
He’s just one of many professors in large courses seeking to create a more intimate environment.
History of Science Department Chair Anne Harrington, whose fall course “Stories Under the Skin: The Mind-Body Connection in Modern Medicine,” enrolled 103 undergrads, said she’s using an online message board to generate discussion beyond the classroom. She said she prefers that approach “rather than me just being the television.”
On the Web: Current and Historical Course Enrollment Numbers