The original purpose of American colleges was mainly to train men for the ministry, but so it is no longer. Harvard, founded chiefly to educate clergymen, now gives to this profession barely two per cent. of her graduates; Yale, begun under similar impulses, now contributes a meagre three per cent. This and other interesting changes in the professions favored by college graduates are described in a bulletin by Bailey B. Burritt on "Professional Distribution of University and College Graduates," just issued by the United States Bureau of Education.
The decline in the numbers going into the ministry has been accompanied by a rise in the professions of teaching, law, and business. All three have been more or less consistent gainers at the expense of the ministry.
When the older colleges were established, boys who expected to be the business men of the community rarely gave much thought to "higher education." That was for the "learned professions," most often, in the early days, the ministry. It is only of recent years that men with business careers ahead of them have taken advantage of college opportunities.
At Harvard the ministry yielded the leadership to law after the Revolutionary War, and law remained the dominant profession of Harvard graduates until 1880, when business took the lead. At Yale the ministry competed successfully with law until after the middle of the nineteenth century, when law took the ascendancy and kept it until 1895, being then displaced by business. At the University of Pennsylvania one-fourth of the graduates used to go into the ministry; now about one-fiftieth do so. Oberlin College, founded with strong denominational tendencies, shows the same story of the decline in numbers of men going into the ministry. At the University of Michigan, out of an army of over 15,000 graduates, only 188 have become ministers.
Aside from their contributions to the clergy, most of the universities and colleges have had favorite professions. At Columbia, Dartmouth and Michigan for instance, it is law; at Pennsylvania it is medicine; at Oberlin, Wisconsin, and many others, particularly the co-educational institutions, it is teaching; while a few of the universities, Brown, for ex- ample, have shown an impartial spirit, dividing up their strength almost equally among four leading professions.
Teaching Attracts 25 Per Cent.
A final summary of thirty-seven representative colleges shows that teaching is now the dominant profession of college graduates, with twenty-five per cent; business takes twenty per cent.; law, which took one-third of all the graduates at the beginning of the ninetenth century, now claims but fifteen per cent.; medicine takes between six and seven per cent. and seems to be slightly on the decline; engineering is slowly going up, but still takes only three or four per cent.; while the ministry, with its present five or six per cent. of the total, has reached the lowest mark for that profession in the two and a half centuries of American college history