College students may care about politics after all, according to a survey conducted by the Chronicle of Higher Education.

By Gus Bode

The survey contributes the increased awareness of current events and political affairs among college age students to the terror attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.

The chronicle’s survey of 282,549 first-year students at 437 colleges and universities, students are taking more interest in current events and politics. Among the new students, 32.9 percent consider following politics “very important” or “essential.” This comes only two years after the survey’s lowest ranking ever at 28.1 percent – during the presidential election of 2000. The survey’s highest year was 1966, with 60.3 percent.

In line with the study’s findings, some at SIUC have noticed the increase in political interest. According to Christy Stewart, academic adviser for the Political Science Department, enrollment and registration in her department has increased.

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Stewart, an SIUC alumna who holds degrees in both political science and public administration, said the total number of political science majors is up roughly 10 percent since taking her job two years ago. She said some of the department’s classes that normally have 20 or 30 students are now full at 80. Even the highest-level classes are closed, which she said is not typical, especially considering the fact that enrollment is usually down during spring semesters.

“Classes are overflowing at the seams-we’re pretty much maxed out,” Stewart said.

Stewart attributed the rise in popularity in part to the specializations the department began offering two years ago, a good departmental reputation and a changing world political dynamic. She noted that the department’s International Affairs specialization has been particularly popular since the Sept. 11 attacks.

“People take our classes to get a better idea of what’s going on,” Stewart said.

Steven Schwarz, a senior in aviation management, knows what’s going on. He, like many other students, took a core curriculum political science course and now follows the news and current events. Prior to the State of the Union address, he said he planed to tune in on the president’s speech.

Stephen Shulman, director of undergraduate studies in the Political Science Department, is happy to have witnessed this growing interest in politics among students, and attributes it to recent high-profile events such as the Monica Lewinsky scandal, the 2000 election controversy and the war in Afghanistan.

“I see a lot of non-political science majors are taking our courses-that’s a good sign,” Shulman said.

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