The Changing Market for Principles of Economics

Over 35 years of teaching experience, I have witnessed significant changes among students and their reactions to the principles course. The post-secondary pool has broadened from a relatively small, homogeneous group of prepared and motivated students to a much larger, academically diverse group including open enrollment students. Students have transitioned from using stand-alone print resources to screen interactions in a digital, networked, world of multimedia. These progressive social and technological changes have come with new challenges – student time scarcity from juggling employment and education, weaker literacy and numeracy skills, students questioning the relevance and value of increasingly expensive educational investments, and learning styles and attention spans conditioned to screen technologies.

Students, like everyone, face time and money constraints. All would benefit from learning some economics, yet 60% of North American post-secondary students never take any economics courses. Some are scared by the math and graphs. Many think economics is only about money, financial markets, and business, and don’t see the relevance to their interests in other subjects or careers. But economics is fundamentally about making smart, informed choices. Learning to apply even the most basic concepts of opportunity cost and thinking at the margin empowers people to better manage their lives as consumers, investors, business people, and as citizens voting for politicians whose economic policies affect us all. Learning to think like an economist is a valuable skill, transferable to virtually all walks of life.

Of the 40% of post-secondary students (over 1 million) who annually take a principles course (1 semester or 2), only 5%-20% go on to become majors, depending on the institution. That means well over 80% of principles students never take another economics course – they are “one and done.” When Economics departments are losing 80%-95% of potential majors showing some interest in economics, there is an opportunity to do better with an innovative approach.

Economics for Life is designed to deliver better experiences and improved, lasting outcomes for the “one and done” market, while still preparing majors to succeed in upper-level economics courses.