College freshmen continue to show decreased interest in pursuing business careers and making money and more concern for the environment and better race relations.

Student activism is on the rise, according to the 25th annual survey of college freshmen, conducted by the American Council on Education and the University of California at Los Angeles.Among incoming 1990 freshmen, 18.4 percent chose a business major, down from 24.6 percent in the peak year of 1987, according to the survey released Sunday.

Student commitment to "being very well off financially" declined for the second straight year, falling from 75.4 percent to 73.7 percent. The decreases followed 17 consecutive years of increases - from 39.1 percent in 1970 to 75.6 percent in 1987.

Meanwhile, 9 percent of 1990 college freshmen were interested in elementary and secondary teaching, up from 8.2 percent in 1989. And 3.8 percent wanted to pursue nursing, compared with 2.7 percent a year earlier.

Almost 43 percent - described by the survey as an all-time high number - of the college freshmen said it's "essential" or "very important" to "influence social values."

The survey, conducted before the United Nations set the Jan. 15 deadline for Iraq to withdraw from Kuwait, found that record numbers of college freshmen - 39.4 percent - said they took part in demonstrations during their last year in high school.

The previous record for such participation was 36.7 percent in 1989; in the late 1960s, the figure was 15 percent to 16 percent.

"These trends show that there is a rapidly expanding number of American college students who are dissatisfied with the status quo and who want to become personally involved in bringing about change in American society," said Alexander W. Astin of UCLA's Graduate School of Education.

The national survey was based on the responses of 194,182 freshmen students at 382 of the nation's two- and four-year colleges and universities. No margin of error was given.

Nearly 88 percent of the freshmen surveyed said "the federal government is not doing enough to control environmental pollution." That compares with 86.3 percent who gave that response last year and 77.6 percent in 1981, the all-time low.

Similarly, the number saying it's "essential" or "very important" to personally "become involved in programs to clean up the environment" jumped to 33.9 percent, from 26.1 percent in 1989 and the low point of 15.9 percent in 1986.

"It is highly unusual to see the percentage of students who express a strong commitment to any goal more than double in just four years," said Astin, who directs the survey.

The survey found 79.4 percent of the students believe that racial discrimination continues to be a major problem in America.