College freshmen are becoming more idealistic and less interested in making money.

That is the encouraging generalization drawn from the 25th annual survey of college freshmen, conducted by the American Council on Education and the University of California at Los Angeles.The survey was based on the responses of 194,182 freshmen students at 382 of the nation's two-and-four-year colleges and universities.

Among incoming 1990 freshmen, 18.4 percent chose a business major, down from 24.6 percent in the peak year of 1987. Students committed to "being very well off financially" declined significantly for the second straight year, following 17 consecutive years of increases.

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.

There were strong concerns expressed about environmental pollution and racial discrimination. An especially impressive 43 percent - an all-time high - said it's "essential" or "very important" to "influence social values."

According to those who conducted the survey, the figures show a rapidly expanding number of college students who are dissatisfied with the status quo and who want to become personally involved in bringing about change in American society.

At a time when our society is plagued with a diversity of problems - including materialism - it is encouraging to see evidence that human values are getting increased attention from our young people. The future, after all, is in their hands.