The Fate Of A Liberal Arts Education In A Ruthless Economy

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The merits of a liberal arts degree have come under scrutiny, writes Meagan Pant of the Dayton Daily News, as college costs continue to skyrocket and economic experts stress the need for continuing education to prepare for the jobs of the future:

“Recent liberal arts majors have a higher unemployment rate (9.2 percent) than graduates from technical fields, such as health care and education (5.4 percent), though a Georgetown University study says that is partly because the graduates are spread broadly across occupations and industries.

Companies today are looking for college graduates who can step into jobs with a minimum of on-the-job training. As more students pursue technical degrees, some liberal arts colleges have struggled to stay afloat.

But there are risks for students who adhere to one specific occupation, the Georgetown study found. A downturn in the construction business, for example, left 13.9 percent of recent architecture majors unemployed.

‘Having technical skills or professional skills to do something right now is a good first step, but it’s not for the long run going to be sufficient,’ said David Hodge, president of Miami University of Ohio, where every student must complete core liberal arts courses. ‘Remember that most people are not only going to have multiple jobs, they’re going to have multiple careers,’ Hodge said. ‘We believe that having exposure to a broad range of topics and themes and disciplines is really important to developing a really versatile mind.’

Liberal arts colleges have to fight the fear among students and parents that a degree from the schools will lead to big debts and small career prospects. ‘Liberal arts is critical to the educational experience, but the perception of liberal arts schools, it’s suffering and enrollment has been a challenge for those institutions not only here but across the nation,’ said Sean Creighton, executive director of the Southwestern Ohio Council for Higher Education.

As much as anything else, the schools market their versatility. ‘If you think about what the liberal arts education is meant to do, it’s meant to prepare the student for their life, as opposed to just preparing them for a particular job or career,’ said Wittenberg University Provost Chris Duncan. ‘You learn how to learn. You are capable of adapting and changing as the economy changes.'” (Read more here.)

What do you think? In an age of specialization, does a liberal arts education still make sense? (I’ll tip my cards and confess that I’m still a believer.)

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2 Responses to “The Fate Of A Liberal Arts Education In A Ruthless Economy”

  1. Ed Jones says:

    Liberal arts programs need to focus much more on fundamental frameworks of things; spend less time reading pundits.

    Things every major should have a solid grasp of:
    – Microeconomics
    – Accounting principles and practices
    – Physics for poets
    – Framework for National Security
    – High-school level Biology II
    – Basic financial theory
    – Timeline of history
    – A few fundamentals of foreign policy
    – fundamentals of corporate and contract law
    – story of law and civilization (over 5000 years)
    – probability and statistics
    – something like linear algebra or computational algorithms
    – rigorous study and practice of the principles of written composition and rhetoric.

  2. Jay says:

    I am a techie who believes you meed liberal arts education. Without it how can you make an intelligent decision. You need a broad liberal arts education to make critical decisions. I am a firm believer in this.

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