If you follow the conversation about higher education, you may have noticed a lot of talk about the liberal arts: Are they “good”? Are they “dead”? Do they have a place in the landscape of higher education, especially considering the high (and rising) cost of that education?
Well, as far as the members of Colleges That Change Lives (CTCL) are concerned, studying the liberal arts is the best way to educate future leaders, innovators, entrepreneurs, teachers, doctors, artists, and lawyers. Why? A liberal arts education teaches young people how to think, communicate clearly, analyze data, work with others, and solve problems. These qualities are critical—and not just because they build a strong academic foundation. The liberal arts are practical and pragmatic too!
When surveyed, employers consistently say the most important skills they need in employees are those developed in a liberal arts education: The ability to communicate with people one-on-one, in small groups, and in large groups. The ability to write well for many different audiences, to persuade and influence with words and ideas. The ability to work with others who have difference perspectives. The ability to creatively solve problems, integrate several perspectives, analyze data, and develop an action plan. These skills are the hallmark of a liberal arts education, and they prepare students for the world in which they will live and work.
Think about the jobs of today that didn’t exist 20, 10, or even a few years ago (social media manager, content marketer, online entrepreneur, etc.). By preparing for many careers through a liberal arts education, graduates position themselves to be fluid and effective leaders because they are good thinkers and strategists who can see the big picture as well as make definite plans to solve a problem or market an idea.
But what if you’re interested in the sciences? Contrary to popular belief, a liberal arts college or university might be perfect for you too! The abovementioned skills are critical in those fields as well; in fact, many employers in the “hard” sciences are often desperately searching for candidates with the “soft” skills central to the liberal arts. And a liberal arts curriculum can be rich in science training. Applied Computing, Biochemistry, Behavioral Neuroscience, Environmental Geology, Financial Economics, Mathematics, Physics: you’ll find all these majors and more at liberal arts schools.
When considering a liberal arts college or university, students and parents are often worried about the cost, and they often wonder why this type of college is more expensive. It’s true there are often higher costs associated with this type of education—liberal arts colleges are committed to providing full-time faculty who will mentor and advise. They also pride themselves on small student-faculty ratios. This commitment to high-quality teaching and accessible, engaged faculty means the colleges must commit financial resources to their salaries and benefits. And, of course, liberal arts schools want to provide up-to-date, well-equipped, and fun campuses that meet students’ (and parents’) expectations.
But these same schools also produce graduates who do incredibly well out in the “real world,” with lifetime employment ratings and earnings that are just as good—if not better—than their peers who do not hold a liberal arts degree. Many private universities provide financial aid packages that make their education just as affordable—if not more so—than their state-sponsored counterparts, particularly for high-achieving students.
Furthermore, a student who can use their skills to move from one industry to another will find their career paths more flexible. They will be ready to follow new developments in technology. They will be prepared to become the decision makers and social change agents of the future.
Consider the liberal arts for a lifetime of opportunity.