Magazine article University Business

The Liberal Arts Fight Back

Magazine article University Business

The Liberal Arts Fight Back

Article excerpt

PARENTS OF HIGH SCHOOL STUDENTS ARE WORRIED. VERY WORRIED. They look at the sticker price of higher education and they want Junior to major in a discipline that will give him a better chance of landing a job--a well-paying job. Basically, they want their investment to pay off.

I hear it all the time from friends and neighbors. I see the frown on the parent's face when he says his son is majoring in "liberal arts." What he would rather say is that his son is majoring in accounting, computer science, engineering, or some discipline that he feels is a jump-start to a well-paying, and hopefully, stable career. It's not that parents have anything against a liberal arts education (I think). They know the value of a broad-based education, it's just that they believe that the job market is tough going for fresh-faced generalists, or those who aren't prepped to step right into a profession.

When my son was touring prospective colleges, I distinctly recall a couple of liberal arts schools constantly touting theft alumni network as a means to help students find a job after graduation. The speakers knew that many parents score their son or daughter's choice of a college/major as a bottom-line decision relative to landing a good paycheck. Playing the job card is a smart move from the college's marketing point of view, I thought.

So I read with interest a recent announcement from the Association of American Colleges and Universities (AAC&U) heralding a new campaign, "Liberal Education and America's Promise (LEAP): Excellence for Everyone as a Nation Goes to College."

The initiative is designed to "champion the value of an engaged liberal education--for individual students and for a nation dependent on economic creativity and democratic vitality."

Billed as a decade-long campaign, the AAG&U said the focus is to "expand public and student understanding of what really matters in college--the kinds of teaming that will truly empower individuals to succeed and make a difference in the 21st century."

AAC&U Board Chair Ronald Crutcher, president of Wheaton College (Mass.), says the LEAP campaign was spurred by previous studies and discussions that found a disconnect among the business community, IHEs, students and parents over the meaning--and value--of a liberal arts education. …

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