What You Don't Know About Liberal Arts Colleges

Yesterday I wrote this post about liberal arts colleges:

Which is Better: A Liberal Arts College or a University?

At the time, I promised that I’d summarize a thoughtful op-ed piece that Sanford J. Ungar, the president of Goucher College, wrote for the special liberal arts report that ran in The Chronicle of Higher Education.  Unfortunately, only Chronicle subscribers can access the entire article.

I’m positive that more students would be clamoring to get into liberal arts colleges if students really understood what a liberal arts college is. Here are some of the misperceptions about liberal arts colleges that Ungar included in his essay:

A liberal arts degree is a luxury and “career education” is the only way to go.

No one could be against equipping oneself for a career. But the “career education” bandwagon seems to suggest that shortcuts are available to students that lead directly to high-paying jobs—leaving out “frills” like learning how to write and speak well, how to understand the nuances of literary texts and scientific concepts, how to collaborate with others on research.

Imparting these “frills” to students is what liberal arts colleges are all about.

It’s harder to find a job if you graduate with a liberal arts degree in an irrelevant major like French or philosophy.

Actually, that’s not true. A survey by the Association of American Colleges and Universities released a study in 2009 that found that 89% of surveyed employees said they want college students to pursue a liberal arts education.

It’s liberal Democrats that got us into our current political mess so it’s ridiculous to continue to indoctrinate college students with a liberal education.

Folks, liberal arts have nothing to do with politics.

“The liberal arts promotes the idea of listening to all points of view and not relying on a single ideology, and examining all approaches to solving a problem rather than assuming one technique or perspective has all the answers ….It may be only liberal education that can help lead the way to comity and respectful conversation about issues before us.”

One should not only study the arts. STEM majors  – science, technology, engineering and math – are what’s hot.

Liberal arts colleges aren’t just about the “arts.” A liberal arts education also includes the sciences and math.  There is no evidence, Ungar observes, to suggest that success in the sciences and technology will be greater if it comes at the expensive of a broad background in other liberal arts subjects.

Lynn O’Shaughnessy is the author of The College Solution and she also writes a college blog for CBSMoneyWatch. Follow me on Twitter.

Further Reading:

Five Reasons To Attend a Liberal Arts College

The Beauty of Liberal Arts Colleges

Why College Graduation Rates Are a Disgrace

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2 Responses to What You Don't Know About Liberal Arts Colleges

  1. David March 3, 2010 at 8:22 pm #

    I am a liberal arts major at a state university. I am glad I did it but at the same time I am so glad I didn’t end up going to one of the liberal arts colleges I was thinking about as a high school senior. Coming from a middle class family I would have had to take out over 100,000 dollars in loans to do so. As amazing as it may be to study the liberal arts I am just not sure that it is worth that kind of money. I think if you really want to and are really motivated that you could learn things like writing and speaking well in ways that aren’t going to put you and your family in serious debt for years to come.

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