The Humanist Vocation

David Brooks in the New York Times examines the role humanities have played in our society and the cause of its recent decline.

Is College a Total Ripoff? Four Experts Try to Defend Higher Education

A panel, including Zachary First, managing director of the Drucker Institute, William Zumeta, professor in the Evans School of Public Affairs and College of Education at the University of Washington, Katie Bardaro, the lead economist at PayScale, and Mark Schneider of the American Institutes for Research, debate the value of higher education.

Rethinking Career Services in Times of Employment Uncertainty

Sheila Curran provides advice for Career Office directors to “lead from below” based on insights from the Rethinking Success Conference.

Why Liberal Arts Matter

Michael Roth, president of Wesleyan University, explores “Why Liberal Arts Matter.” Rather than pit the sciences versus the arts and humanities, Roth argues, “a pragmatic, broadly based education that encourages bold inquiry and regular self-reflection recognizes the increasingly porous borders among disciplines and departments.”

In Tough Times, the Humanities Must Justify Their Worth

Patricia Cohen, writing for the New York Times, explores the idea that in tough economic times such as these, the humanities must justify their worth to administrators, policy makers, students and their parents. Are the humanities becoming, as they once were, a luxury afforded only to the wealthy?

The Winner: A Liberal Education

Sean Decatur, dean of Arts and Sciences and professor of chemistry and biochemistry at Oberlin College, and member of the board of trustees of the Association of American Colleges and Universities, reflects on the findings of the book Academically Adrift, which indicates that students who take traditional liberal arts and science courses fare better in terms of the increase in skills measured by the Collegiate Learning Assessment than students who take undergraduate course in more pre-professional fields.

An Education Debate for the Books

Using the experience of St. John’s College and its Great Books curriculum as an exemplar, the Washington Post looks at the impact of the economic downturn on admissions to private liberal arts schools. Applications at St. John’s were down to 400 from 460.

The Humanities Are More Important

In this op-ed piece Matthew Pratt Guterl, the Rudy Professor of American Studies and History, and chair of American Studies, at Indiana University at Bloomington, questions, “Is it time to kill the liberal arts degree? Is it right to ponder the rhythms of Shakespeare, or fritter away a semester thinking about the tones of El Greco, when the information superhighway needs further construction?” Guterl argues that we need the humanities now more than ever, and for one simple reason: it is what we do best in this country.

Finished College. Now What?

In this article in the Chronicle of Higher Education, columnist Kathryn Masterson outlines Wake Forest University’s strategic decision to re-imagine its career development program for all undergraduate students. According to Vice President of Personal and Career Development Andy Chan, universities need to expose students to career paths that align with their personal beliefs and interests earlier on in their collegiate experience.

Is It Time to Kill the Liberal Arts Degree?

Kim Brooks, a graduate of the University of Virginia, questions “Why do even the best colleges fail so often at preparing kids for the world?” Brooks uses her own experience post-graduation (and that of several of her friends) to explore whether and how we are preparing students for employment post-college and to wonder if there might be a better model.

Looking Beyond a Paycheck

In this guest column for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Wake Forest University President Nathan Hatch writes that recent graduates who once felt invincible are now questioning whether the time and effort they’ve put into their careers will produce the returns they expected. He asks, “have universities prepared graduates for the soul-searching that follows failure?”

The Liberal Arts Are Work- Force Development

This piece from the Chronicle of Higher Education argues that 2-year colleges are among the country’s leading providers of liberal arts education. About half of all freshmen and sophomores are enrolled at the nation’s 1,300 two-year colleges, and many of those students transfer to four-year institutions. A large percentage of community-college students enter the work force after earning two-year degrees or certificates. As such, these institutions not only provide the liberal arts foundation to many students at four-year schools, they are also leading engines of workforce development.

Making College Relevant

The New York Times examines recent moves by several institutions to make their core curriculum more “relevant,” eliminating some subjects and adding emphasis to others. At the same time, these same institutions are lamenting the drive to specialize in a certain field too early. The article also cites a recent study by the AAC&U that found that employers are also wary of these trends, wanting instead for colleges and universities to focus on developing students’ abilities to communicate, think critically, and innovate.

Renewing the Wellsprings of Responsibility

In his Keynote Address at the Vocation in Undergaduate Education Conference, President Hatch discusses the importance of vocational discernment: enabling students to find the deeper meaning in what they plan to do. He argues that students today need more fundamental advice about choosing a profession. Students should be asking: “What are my gifts and talents and my passions and commitments? How do they square with a full spectrum of professional opportunities?”

Live and Learn

Writing in The New Yorker, Louis Menand explores the question of the purpose and value of a college education. Examining the history of higher education in the 20th century, Menand proposes three theories: selection, inclusion, or vocational credentialing. No matter which theory you subscribe to, the system of higher education may only appear to be working; are students actually learning anything in the process?

The Broccoli of Higher Ed

Daniel Everett, writing in Inside Higher Ed, argues that, rather than being in crisis, the humanities can be seen as having a chronic illness. So far, Everett notes, the response to this situation has been rather like parents telling their kids to eat broccoli because “it’s good for you”: a valid argument, but not one that is likely to sway a lot of opinions.

Bringing Career Planning into Liberal Arts Classrooms

Wake Forest President Nathan Hatch argues that colleges are not doing enough to prepare students for an anxiety-inducing job market. Hatch asserts that as a result, there is increasing skepticism about the true value of college. The debate over higher education, however, is about far more than the return-on-investment for a degree.

Are Elite Colleges Worth It?

Author Pamela Haag, herself a graduate of Swarthmore, explores the question of “Are Elite Colleges Worth It?” in this recent essay in The Chronicle Review. Is the social and cultural capital one might receive worth the hefty tuition cost, not to mention the stress induced by the selective application process? And, are those benefits more than what one might receive from a “less elite” institution?

First Lady Backs Liberal Arts

First Lady Michelle Obama extols the virtues of a liberal arts education while speaking at a mentoring event at Georgetown University.         

Close the Gap Between the Liberal Arts and Career Services

Katharine Brooks, director of liberal-arts career services at the University of Texas at Austin, challenges colleges and universities to bridge the gap between the liberal arts classroom and career related resources.

Why Science Majors Change Their Minds

This article from the New York Times speaks to why strong high school science students are not majoring in science in college and/or not choosing science-related careers. Author Christopher Drew provides data and experiences that reinforce the message that colleges and universities need to re-think the ultimate objectives of a college education and take account of the actual decisions that students are making based on their experiences, perceptions and range of choices.

The Dwindling Power of a College Degree

Author Adam Davidson asserts that one of the greatest changes in American history is that a college degree is no longer the guarantor of a middle-class existence. Until the early 1970s, less than 11 percent of the adult population graduated from college, and most of them could get a decent job. Today nearly a third have college degrees, and a higher percentage of them graduated from nonelite schools.  Davidson argues that a bachelor’s degree on its own no longer conveys intelligence and capability, although it is still a prerequisite for a decent salary.

Rick Scott Wants to Shift University Funding Away from Some Degrees

The Herald Tribune explores Rick Scott’s latest changes to his legislative agenda: shifting funding to degrees that have the best job prospects, weeding out unproductive professors and rethinking the system that offers faculty job security.

In Defense of a Liberal Education

Washington Post education reporter Daniel deVise introduces guest columnist Christopher Nelson, president of St. John’s College. Mr. Nelson argues that the best preparation for the workforce of tomorrow, for the jobs that have yet to be created, is a liberal education. He cites a national survey from the Annapolis Group, a consortium of 130 independent liberal arts colleges. The survey found that 60 percent of liberal arts college graduates said they felt “better prepared” for life after college than students who attended other colleges, compared to 34 percent who attended public flagship universities.

Peter Thiel: We’re in a Bubble and It’s Not the Internet. It’s Higher Education.

Reporter Sarah Lacey recounts PayPal founder Peter Thiel’s assertion that the housing bubble has been taken over by the higher education bubble. Like the housing bubble, the education bubble is about security and insurance against the future. Thiel argues that it is  fundamentally wrong for a society to pin people’s best hope for a better life on  something that is by definition exclusionary. Thiel’s solution lies in creating alternative paths for college graduates, including his “20 Under 20″ program in which Thiel will pick twenty of the brightest students he can find and pay them $100,000 over two years to leave school and start a company instead.

A Liberal Education: Preparation for Career Success

Former Proctor and Gamble Chairman A.G Lafley argues that a liberal arts education is the best foundation for a successful career. As a former CEO with thirty years of management experience at a Fortune 50 firm, Lafley asserts that the candidates who were the most attractive manager prospects were those with a well-exercised mind, leadership potential, and the passion to make a difference. While he acknowledges that these success factors can be cultivated in many ways, he states that all of the following are best developed by taking courses in the liberal arts and sciences. Lafley’s formula for businesses trying to compete in today’s economy is simple: hire employees with the mental agility, leadership and passion to navigate constant change — in other words, hire those who are liberally educated.

Promoting Liberal Arts Education

Fletcher Kittridge, founder and CEO of telecommunications company GWI Inc. states, “The liberal arts education was designed as an American invention to educate the leaders of the world.” A graduate of Colby College, he currently supports the efforts of the University of Maine at Farmington.

Can the Liberal Arts and Entrepreneurship Work Together?

Assistant professor of sociology at Babson College, Mary Godwin, explores the question, “Can the liberal arts and entrepreneurship work together?” She looks at the Entrepreneurship and Liberal Arts program at Wake Forest University.

Change is Good

Thomas C. Galligan, Jr., President of Colby-Sawyer College, discusses his career move from legal education to President of a liberal arts college: “I’ve always thought a great legal education should be the culmination of a great liberal arts education.”

In Defense of a Liberal Arts Education

Jill Tiefenthaler, President of Colorado College, responds to Florida’s Gov. Rick Scott’s statement regarding the need for college degrees that lead directly to jobs. Tiefenthaler addresses the value of a liberal arts education.

7 Major Misperceptions About the Liberal Arts

Goucher College president Sanford J. Ungar addresses seven mis-perceptions regarding liberal-arts education including topics such as the perception of a liberal-arts education as a luxury affordable only for the elite. He also discusses the desires of employers to hire people with liberal arts backgrounds.

How Art History Majors Power the US Economy

In the following article from Bloomberg, author Virginia Postrel poses several key arguments defending the importance of the liberal arts degree, not limited to: the diversity and dynamism of the economy, vocational overflow, overall lack of job security, and the value of learning to learn.

Liberal arts education lends an edge in down economy

USA Today columnist Mary Beth Marklein shares the latest outcomes from a recent study on college graduates. The Social Science Research Council reports that  ”students who had mastered the ability to think critically, reason analytically and write effectively by their senior year were: three times less likely to be unemployed than those who hadn’t, half as likely to be living with their parents, and far less likely to have amassed credit card debt.”