Why Liberal Education Matters | Higher Ed Gamma – Inside Higher Ed

by | Oct 23, 2022 | Education

Start spreading the news.  As Georgetown’s Center for Education and the Workforce says: “Majoring in business pays off. In most programs, business students’ median annual earnings two years after graduation are roughly 10 times their monthly debt payments.”Wait a second.  My undergraduates already know that.
Or to take some other examples of high ROI fields: “Those with a bachelor’s degree in #architecture and #engineering have median lifetime earnings of $3.8 million, well above the median of $3.2 million for all master’s degree holders.”
No longer does the “simple advice to high schoolers to ‘go to college’” suffice.  What one studies and where one studies matter greatly in terms of return on investment.  Which degrees earn the most?  No surprise: computers, math, healthcare practice, architecture, engineering, and business.
Which leaves the liberal arts, and especially the humanities, where?
If, for most students, the primary measure of an undergraduate degree is return on investment, shouldn’t our institutions double down on those high demand, high return fields and let the liberal arts shrink to an appropriate size?
I don’t think so.  
The most distinctive feature of American higher education is the value it places on liberal education.  Nor is this simply a legacy of a more elitist education in the past.  Even as American colleges and universities broadened their curriculum during the 19th century, and embraced electives toward the end of that era, these institutions gradually and unevenly adopted gen ed requirements to ensure that all undergraduates achieved the rudiments of a liberal education.  
Why did they do that?  To ensure that all students acquired transferable soft skills?  In part.  To cultivate culturally literate graduates? …

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