Liberal Arts Graduates are Civic-Minded and Economically Secure Leaders

laThis is according to a recent study comparing liberal arts college graduates with those who graduated from other kinds of colleges and universities.  Here is a taste of Scot Jaschik’s piece at Insider Higher Ed:

What Detweiler found was that graduates who reported key college experiences associated with liberal arts colleges had greater odds of measures of life success associated with the goals of liberal arts colleges. Here are some of the findings:

  • Graduates who reported that in college they talked with faculty members about nonacademic and academic subjects outside class were 25 to 45 percent more likely (depending on other factors) to have become leaders in their localities or professions. Those who reported discussions on issues such as peace, justice and human rights with fellow students outside class were 27 to 52 percent more likely to become leaders.
  • Graduates who reported that students took a large role in class discussions were 27 to 38 percent more likely to report characteristics of lifelong learners than others were. Students who reported most of their classwork was professionally oriented were less likely to become lifelong learners.
  • Graduates who reported that as students they discussed philosophical or ethical issues in many classes, and who took many classes in the humanities, were 25 to 60 percent more likely than others to have characteristics of altruists (volunteer involvement, giving to nonprofit groups, etc.).
  • Graduates who reported that as students most professors knew their first names, and that they talked regularly with faculty members about academic subjects outside class, were 32 to 90 percent more likely to report that they felt personally fulfilled in their lives. Those who reported that professors encouraged them to examine the strengths and weaknesses of one’s views, and whose course work emphasized questions on which there is not necessarily a correct answer, were 25 to 40 percent more likely to report that they felt personally fulfilled.

But What About Money?

Detweiler saved for last the characteristic that gets so much attention these days, and that liberal arts college leaders fear hurts them: money. He noted that his research does back the common belief that liberal arts graduates earn less than others, but only for the first few years after graduation.

He said that his study shows a high relationship between a broad undergraduate education and financial success. Those who take more than half of their course work in subjects unrelated to their majors (a characteristics of liberal arts colleges but not professionally oriented colleges) are 31 to 72 percent more likely than others to have higher-level positions and to be earning more than $100,000 than are others.

Detweiler said that his study not only suggests that the liberal arts college experience prepares students for a life well lived, but for a life of financial success.

Read the entire piece here.

One thought on “Liberal Arts Graduates are Civic-Minded and Economically Secure Leaders

  1. My first thought was that much of what is attributed to “liberal arts” colleges may just as well be attributed simply to attending a smaller college rather than Ginormous St.

    Then there is the chicken-and-egg equation of self-selection: I would think smaller colleges are more selective than the ginormous ones, meaning they start with the more gifted, and perhaps the more affluent–and as one commenter at the original article put it,

    I would hope he controlled for family income which might confound the link between success and liberal arts. Upscale parents bestow all kinds of advantages to their offspring and attendance at a liberal arts college is arguable coincidental. Do those who choose liberal arts do better, or do those who are destined to do better choose liberal arts?

    I would add a third question, are the liberal arts are for everybody? Back when only 10% of the population went to college, I can see where that Talented Tenth would be a great fit for–and I didn’t know this–the “distinctly American” institution of the liberal arts college

    but now that universal higher education has become a goal if not a moral objective, I wonder if the Lesser-Talented Ninety Percent will get as much out of it as the Talented Tenth. As Meryl Streep so sagely noted, they don’t dig the arts a tenth as much as their football and MMA.

    As for the [in]famous Marco Rubio quote that we need more welders and fewer philosophers, I would clarify that to say that a course or even a degree in philosophy doesn’t make one a philosopher, any more than a degree in history makes one a critical thinker.


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