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LIBERAL ARTS


CHANGE LIVES


BY MARIA FURTADO


If you follow the conversations about higher education, you may notice a lot of talk about the liberal arts: Are they “good”? Are they “dead”? Do they have a place in the landscape of higher education, especially considering the high (and rising) cost of that education?


W


ell, as far as the mem- bers of Colleges That Change Lives (CTCL) are concerned, study- ing the liberal arts is


the best way to educate future leaders, innovators, entrepreneurs, teachers, doctors, artists, and lawyers. Why? A liberal arts education teaches young people how to think, communicate clearly, analyze data, work with oth- ers, and solve problems. These quali- ties are critical—and not just because they build a strong academic founda- tion. The liberal arts are practical and pragmatic too. When surveyed, employers consis- tently say the most important skills they need in employees are those de- veloped in a liberal arts education: the ability to communicate with people one-on-one, in small groups, and in large groups; the ability to write well for many different audiences, to per- suade and influence with words and ideas; the ability to work with others who have different perspectives; the


ability to creatively solve problems, integrate several perspectives, analyze data, and develop an action plan. These skills are the hallmarks of a liberal arts education, and they pre- pare students for the world in which they will live and work.


Think about the jobs of today that


didn’t exist 20, 10, or even just a few years ago (social media manager, content marketer, online entrepre- neur, etc.). By preparing for many careers through a liberal arts educa- tion, graduates position themselves to be fluid and effective leaders be- cause they’re good thinkers and strate- gists who can see the big picture as well as make definite plans to solve a problem or market an idea. But what if you’re interested in the sciences? Contrary to popular be- lief, a liberal arts college or univer- sity might be perfect for you too! The aforementioned skills are criti- cal in those fields as well; in fact, many employers in the “hard” sci- ences are often desperately searching


transfer.collegexpress.com n 2021 31


for candidates with the “soft” skills central in the liberal arts. And a lib- eral arts curriculum can be rich in science training. Applied Computing, Biochemistry, Behavioral Neurosci- ence, Environmental Geology, Finan- cial Economics, Mathematics, Phys- ics: you’ll find all these majors and more at liberal arts schools. When considering a liberal arts college or university, students and parents are often worried about the cost, and they wonder why this type of college is more expensive. It’s true there are often higher costs as- sociated with this type of educa- tion—liberal arts colleges are com- mitted to providing full-time faculty who will mentor and advise. They also pride themselves on small stu- dent-faculty ratios. This commitment to high-quality teaching and acces- sible, engaged faculty means the colleges must commit financial re- sources to their salaries and benefits. And, of course, liberal arts schools want to provide up-to-date, well- equipped, and fun campuses that meet students’ (and their parents’) expectations.


But these same schools also pro- duce graduates who do incredibly well out in the “real world,” with lifetime employment ratings and earnings that are just as good—if not better—than their peers who don’t hold liberal arts degrees. Many pri- vate universities provide financial aid packages that make their education just as affordable—if not more so— than their state-sponsored counter- parts, particularly for high-achieving students.


Furthermore, a student who can


use their skills to move from one in- dustry to another will find their ca- reer paths to be more flexible. They’ll be ready to follow new developments in technology. They’ll be prepared to become the decision makers and social change agents of the future. Consider the liberal arts for a life- time of opportunity.


Maria Furtado is the Executive Director of Colleges That Change Lives.


@CollegeXpress


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