Today, we dig back into our vault of content to bring you a blog that our Executive Director John Lowry wrote about Liberal Arts Universities preparing students. We hope you will enjoy this post from last year! Check back for new blog posts later this month!
Liberal arts universities prepare students for bright future
Who cares what Socrates thought? Or about how our country was founded? Or how to interpret one of Michelangelo’s masterpieces?
Businesses. That’s who. They care because employees who are familiar with those and many other subjects are among the most productive.
And, employees. They should care because by possessing a spectrum of knowledge and problem-solving skills they will likely be more successful during their careers.
So, how does one acquire this sage knowledge? Through a liberal arts education.
As higher education rightly embraces innovation and diversifies its offerings, one fact remains. A liberal arts education still has tremendous value to students and employers and will continue to be the best model of higher education for many.
But is it still affordable and accessible? Yes.
Contrary to the notion that these universities are no longer an attractive option for low income or middle class students, 90 percent of students attending Tennessee’s liberal arts institutions receive some form of financial aid, with the majority in the form of institutional merit scholarships or grants. Over one-third receives the federal Pell Grant, made available only for low-income families. In fact, Christian Brothers University in Memphis, has made a strategic commitment to reach out to low-income students as nearly 70 percent of its student body receive the PELL grant.
While many new higher education models are proving successful, a liberal arts education may appear to be old fashioned or out-of-date. Many business leaders disagree.
A recent poll by the Association of American Colleges and Universities shows that of 318 CEOs and nonprofit group leaders surveyed, an overwhelming majority would recommend a “21st century liberal education” to someone they know. Nearly 80 percent of those employers who participated said broad knowledge in liberal arts and sciences was important, regardless of what a graduate chose as his college major.
A recent Northeastern University survey found that 73 percent of business leaders said that it is more important for job candidates to be well rounded with a range of abilities than to have industry expertise because “job-specific skills can be learned at work.”
Why? Because a liberal arts education equips future employees with the ability to engage in thoughtful, meaningful and engaged dialogue. It also offers soft skills such as the opportunity to work in teams and to hone oral, interpersonal and written communication skills.
These are valuable skills for anyone who wants to interact successfully with fellow employees and clients in the workplace and for making crucial business decisions. It also makes for a better intellectually rounded employee who is viable in this rapidly changing world even when his technical and practical skills become obsolete.
Critical thinking and problem solving skills never go out of style. It’s like the old adage: “Give a man a fish, he eats for a day. If you teach a man how to fish, he eats for a lifetime.”
According to a recent study by Georgetown University’s Center on Education and the Workforce, unemployment is among the lowest in the country for those with liberal arts degrees. A liberal arts education helps individuals easily segue into a variety of careers. And, that’s a good thing considering data from a recent Bureau of Labor Statistics study that found that the number of jobs that people born in the years 1957 to 1964 held form age 18 to age 46 that indicates this group held an average of 11.3 jobs during this time period.
A report from the Social Science Research Council shows students with skills typically taught in these programs tend to be more successful after graduation. Mid-career liberal arts degree holders earn more money on average than their counterparts who have career-focused degrees.
Hardware engineer Vivek Ranadivé , who has degrees from some of the top universities in the nation in engineering and business, recently wrote in Forbes that he believes “a liberal arts degree is more of an asset than learning any trade” because skills may become obsolete over time. He believes that “if you teach people how to think and look at lots of information and connect dots — all skills that a classic liberal education give you — you will thrive.”
These institutions also have an impact on the state’s economy. According to a study by the Tennessee Independent Colleges and Universities Association, liberal arts universities in Tennessee have an $8.1 billion annual economic impact on the state. These more than 30 institutions across the state employ more than 30,000 faculty and staff, and their external activities sustain an additional 301,000 jobs in local communities. More than 77,750 students attend these colleges and universities, which award a third of the college degrees in Tennessee.
Today, many of Tennessee’s future business leaders are acquiring knowledge, debating ideas and sharpening their professional skills in the classroom of a liberal arts institution. According to the data, there is perhaps no better place for them to be. Our future depends on it.
—John Lowry is executive director of Spark, Lipscomb University’s Idea Center, where he helps businesses and organizations strategically plan for the future.