My Monday through Friday life is a world filled with software engineers & developers. When the topic of a Liberal Arts education ever comes up in a conversation, it is not rare to hear a snicker or see some eyes roll. Before we get started though, let me tell you I'm going to do my best to take a neutral position on this topic seeing as I have a degree in Liberal Arts. It wouldn't be fair for me to tell you how well its worked out for me, or how there isn't one day that goes by that I regret my decision, or that I've ever had trouble finding a job that I enjoyed. Oops... I tried.
Why is it that so many students, and even parents give Liberal Arts the cold shoulder when it comes time to hone in on a career or occupation? Many institutions require students to take a small percentage of liberal arts courses throughout their time at college. Even a few of these courses over a four year period is enough to draw some whining, and questions like "why do I have to take these courses, they have NOTHING to do with my major!"
There is no denying that liberal arts colleges have suffered periodic valleys in enrollment during times of economic stress. But I don't believe economical issues are what is at the heart of the issue. All colleges see fluctuating enrollment when times get tough.
You see, I believe the answer to uncovering why students are shying away from Liberal Arts comes only when you evaluate the situation from a generational standpoint. Remember the days when people would go to college to find out what they wanted to do when they grew up? I do! College used to be about exploration, finding out what really gets your wheels turning, and trying new things. I personally spent my entire first year taking a variety of classes I thought sounded interesting. This is how I discovered what I wanted to do. There is so much pressure on kids these days to have everything figured out before committing to an institution. More than ever, parents are putting a higher value on seeking out where they'll get the best Return On Investment. They are being driven to selecting a profession before they event set foot in the building.
On the flip side, there is nothing wrong with knowing what you want to do before you select a college or university. Many young adults dream of being a doctor, an architect, or an engineer. But what these students also need to realize is quite simple. Combining these fields with a sprinkle of Liberal Arts courses is only going to make you more well-rounded and more marketable to companies. And that my friend, has EVERYTHING to do with your major.
An article on Huffingtonpost.com states: A study by the Association of American Colleges and Universities (AAC&U) released earlier this year compared earnings trajectories for graduates who majored in the humanities, arts, and social sciences with those whose undergraduate majors were in science and mathematics, engineering, or professional and pre-professional fields like business and education.
What do you think the results were? You probably could have guessed...
While the median earnings of engineering graduates are consistently higher than all the rest, by their peak earnings years those whose undergraduate major was in the humanities or social sciences actually earn, on average, $2,000 more than those who majored in professional or pre-professional fields.
Parents, there is your Return On Investment! 1/3 of all the CEO's in Fortune 500 companies graduated with a Liberal Arts Degree.
We recently had the privilege to team up with the RIT College of Liberal Arts, and the marketing firm RISING to help tackle this issue head on! RIT is looking to its brand & the future, to more fully fulfill its true promise to it’s constituents and build a brand that genuinely promotes and delivers a personal transformative experience.
As a team we determined that what was needed was an engaging, informative (dare we say “fun”) technology driven solution, in the space that the primary demographic has lived in since the day they were born. Digital. With the university trying to determine how best to do that in the most personal, individual way they can, we decided to move away from traditional print medium and proposed an interactive website.
But what we are putting into the hands of students is much more than a website. It is a personal GPS that will act as a guide through their own unique journey through college. This is a tool that promotes a unique discovery and exploration about Liberal Arts value, towards the betterment of you. But most importantly, the tool will paint a clear picture that Liberal Arts, whether big or small will translate to a brighter future for any student. In addition to those seeking a liberal arts degrees, the tool allows ALL students to explore liberal arts fields and courses that will complement their degree interests. We fully believe that this is going to transform the discussion around Liberal Arts and ultimately drive what we need to reinforce in every human. Never stop exploring.