Students Are Fleeing Liberal Arts - How It Could Hurt the U.S.

Ann McClure's picture

If there’s one thing liberal arts colleges offer, it’s critical thinking. That might be why this spring Occidental College is offering a course called Liberal Arts at the Brink? Navigating the Crisis in Higher Education. The course examines whether college liberal arts curricula like its own can survive in a time of high unemployment and rising student debt.

It’s a question many experts are asking – and some worry about the consequences. The number of liberal arts colleges nationwide has dropped from 212 in 1990 to only 130 today, according to a study this summer in the journal Liberal Education. The National Center for Education Statistics says the share of students matriculating with a liberal arts degree, as a percentage of all graduates, dropped slightly from 2004 to 2010 from 3 to 2.8 percent.

Meanwhile, students are flocking to more technical professions that they think offer immediate employment after graduation. The NCES data show that graduates in the health professions, homeland security, law enforcement, and parks management, for example, all have gained as a share of the total.

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