Value of a Liberal-Arts Education Spurs Major Debate

Tim Goral's picture

The rising cost of college has rekindled the debate about the value of a liberal-arts education, with governors in three states pooh-poohing such degrees as history, literature and philosophy.

But several central Ohio college officials say a liberal-arts education has never been more important as employers complain that graduates lack communication, critical-thinking and problem-solving skills.

“The problems of the 21st century — 9/11, the global economic meltdown, terrorism in Boston are complex and don’t come in neat little boxes,” said Victoria McGillin, the provost of Otterbein University, a private liberal-arts college in Westerville.

She said all Otterbein students take classes in the arts, literature, natural and social sciences and religion and philosophy so they are well-rounded. Otterbein also gives students real-world experience, McGillin said. They are encouraged to do volunteer work and undergraduate research, travel abroad and seek internships and other job experiences. Some courses require students to serve in the community.

The debate about liberal arts heated up in February when North Carolina Gov. Patrick McCrory questioned whether taxpayers should underwrite programs that he said were created by an “ educational elite” but don’t lead to employment.

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