Richard A. Detweiler recently told a group of presidents convened by the Council of Independent Colleges that liberal arts education tends to align with the postgraduate happiness, earning potential and career mobility of successful degree earners.
According to Inside Higher Ed, Detweiler’s survey of more than 1,000 college graduates from a mix of liberal arts and professional schools suggested students who spoke frequently with professors about non-academic topics, discussed philosophical and current affairs issues in class, and who reported personal relationships with instructors were more likely to contribute to society through philanthropy and volunteerism, and 31-72% more likely to earn $100,000 or more annually.
Detweiler’s argument is that training students to live better naturally equips them to become more productive as employees and to make more money through increased career opportunities than those trained in non-liberal arts settings.
There is no question that liberal arts education prepares graduates to think creatively, to communicate more comprehensively and to visualize ideas in a productive way. But for many college leaders, the question lies in how to help graduates realize comprehensive career opportunities in fine and liberal arts when most grant and public funding for education follows S.T.E.M fields and industries.
Ultimately, it is up to college leaders to broker conversations with industry about how they can partner to meet workforce needs within career paths that start on front lines and lower-management but end with positions in executive leadership, thanks to adequate liberal arts training. All fields, including STEM disciplines, require people who can communicate, understand and innovate; and those processes are best developed in curricula which encourages appreciation for diversity, artistry and philosophy.