CBO - Fall 2017

Let Freedom Ring!

liberal arts college is a college with an emphasis on undergraduate study in the liberal arts and sciences. A liberal arts college aims to impart a broad general knowledge and develop general intellectual capacities, in contrast to a professional, vocational, or technical curriculum.

Liberal arts colleges offer four-year degrees that are humanities based; art, literature, sociology, philosophy and history are a few examples of such programs.

Operating both as public and private colleges, the differences are obvious. Private colleges are typically funded through private endowments and alumni and therefore, rely heavily on tuition. For this reason, they are more expensive to attend than their public counterparts. The public colleges are funded by both the state and federal governments and will offer discounted tuition to in-state students. But as the government funding tends to be lower than what is required, additional operating costs still must be covered from tuition and student fees. In such situations, faculty will have higher teaching loads; the student/faculty ratio is higher as are the class sizes.

There are many unique qualities that distinguish a liberal arts college from a university of community college, and they are generally characterized by several of the specific traits.

The focus is on undergraduate studies with very few, or no graduate students present. Professors dedicate their attention to the smaller, more intimate class sizes with an average class size of 20 or less. Unlike a large university – where the priority for professor evaluation lies in their research or publishing ability – while still required for tenure, professors at a liberal arts college make teaching the top priority. 

You’d be hard pressed to find a liberal arts college with a student population exceeding 5,000 students. In fact, truth be told the enrolment for most range between 1000 – 2500 students. Most of these students will live at the college and attend full time. Due to the smaller size and lesser student population, the environment is much more intimate and personal. This allows for more one on one interaction between fellow students and closer teaching sessions between students and professors.

A contrast from the Canadian post-secondary system, which allows students to apply to a declared field of study, because of the way they’re structured, the liberal arts model provides students with an opportunity to explore a variety of disciplines and programs prior to declaring a major. Students who are fortunate enough to enroll in and attend these institutions are generally awarded a four-year degree such as a Bachelor of Arts (B.A.) or Bachelor of Science (BSc).  From there, many will continue on to pursue a graduate program such as medicine, or law.

Exploring a variety of academic disciplines rather than simply focusing on courses that prepare them for a “specific” career can be a tremendous benefit. As employers consider qualified graduates as likely candidates, having developed a broad knowledge base with critical thinking skills and an understanding of diverse, ethical issues through undergrad studies can prove to be an asset giving them a hand-up at times over other candidates.  It’s often not only what students learn that’s valuable, but when combined with the higher order thinking and communication skills they’ve developed, is ultimately what leads them down the road to success.

Many will tell you, however, that those majoring in liberal arts most often struggle to find employment and many barely manage to eek out a living. There is recent trend and evidence that the unique skills learned through liberal arts education make these graduates much more likely candidates for positions within technology than those with STEM degrees.

Some educators will profess that marketing a liberal arts degree can be tricky and more challenging than other defined educational programs. But because of the learning process they’ve endured, individuals holding these degrees are prepared and able to navigate the job search path with finesse and often success. National research shows that while finding their “happy” place of employment may take a little longer, their retention rate is higher due to the broader skillset.

A liberal arts education isn’t for everyone. Some high school students will have determined their calling and may feel passionate about a career in economics let’s say. But most high school students don’t usually have the knowledge or experience to confidently profess what they’re lifelong career will be. Even as adults people change their profession and are successful each time because they’re able to transfer skills and adapt. This type of education offers the freedom and flexibility for an individual to find, develop and evolve into a career that fits them while they’re learning. Through this they become creative and methodical and develop enhanced problem-solving skills that open up a new way of thinking that will serve them in a variety of career-settings.

Admissions standards will vary greatly from schools that have open admissions to some of the most selective colleges in the country. Open admissions will allow any student with a high school diploma to enroll. And while this may sound appealing, it’s not often a recipe for success as many students are not academically prepared nor do they have the discipline required to achieve graduation from a four-year program. As a result, very few students graduate.

For a complete list, visit: https://www.usnews.com/best-colleges/rankings/national-liberal-arts-colleges/most-international

By Donna Billey

1 https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Liberal_arts_college
2 (Source: educationusacanada.ca)
3 https://www.usnews.com/education/best-colleges/slideshows/10-national-liberal-arts-colleges-with-the-most-international-students?slide=12

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