Are the liberal arts and advanced degrees for advanced degrees’ sake (read JDs) soon to be a thing of the past?
Probably not. But one recent study and a report on funding cuts for the college of liberal arts at the University of Minnesota has started the conversation.
To start with, I am an unapologetic supporter of a liberal arts-based education, perhaps simply because that was my strength in school. I would much rather read a book, discuss it in class and then write a paper than spend time in a computer lab writing code. We all have strengths and weaknesses.
First the study.
Georgetown University just published a report on higher education where the authors argue colleges aren’t doing enough to prepare graduates to find a job. More students are going to college and graduating than ever before, which is good, but the degrees the students received don’t make them employable, which is bad. As for advanced degrees, the report says that in the next decade fewer and fewer jobs will require one. The U.S. is becoming over-educated in scholarship areas that don’t translate to jobs, a finding that surprises no one who graduated from law school in the last few years. To summarize the study: The U.S. has plenty of smart, talented young people, but they aren’t educated in the right areas.
And now for the liberal arts. Casey Selix, a MinnPost blogger and freelance contributor to Minnesota Lawyer, had this item yesterday:
The U’s College of Liberal Arts, the largest at the Twin Cities campus, is expected to lose 52 faculty members — about 10 percent of its tenured and tenure-track faculty. The college also will eliminate 145 class sections, according to a rundown in the Star Tribune.
I’m not the first one to point out that a degree in philosophy, my minor in college, or the humanities, my original major, prepares students to not do much more than graduate school, i.e. law school. Selix wonders if liberal arts are paying more than their fair share to help balance the school’s budget. I wonder if the targeting funding cuts represents a shift in higher education to match graduates with growing fields of employment.
Or as the folks at Georgetown conclude,
“This doesn’t mean that community colleges or state universities should eliminate the liberal arts, [the study’s author] said, but that they should counsel students to pick programs based on careers, track the success of various curriculums in preparing students for jobs, and adjust programs to assure that they are focused on jobs.
“It’s all about alignment,” [the author] said.
The authors argued for a dual system of higher education in which some students would attend a traditional college rooted in the liberal arts and the majority would attend college on a job skills track.
If that was the case, would we need nearly 200 accredited law schools?