Liberal Arts graduates have been fodder for MSM and student loan forgiveness advocates because of stories showcasing them working in retail and restaurant hourly jobs, stuck with enormous educational debt, and no way out.
Those stories suggest that for every John Pepper success there may be 100 minimum wage workers with BA diplomas. If true, then something should be done to better prepare liberal arts students for post-graduation.
Start with high school guidance and career counseling. Many high school students do not have a clear picture of what they want to do later in life. There are stories from those students of counselors and family telling them to just get into college and figure it out later.
The push to attend a four-year college over other options can defy common sense. This approach worked when tuition and living expenses were low, and high school college prep was more robust. Starting out in remedial courses, changing majors, and taking another year or two could be managed.
Today that time can cost you an extra $10,000-$20,000. Dropping out because of debt or frustration compounds the problem, leading to a minimum wage job with a lot of debt.
Should students get a more realistic assessment of their ability to immediately do college-level work? Should more complete career counseling on their options and aptitude for majors be done? Are blended degree programs with liberal arts, business, and other employment-oriented programs practical?
Should universities have put two and two together early on? Is it a straight line from business schools’ success to opportunities for liberal arts students decreasing? If we had imagined that relationship a generation earlier, what changes in our education process could have been made that benefit both needs?
Universities working with industry leaders to define desirable, employable traits and skillsets can go a long way to defending liberal arts programs. In the end, if companies do not employ liberal arts students in professional positions, then liberal arts departments will continue to be marginalized.