The value of a liberal arts degree

Students graduating with a liberal arts degree are finding smaller niches.

At one point or another most University students have said or heard someone refer to a liberal arts degree as something like a “$40,000 piece of paper.” With the rising costs of tuition and the available opportunities after graduation, many are justified in this sentiment. However, as a society, the U.S. must reinvest in the notion of a liberal education.

According to the University, a liberal education is supposed to ensure a breadth of knowledge, provide the foundation for future professional growth, lifelong learning and the ability to think for oneself. The latter two are perhaps the most important facets of a liberal education. They give students the tools of analysis and examination so they can form their own opinions, values and beliefs. Furthermore, they allow students to question so-called “experts” and rhetorical jargon, which, in short, allows students to become productive and intelligent citizens. Is this not what serves any nation best?

Some would argue that the decreased value of a liberal arts degree and the simultaneous increase of people graduating with vocational degrees are due to the market, but why do markets matter to the average liberal arts graduate? Moreover, why is society placing less emphasis on the liberally educated citizen? It would seem that the U.S. has rekindled its love affair with self-interested behavior and ownership to the detriment of a well-rounded education.

Every student dreams of becoming successful in his or her own way, in controlling their own future and capitalizing on the opportunity the United States provides. Yet, if the nation continues to devalue a liberal arts degree, college graduates will find that their dreams will have to be deferred. Society must reinvest in the notion of a liberal arts degree; it should not remain simply a “piece of paper.”