Liberal arts education is a good choice for students, says professor

May 25, 2024, 8:00 AM

Photo courtesy of Getty Images...

Photo courtesy of Getty Images

SALT LAKE CITY — Fewer college graduates are majoring in English, history, philosophy, literature or foreign languages. Historically, these areas of study are what define a liberal education. 

The Hechinger Report noted that only 4% of college graduates in 2020 had majored in liberal education studies. They also reported those numbers had fallen for the previous eight years.

There seems to be a disconnect between the decisions made by students and the desires of employers. A 2023 report from the American Association of Colleges and Universities found that 80% of employers want students to study the liberal arts and sciences.

Employers have reported that some graduates are missing certain skills including problem-solving (which includes critical thinking, innovation, and creativity), the ability to deal with complexity and ambiguity, and communications.

Why this disconnect, when the skills gained from an education in the liberal arts consistently rank among the most in-demand skills for the future? 

Making the case for liberal arts

Recently, the host of Inside Sources, Boyd Matheson, spoke with Ezekiel Emanuel of the University of Pennsylvania, who argues a liberal arts education today is worth pursuing.


An excerpt of the Inside Sources interview follows. It has been edited for brevity. 

BOYD MATHESON: Dr. Ezekiel Emanuel is a professor and vice provost for global initiatives at the University of Pennsylvania. he’s published a piece in the New York Times talking about higher education.

EMANUEL: Thank you for having me. I really appreciate it.

MATHESON: I think this is where the conversation has to begin if we’re going to get the kind of changes and results that we really want and need out of higher education.

College campuses have been in the news a lot of late. Not about things like great ideas and big thinking, but a lot of the other culture war kinds of things. But give us the baseline in terms of where we are.

EMANUEL: For 150 years, higher education has been really admired and frankly critical to American democracy. I would say within the last 10 or 15 years, there’s been criticism of higher education for a lot of reasons.

The right says it’s too woke and that it’s too invested in DEI (diversity, equity, inclusion). Speaking in the right way is more important than what students learn.

From the left, they criticize the perception that higher education perpetuates patriarchy, white supremacy and other ideas. These are the culture-war issues.

There’s also the sense of you’re charging $80,000 dollars. You’re excluding people who need to go there and afford it, simultaneously. We have this undercurrent of — everyone wants their kid into an Ivy League school.

(The entire podcast can be heard above or by visiting the KSL NewsRadio podcast page.)

Inside Sources is heard weekdays from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. on KSL NewsRadio. Users can find the show on the KSL NewsRadio website and app, as well as Apple Podcasts and Google Play.

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Liberal arts education is a good choice for students, says professor