The value of the liberal arts

Posted on December 9th, 2013

In an era of high college costs, it’s more important than ever to carefully consider your college major and future earnings before taking out thousands of dollars in student loans.

With the cost of college on the rise and increasing student debt, many people have started to question whether majoring in a liberal arts discipline–which tends to lead to lower-paying jobs than science and technical-based degrees–is worth it.

Are the liberal arts dead?

Some have even gone so far as to proclaim the liberal arts are on “life support.” Hechinger Report explored this topic in a recent article.

Justin Snider, an academic advising dean at Columbia University, argued that the arts and humanities are far from dead. Many students, he says, fall in love with these fields once they discover them in college.

After a semester or a year, students discover fields they never even knew existed—anthropology, sociology, linguistics, sustainable development—and a good number change course. They learn that success can take many shapes, not just in the form of initials (M.D., J.D. or M.B.A.) on their résumé.

I tell them that what matters most in college is not what they major in, but that they find something they love—something they can imagine doing for a lifetime.

Liberal arts

Liz Willen, the post’s author, emphasizes that colleges need to value these departments and offer scholarships for these students as well, instead of just focusing on students in the STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) majors.

Colleges must not just be on the defensive…they must do a better job of reducing costs and offering aid to those who want to study the humanities, in addition to those who most need it.

Choosing a college major responsibly

When choosing a college or major, it’s important to be financially responsible, regardless of major.

It’s a fact that some degrees pay better, on average, than others. While it’s good to keep the average earnings for workers in your desired field in mind, it shouldn’t be your only consideration.

And remember, college graduates who enter public service fields such as teaching maybe be eligible for student loan forgiveness.

We recommend choosing the major that most interests you, since doing what you love is the best way to be both happy and successful in the future. While finances should be taken into account, remember that there are plenty of affordable colleges that won’t leave you saddled with student debt, regardless of what you choose to study.

photo credit: Sewanee: The University of the South via photopin cc

Category: College Costs

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