Staff Editorial: The Value of a Liberal Arts Education

Former, current and prospective students have been given a mere 47 words to answer one massive question: “Why Lawrence?” While this question appears on so many different college applications, Lawrence applicants have to be brief, creative and convincing in just a paragraph. While this approach to the dreaded college essay makes Lawrence stand out with its resistance to the conventional, it also begs students to contemplate whether going to college is actually worth it.

Going to college and getting a degree are being emphasized now more than ever. College offers its great moments, like getting an education in a field you’re passionate about, meeting people from all over the globe and finding a personal identity. It also has its drawbacks: tuition now costs more than it ever has; college students go through four years of intense pressure to compete and succeed. College freshmen face a world of issues that they have yet to experience in their lives up until their parents drop them off on campus for the first time.

The 2017-18 school year at Lawrence will cost about 3% more than it did this year. At just 18 years old, students are taking out loans that cost more than a new car. For many, the degree is not worth the cost. A 2014 report from the Federal Reserve Bank of New York showed that 8% of liberal arts graduates were unemployed; more than 52% of the graduates were working in entry-level positions that did not require a degree. Instead of receiving support for pursuing a higher education, students, especially in the liberal arts, get criticized for having ‘impractical interests.’

On the positive end of the spectrum, many employers are starting to find value in a liberal arts education; critical thinking skills and flexibility of liberal arts degrees are becoming more attractive on a resume. A study by the Association of American Colleges and Universities (AACU) showed that while liberal arts graduates make less than their pre-professional peers right out of undergraduate schooling, liberal arts graduates enjoy a larger peak income down the line. Lawrence, in particular, proudly boasts that 99% of graduates will have a job or be in graduate school within the first 6 months after graduation. Lawrence also ranks among the top 50 schools for most generous alumni, showing the incredible satisfaction of graduates from Lawrence.

With so much to say about the value of education in 2017, it can be difficult to summarize its worth into just 47 words. We at The Lawrentian, however, love a challenge, and have formulated our response to that age-old question, “Why Lawrence?” in exactly 47 words:

An education at Lawrence is not about the price or the number of credits needed for a degree. It’s not about discussing Plato with friends or sleeping in hammocks in the spring. It’s about finding yourself and what the world means to you. And that’s worth enough.