Is a Liberal-Arts Education Worth It?

Submitted by: Renee Hirschberg


Is a Liberal-Arts Education Worth It?

By Emily Noonan


“The College of arts and sciences, the foundation college for the professional and graduate schools and service province of them all, has a kingdom of its own and a purpose within its own high nature. This purpose toward which it has in various forms been groping for centuries is the development of the more complete human being….”

—Frank Porter Graham, Former President of the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill

The year was 1931, but the question is still the same: Is a liberal-arts education truly worth it? Last Monday, my senior thesis adviser confronted a classroom full of Asian Studies majors with the same question. Seeing as the occupants of the classroom were all liberal-arts majors, he was greeted with at first introspection, then verbosity and indignation.

As a double major, I have lived and studied both sides of the debate. On one side of campus, I was analyzing Johnson & Johnson stock tickers, while studying Japanese pop culture on the other. Even though it has always been fairly obvious to me why learning accounting and finance might lead to a beneficial career, I admit to having my doubts about studying Tokyo Lolita fashions. A liberal-arts education may prepare you for conversation at a dinner party, but what about a job?

AFP/Getty Images Luckily, future promotions will not hinge on my ability to perform an Indonesian dance.

The argument against a liberal-arts college can be convincing for other reasons. The concept is almost nonexistent outside the United States. One of the biggest critiques is time; the modern liberal-arts education is not only costly, but time-consuming. I personally could take back one year of my life with all the general- education requirements I fulfilled my first year.

But for me all the time in general education requirements is forgotten as soon as I think of Graham’s idea of a “more complete human being.” My classes outside of the business school have provided frameworks and transferrable skills to complement the professional ones. I have learned how to think, research, communicate, persuade, analyze, run, jump and soar.

Luckily, future promotions will not hinge on my ability to perform an Indonesian dance for the board room, but I aspire to have a job in which I can put these concepts and cultural-understanding elements to use. As I prepare for my first interview next week, I’ll be thinking more than ever about how I can validate the value of my education in the real world.

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