What challenges and opportunities exist for the future of the liberal arts?

I think the biggest challenge that exists for the future of liberal arts is affordability, which goes hand in hand with accessibility, and staying current. Tuition continues to rise every year and every year people have to evaluate is this cost worth the education, worth the outcome and right now, most people think it is; however, that could change. There’s also the issue of financial aid, which Ferrall points out. More and more students need financial help and unlike state schools, liberal art colleges can’t depend on the government. They have to depend on donors and endowments; therefore, the future of liberal arts, one could argue, is in the hands of those who make financial contributions. This is a very tricky situation because it puts a lot of power into a select few peoples hands, which is dangerous and often leads to disagreements and clashes with the student body and the faculty. Liberal arts also must remain up to date, which means incorporating new technology, having classes that reflect issues students in this generation are passionate about, revising policy to reflect the world we live in today. If we don’t do this, then the liberal arts will become obsolete. This goes hand in hand with what Ferrall calls competition. Liberal arts have to be competitors as online colleges and for-profit colleges rise in popularity. It’s about proving what makes liberal arts so special and that is an opportunity and a challenge. It’s an opportunity to really dig deep into school’s missions and into their curriculum, but it’s also a challenge because often to remain competitive, there must be revisions. Revisions are frustrating and costly, but in the end, usually worth it.

I think the liberal arts do have a future just because they represent a type of school that remains popular with incoming freshmen. A small campus, one on one interactions, building relationships with your professors, and the opportunities that arise when your school has the size and resources to accommodate most of your needs. Until the appeal of specialization goes away, I think liberal arts colleges aren’t in too much danger.

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