Liberal Arts Future: Challenges and Opportunities

The future of liberal arts faces many challenges. The most pressing issue that liberal arts face however is the financial problems they encounter on many levels. Victor E. Ferrall, in Liberal Arts at the Brink, explains, “liberal arts colleges, with their residential campuses, small classes, full time tenured teaching faculties, lack of graduate student teaching assistants, expensive facilities (libraries, laboratories, athletics), and so on, provide the most expensive undergraduate education.” All of these items above, which are the things that make the liberal arts a liberal arts education, have made these types of institutions extremely expensive. These places have very high operating costs. The whole basis of a liberal arts school, like the small class sizes and expensive facilities, make it one of the most costly forms of higher education, and this will prove to be a problem in their future. Liberal arts colleges rely heavily on their endowments to provide discounted rates for students seeking an education at their campuses. Because an endowment is made up of donations from people outside the school, these donations can be greatly effected by economic factors. When the economy is going well, schools will most likely have an easier time raising money versus when the economy is struggling. This results in rising tuitions for students, ultimately restricting these liberal arts schools accessibility to lower income people. Competition amongst colleges also is proving to provide challenges to the future of liberal arts. Schools want to attract the best students that can pay the most amount of the tuition possible. In order to do this, schools are constantly buying and building new equipment, technology and buildings. These costs eventually will result in increased student tuition costs. As these costs increase, less and less fully qualified lower income people will be able to get enough financial aid needed to attend these liberal arts schools. As only wealthier students go to these schools, the monetary inequality gap almost people will only go up preventing the poor from attending college and giving the rich an advantage. This process is completely opposite of what the true goal of college was, which was to provide an equal opportunity to everyone to advance themselves in society and achieve the “American dream”, no matter what background you come from. If you work hard enough, you will be successful. Increasing costs make it nearly impossible for poorer students to afford these places while the wealthier students take advantage. An opportunity that liberal arts schools have in the future is cooperation in order to keep alive the liberal arts education to serve a large number of people rather than just a few. The liberal arts form of schooling definitely has its benefits. If schools can be less competitive and lower costs which would lower tuitions, then the future of all liberal arts schools, not only the elite ones, would be much brighter.

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