An engaging piece which both decries the diminishing attraction of a liberal arts education and yet lays some responsibility for the shift at the very universities for whom liberal arts are the foundational core. The money shot:
It has by now become received wisdom: college students today are less interested in traditional subjects, and have become more professionally oriented. They’ve voted with their feet, choosing business, pre-med, and engineering majors over German, art history, or comparative literature. […] By raising the cost of education to stratospheric levels, we oblige students to seek a higher return on their investment. It is this sort of economic calculation, I suggest, and not some alleged generational change, that is driving students in droves towards preprofessional degrees.
I was an undergraduate philosophy major at a liberal arts college. I believe strongly in the value of a liberal arts education. But I am increasingly appalled at how we price this experience out of the range of first-generation college students and low-income families. It is not the outstanding student who will receive a full scholarship that suffers the most; it is the marginal student for whom a high-quality education and the exploration inherent in a liberal arts model is an even more important determination of future success.
There is considerable irony if the much decried drive away from liberal arts to more practical studies such as business is partly due to the former’s inability to address the implications of its pricing model. This irony does not diminish the damage.