Kenyon Presidents Promise Your Liberal Arts Education Still Matters

Just think: this could be you

Just think: this could be you

We’ve all been there: jarred awake from a nightmare in which we’re told our Kenyon degree just won’t cut it in this competitive job market.

Fear not, Lords and Ladies. Kenyon Presidents of past and present are coming out of the woodwork and onto the Internet to let you know just how valuable your liberal arts degree really is.

Last week President Sean Decatur made it onto HuffPo for a speech he gave on Friday at The City Club of Cleveland.

Writes Daniel Moulthrup, CEO of the City Club:

The point he made that resonated strongest with me was that in every round of liberal arts doubting, there are the inevitable stories of the English major working at Starbucks or the French Lit major employed as a secretary. While they’re true, they typically only examine the first 18 months after graduation, not the careers that typically follow.

See, fret not about your job prospects. You’ll only be under-employed for a year and a half! Think of it as a paid vacation before you enter the real world. If that doesn’t calm you, check out this list of incredibly successful English majors.

On Wednesday, President Emerita and Senior Fellow at The Council of Independent Colleges S. Georgia Nugent became the debunker-in-chief of all liberal arts myths with her column that also appeared in HuffPo. Writes Nugent:

I am dismayed by the many myths surrounding the value of a liberal arts education. The Council of Independent Colleges represents more than 600 small private colleges around the country. These schools are thriving despite media reports to the contrary. They are graduating students with critical thinking skills, independent judgment and a taste for lifelong learning.

Nugent harps on five criticisms you’ve probably heard associated with Kenyon degrees: that they’re elitist, expensive, debt-incurring, impractical and unproductive.

Her responses to these critiques vary in quality. I’m not sure comparing the average student debt upon graduating a private liberal arts college (around $20,000) to the cost of a Ford Focus is very reassuring because A) that’s only an average and B) if buying a car were as important to getting the productive, high-paying job of your dreams as getting an education, Peirce lot would look like a Fast and Furious sequel on weekend nights.

Nugent’s rebuttal to the impractical argument holds water. “We live in a world where our graduates will be employed in roles that don’t even exist today. This kind of learning is more practical than training in a specific skill that may well be obsolete almost upon graduation,” she says. Can’t argue with that.

Nugent also cites Wake Forest’s outstanding Career Development office, whose leader Andy Chan tells parents that 95% of all Wake students are either fully employed or in graduate school within six months of leaving campus.

Chan also makes $350,000 a year and works in a $10 million career center.

Not that money matters, Gund Commons, we love you all the same.

6 responses

  1. Good piece. The question to continue to ponder, though….. Yes, the liberal arts education is valuable, but how valuable? Is it worth the quarter of a million dollars it can cost at a place like Kenyon? Would the sort of person who ends up being a big success be just as successful with a less costly degree?

  2. I think the presidents need to remember that not everyone will follow the same path coming out of Kenyon. I’ve been out 2 years and am working in a field that is not related to my major and still living at home. But there are others who went to grad school/professional school immediately and are living the dream. Let’s be realistic.

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