On a recent episode of NBC's prime-time drama Parenthood, Drew, the lovable grandson in need of a haircut, struggled with an age-old decision: declaring a major. Coming from a low-income, single-parent household, he felt obligated to choose a practical course of study--economics--that would guarantee him a paycheck. Forget his passion for the arts. He, like so many students, had the bug placed in his ear that college is strictly a means to an end.
Of course, getting a job is critical, especially in the era of five-figure student loan debt. There are tons of kids just like Drew, for whom a solid job after graduation is key to financial security for them and their families. And the government, perhaps in recognition of this reality, has called on colleges to do more to prepare students for the workforce. But that agenda is increasingly overshadowing the point of an education beyond being a direct pipeline to a job.
In its latest Survey of Young Workers, the Federal Reserve said educational programs should be aligned with the needs of the labor market for students to get the most out of their education. That's the sort of philosophy that underpins the Obama administration's push for students to pursue degrees in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM). Graduates with STEM degrees are indeed more likely than their peers to have a job, according to a recent Census Bureau report.
Meanwhile, policymakers are deriding liberal arts studies as having little value. President Obama took a shot at the humanities earlier this year, when he said Americans would be better off pursuing a skilled trade than an art history degree.
It's true that liberal arts majors don't always have an easy career path, but researchers at the Association of American Colleges and Universities found that over time they are employed at the same rates and can earn similar salaries as people with professional degrees.
Read the article Why a college degree shouldn't be a commodity here...