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David & Glenn on: do majors matter?

In their Forbes blog post today, President David Skorton and Glenn Altschuler, professor of American studies, write:

“Regular readers of our column know that we are unabashed fans and supporters of the humanities and the creative and performing arts. We believe that the world’s thorniest problems will not be solved—nor will our nation be secure — without an understanding of ethics, cultures other than our own, and what it means to be fully human. And we have seen first-hand that students who complete liberal arts degrees have deeply satisfying — and productive — personal and professional lives.

“Such reassurances, however, may not be enough to satisfy high school seniors, undergraduates, and their parents.”

They cite data showing that students who major in the humanities and the creative and performing arts have higher rates of unemployment and earn less than engineering, computer science and math. But, they argue, “liberal arts majors actually do just fine, with incomes far in excess of the median in the United States” and they “are as satisfied or more satisfied with their lives as their classmates in other disciplines.”

Skoton and Altschuler conclude: “And so, when students and parents ask, ‘What can I do with a liberal arts major?’ the right answer, grounded in the evidence, is ‘A lot. A whole lot.’”


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