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Admissions Directors: Value of Liberal Arts Not Understood

Admissions Directors: Value of Liberal Arts Not Understood
by Valerie J. Calderon and Jeffrey M. Jones

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Higher education is buzzing about whether the term liberal arts effectively communicates the relevance and utility of this venerable approach to postsecondary education. A recent Inside Higher Ed/Gallup study underscores the need for this discussion. Fewer than one in 10 college and university admissions directors and senior enrollment managers agree or strongly agree that prospective students understand the value of a liberal arts education. The majority of admissions directors -- 69% -- disagree or strongly disagree.

Using a five-point scale, where 5 means strongly agree and 1 means strongly disagree, please indicate your level of agreement with the following statements.
Prospective students understand the value of a liberal arts education.
All Public Private
% % %
% 5 Strongly agree 1 1 1
% 4 7 4 9
% 3 23 23 23
% 2 50 52 48
% 1 Strongly disagree 19 19 18
2017 Inside Higher Ed/Gallup Survey of Admissions Directors
Gallup, July 20-Aug. 16, 2017

Admissions directors are about as doubtful that parents of prospective students are clear about the value of liberal arts programs. Just 10% agree or strongly agree that parents understand the value of a liberal arts education, while almost two in three, 64%, disagree or strongly disagree that they understand it. Admissions directors at private institutions are modestly more likely than their peers from public institutions to agree or strongly agree (15% vs. 5%, respectively) that parents understand the value of liberal arts.

Using a five-point scale, where 5 means strongly agree and 1 means strongly disagree, please indicate your level of agreement with the following statements.
Parents of prospective students understand the value of a liberal arts education.
All Public Private
% % %
% 5 Strongly agree 1 2 1
% 4 9 3 14
% 3 26 30 21
% 2 49 47 51
% 1 Strongly disagree 15 17 13
2017 Inside Higher Ed/Gallup Survey of Admissions Directors
Gallup, July 20-Aug. 16, 2017

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While college admissions directors believe that prospective students and their families lack clarity about the value of a liberal arts education, they almost universally see a broader communication issue regarding the value of earning higher education degrees. Ninety-five percent of admissions directors agree or strongly agree that higher education needs to do a better job of explaining the value of earning college degrees.

Using a five-point scale, where 5 means strongly agree and 1 means strongly disagree, please indicate your level of agreement with the following statements.
Higher education needs to do a better job of explaining the value of earning college degrees.
All Public Private
% % %
% 5 Strongly agree 59 51 66
% 4 36 43 29
% 3 4 5 3
% 2 1 0 1
% 1 Strongly disagree <1 <1 0
2017 Inside Higher Ed/Gallup Survey of Admissions Directors
Gallup, July 20-Aug. 16, 2017

Implications

While 70% of Americans say it is "very important" for U.S. adults to have a postsecondary degree or credential, this study shows more can be done to communicate the ways that postsecondary education -- and liberal arts programs, specifically -- can help pave the way to a good job and a great life. Few admissions directors think that prospective students and their families understand the value of a liberal arts education, and, more generally, nearly all say higher education needs to do a better job of communicating the value of postsecondary education. It is unclear from this study why admissions directors perceive that the value of liberal arts is not well understood. Brandon Busteed, Gallup's Executive Director, Education and Workforce Development, has suggested that the "liberal arts" need to be rebranded, and that the course of study might better be described as the "Universal Degree."

Students need more information about the value of their college degree and postsecondary investment. Another recent Gallup study revealed that the majority of U.S. adults received advice about their college major from informal social networks, but the research indicated that the most helpful advice came from informal work-based experiences (e.g., employer, coworker, person with experience in the field).

Advising for students interested in liberal arts programs should include investigation into job prospects, opportunities for graduate work, earning potential, program fees, anticipated debt and interest on the debt over the long term. It should also include ways for liberal arts students to connect with people who received a liberal arts education, so they can understand more specifics about the value and application of their studies in the world of work.

Survey Methods

Gallup conducted the survey via web from July 20-Aug. 16, 2017, on behalf of Inside Higher Ed. The survey is an attempted census of all senior-level college and university admissions and enrollment officers in the U.S. using the most comprehensive sample information available. Each responding institution is represented only once. Gallup sent invitations via email to 3,547 admissions directors and enrollment managers, receiving 453 responses. Respondents represented 200 public institutions, 245 private institutions and 8 institutions from the for-profit sector. Bible colleges and seminaries and institutions with fewer than 500 students enrolled were excluded. Gallup statistically weighted data to correct for nonresponse, matching the obtained sample to targets for all U.S. colleges and universities. The weighted sample results can be considered representative of the views of directors of admissions at colleges nationwide.

Learn more about how the Inside Higher Ed Survey of College and University Admissions Directors survey was conducted.

Gallup


Gallup http://news.gallup.com/opinion/gallup/221051/admissions-directors-value-liberal-arts-not-understood.aspx
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