Liberal-arts colleges forced to evolve with market

Research points to broader benefits of studying liberal arts in small settings, in areas like leadership, lifelong learning, and civic engagement.

They’re the places you think of when you think of “college”—leafy campuses, small classes, small towns. Liberal-arts colleges are where students ponder life’s big questions, and learn to think en route to successful careers and richer lives, if not always to the best-paying first jobs.

But many of today’s increasingly career-focused students aren’t buying the idea that a liberal-arts education represents a good value, and many small liberal-arts colleges are struggling. The survivors are shedding their liberal-arts identity, if not the label.

A recent study found that of 212 such institutions identified in 1990, only 130 still meet the criteria of a “true liberal-arts college.” Most that fell off the list remained in business, but had shifted toward a pre-professional curriculum.…Read More

Campuses take innovative approach to disaster planning

Servers could take weeks to repair and replace after an earthquake.

West Coast higher-education technology leaders begrudgingly admit it: An earthquake wouldn’t be a temporary inconvenience—a bad trembler could knock out IT infrastructure for weeks, unless the school has a partner.

IT officials from the University of Puget Sound in Tacoma, Wash., and Pomona College in Claremont, Calif., announced May 16 that they would host backup computer equipment for their partner school, allowing either campus to access student, faculty, and course information in hours rather than weeks.

Research universities and state schools often have similar backup arrangements in place with other state colleges and universities. These institutions store each other’s data on backup servers hundreds of miles from campus, ensuring that a school can operate in the aftermath of a natural disaster.…Read More

Six tips for liberal arts colleges to produce employable grads

Seniors graduating this May started their college careers shrouded by the dark cloud of economic insecurity. In September 2008, they were eager freshmen adjusting to campus life when the subprime mortgage crisis forced Lehman Brothers to file for bankruptcy, write Andy Chan, vice president of the Wake Forest University Office of Personal and Career Development, and Jacquelyn S. Fetrow, Reynolds Professor of Computational Biophysics and dean of Wake Forest College. Four years later, many college students, recent graduates and their families remain paralyzed with fear and pessimism by the dismal prospects for turning a diploma into a paycheck. Although the economy may be recovering, the world of work has fundamentally changed. Innovative technology, higher productivity, international outsourcing and our self-service economy have replaced thousands of entry-level jobs that were once ready-made for college graduates, and are now gone forever. In addition, the competition for jobs is fierce as employers raise their sights in recruiting new talent…

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In tough times, liberal arts colleges defend their value

Half of graduates from liberal arts colleges were satisfied with the quality of their education.

David Anderson knows that parents today are skeptical about the liberal arts. That they worry about their children graduating in a tough economy with a degree that doesn’t spell out that first job. That they’re weighing a hefty price tag against the possibility of unemployment.

So, in a quick talk to a ballroom full of high school juniors and their families, the president of St. Olaf College made the opposite argument. “If St. Olaf had given me an education that prepared me exactly for 1974,” Anderson said, “I would now be unemployed and irrelevant.”

Questions about the value of higher education are pressuring small, liberal arts colleges that specialize in general degrees and depend on tuition — and Minnesota has many of those.…Read More