December 3, 2016 Comments (0) Uncategorized

America's Love-Hate Relationship with the Liberal Arts


by Michael A. MacDowell

There is good reason for America\’s love-hate relationship with the liberal arts attending college. For many years, the intellectual elite and also the pragmatists have squared off against one another C inside and outside of academe C about the value of the liberal arts. It now appears that those who believe a university education should provide practical and employable skills have popular opinion with them. The current employment rate and rising college debt are improving the argument for any practical higher education. Finding a good the first is of deep concern to those graduating from college. The idea of doing so without requisite employable skills is freighting for many.

Michael A. MacDowell, President, Misericordia University

For students that like to major within the liberal arts, the job rewards are usually not allocated in line with the major itself, but instead the intellectual rigor in applying the analytical framework of the discipline in practical areas such as business. These undergraduate degrees offer an outstanding platform for critical thinking and the foundation for graduate operate in a specific discipline or perhaps in a professional field, such as medicine or law.

Perhaps there\’s still too much being made of the trade-offs from a four-year liberal arts degree along with a career-focused one. The advantages of a good liberal arts education could be effectively coupled with practical career orientation and a well-designed curriculum. That is the case at Misericordia University.

Based around the tradition of graduating students who serve humankind, the University has educated high-skilled nurses since l944. Misericordia\’s tradition in the health sciences was expanded in 1973 with the introduction of 1 of the country\’s only medical imaging programs at a four-year college. Our commitment to the health sciences increased using the introduction of undergraduate-plus-masters (five-year) programs in occupational therapy, physical therapy, speech-language pathology, and physician assistant. Many of these fields require a master\’s degree before a graduate can practice, and today a 6?-year clinical doctorate in physical therapy.

Driven significantly by a superb reputation of high board pass rates and graduate success in the health and medical sciences fields, Misericordia’s enrollment is continuing to grow in the last 14 years from a little more than 1,000 students to a lot more than 1,900 full-time students and 1,200 part-time students. This growth occurred despite wavering and declining enrollment trends at similar institutions. Last year, when many institutions experienced decreased enrollment, Misericordia\’s freshman class increased from 370 students to 510. Entering SAT and ACT scores also continue to increase, as the institution\’s discount rate has always been moderate in accordance with that of competing institutions. Retention rates have been among the best associated with a similarly sized institution. The result has been a significant rise in reserves, leading to fiscal stability not shared by many people others.

Does rapid development in the health sciences imply that the liberal arts happen to be abandoned? No. All Misericordia students have to complete a core curriculum which includes courses in philosophy, history, religion, science, mathematics, English, and other traditional subjects. The result is a well-rounded undergraduate experience.

The result of this mixture of liberal arts and professionally focused curriculum is really a graduate who isn\’t only employable, but flexible. Misericordia graduates often assume well-paying jobs as practitioners within the health sciences and lots of other fields. Due to their strong liberal arts background, they are rapidly elevated to management positions in hospitals, rehabilitation facilities, and related for-profit and non-profit businesses.

Of course, maintaining viable liberal arts departments for that health science majors and also the 55 percent of Misericordia students signed up for other majors is not an easy task. Good faculty within the liberal arts and sciences have to maintain and grow the number of students in their own individual departments as well.

One way Misericordia has accomplished this goal is to continue to expand its Division III and intercollegiate sports programs. The University made the strategic decision to bring football to campus this year because, as NCAA data showed, many Division III sportsmen choose to study subjects other than the health and medical sciences. The end result has been an increase in majors such as English, history, communications, biology, and other liberal arts and sciences at Misericordia.

The decision to emphasise the health sciences at Misericordia is made 12 years back. We believed it made good strategic sense to make a well-focused effort in the rapidly growing health and medical sciences fields. American demographics were great. Baby Boomers give a plethora of patients for medical and health science professionals. The growing rapidly cost of medical care, along with the shortage of M.D.s and D.O.s, and also the hesitancy of private insurance and Medicare to carry on to fund physician services for routine procedures, created a growing niche for any small university to produce quality medical professionals.

The downside of the and medical science focus may be the expense of these programs. These nationally accredited programs are limited in enrollment by their accrediting associations. Salaries for faculty along with other professionals are high. However, the programs attract excellent students who\’re willing to remain at Misericordia for an undergraduate and graduate degree, creating the enviable enrollment patterns.

Perhaps most satisfying is the fact that health science and liberal arts faculty been employed by cooperatively to create a solid liberal arts core because the foundation for those Misericordia students, including C of course C the health and medical science majors.

Can a good core curriculum of 50-plus hours provide all that is necessary that need considering liberally educated? The answer is probably no. If, on the other hand, the purpose of a liberal arts education would be to provide students with a solid structure for what a well-educated person ought to know, and instill in them a spirit of inquiry and the willingness to be a lifelong learner, then the basic liberal arts education continues to be achieved. It makes sense graduates who are able to reflect, reason well and critically, and have the passion to carry on to learn. In the end, isn\’t that exactly what a good college education should be about?

Michael A. MacDowell is president of Misericordia University in Dallas, Pa., where he occasionally teaches economics.

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