Liberal Education

What is a “liberal education”?

The Association of American Colleges and Universities defines liberal education as one that encourages a sense of values, ethics and civic engagement and provides students with transferable skills based on a broad knowledge base. It is an approach to learning that empowers individuals and prepares them to deal with complexity, diversity, and change.

Where do I get a “liberal education”?

Most regionally accredited colleges and universities require students to study the arts, sciences, social sciences, humanities and mathematics. Often these studies are found within the General Education requirements for earning a degree. This broad approach to education develops students who are educated rather than trained in a narrow career path and who have the ability to think critically, communicate effectively, and apply knowledge to complex problems in an ethical way.

Why is a strong liberal education important to you?

The jobs of tomorrow do not even exist today. Future jobs will require more than just a set of specific skills. Successful employees will need to be able to think through complex problems, adapt to changing technology and workforce needs and apply learned knowledge to real life situations. Rigorous general education curricula provide these qualities.

Why do employers value a person with a strong liberal education background?

88% of employers say that “to succeed in their companies, employees need higher levels of learning and knowledge than they did in the past”. These same employers are looking for these qualities encouraged in a strong liberal education program:

  • Effective oral/written communication 89%
  • Critical thinking/ analytical reasoning 81%
  • Knowledge/skills applied to real world settings 79%
  • Analyze/solve complex problems 75%
  • Connect choices and actions to ethical decisions 75%
  • Teamwork skills/ ability to collaborate 71%
  • Ability to innovate and be creative 70%
  • Concepts/developments in science/technology 70%

Source: “Raising the Bar: Employers’ Views on College Learning in the Wake of the Economic Downturn” (AAC&U and Hart Research Associates, 2010)

Where can I find out more about liberal education?

An excellent source is the Association of American Colleges and Universities – .

The role of two year colleges in teaching the liberal arts is explored in an article by Rob Jenkins in the Chronicle of Higher Education .