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What is the Return on Investment for a Liberal Arts Degree: Exploring its Value


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The state auditor of Mississippi has recently released a report recommending increased investment in college degree programs that can enhance value for both taxpayers and graduates. Shad White, the auditor, suggests that state appropriations should prioritize engineering and business programs over liberal arts majors like anthropology, women’s studies, and German language and literature. Mr. White notes that graduates from these majors tend to earn less and are less likely to remain in Mississippi. He advises students to find degree programs that combine their passion with practical skills needed in the world. The value of a liberal arts degree has long been a subject of debate, and the answer now appears to be “no.” As a result, public officials and universities, with the help of outside consultants, are considering cuts to departments such as art history and American studies. Many public institutions have already proposed or implemented program cuts, particularly in the humanities. Some universities are reluctant to invite further scrutiny of their state subsidies. However, faculty members in liberal arts departments are trying to defend themselves by emphasizing the potential for career reinvention and the broader possibilities of education. While the argument for liberal arts is losing ground, Harvard is exploring options to consolidate language majors into a super major. Notably, there is collateral damage: Gettysburg College recently closed its magazine, The Gettysburg Review, due to the perception that it did not serve the core mission of the college. The college’s president believes that preparing students for today’s rapidly changing world involves offering courses that incorporate hands-on experiential opportunities. Despite the growing skepticism towards liberal arts, Shad White, the Mississippi state auditor, acknowledges that music majors tend to do well. Therefore, he advises students not to dismiss all liberal arts and fine arts programs.


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