Innovation and the Liberal Arts
As one of the most successful educational enterprises in American history, the residential liberal arts college has long been emulated across all spectrums of undergraduate education in the United States and increasingly around the world. These schools are characterized by broad-based curricula, small class size, and interaction between students and faculty. Aimed at developing students’ intellectual literacy and critical-thinking skills rather than specific professional preparation, the value proposition made by these colleges has recently come under intense pressure.
In light of rapid environmental changes and increasing calls for higher education to make access to college more affordable and to do more to prepare students for specific careers, what is the role of the American residential liberal arts college today? Can these institutions manage significant economic, technological, and demographic challenges while continuing to strengthen their offerings? How can they use the uncertain future to affirm their national role while expanding their global presence?
Both economic and strategic environments have developed to threaten these schools. Since 1990, for example, 35 percent of these institutions have transformed into "professional" colleges, adding more vocational fields to their curricula while others have closed their doors entirely. Is there a future for uniquely American institutions such as Vassar and Smith, Macalester and Pomona, Middlebury and Swarthmore?
Remaking College brings together a distinguished group of higher education leaders to define the American liberal arts model, to describe the challenges these institutions face, and to propose sustainable solutions. These essays elucidate the shifting economic and financial models for liberal arts colleges and consider the opportunities afforded by technology, globalism, and intercollegiate cooperative models. By exploring new ideas, offering bold proposals, and identifying emerging lessons, the authors consider the unique position these schools can play in their communities and in the larger world.