President Roth Defends Liberal Arts

As the price of a college education soars, some are wondering: is the price of college worth it? And in an economy that places a premium on high-tech skills, is a liberal education even relevant? President Michael Roth ’78 argues that a liberal arts education is actually more important than ever. He makes that case in his new book, Beyond the University: Why Liberal Education Mattters, and told NPR’s Eric Westervelt that the debate over the value of higher education is hardly a new one.

On All Things Considered, August 3, Roth said:  “There are people who just think, ‘Some of us just don’t need a lot of education. Most people need something more specialized because the economy has shifted.’ … Throughout American history people have said, ‘Yes, it’s because the economy has shifted.’ They said that in 1918, they said that in 1948, and now they’re saying it again. Today the shifts in the economy mean technological change will only produce accelerated pace of innovation, of changing relations to audiences. A broad, wide-ranging education is the best way to be able to shape that change rather than just be victimized by it.”

Roth went on to address the value of  education as a driver of equity and inclusion in America, warning that broad, liberal arts education must continue to be made available to all students, not just those who can afford it:

“Higher education in the United States has traditionally functioned as a vehicle for social mobility,” he said. ” And as costs have escalated and financial aid has not kept up with those costs, elite education has become a way of cementing privilege rather than opening up elite [education] to more voices and more talents”