Degrees of value

Last Updated 6 April, 2016

Over the last decade, humanities degrees and a liberal arts education have been devalued. Pre-professional and STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) degrees from large, research-based universities are considered more marketable and more valuable. However, this is starting to change. The education of the whole person is being recognized as having value that goes above and beyond the immediate.

A report released in January 2014 by the Association of American Colleges and Universities (AAC&U) revealed that by the time liberal arts graduates are in their 50s, they are earning an average of $2,000 more than pre-professional graduates. Because this finding ran contrary to popular opinion, publications such as Forbes, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and 
U.S. News and World Report have brought the issue back to the forefront. They are coming to the same conclusion: there is value in a liberal arts education that is missing from pre-professional and STEM degrees earned at research universities.

While graduates of programs at research universities have the hard skills necessary to begin careers in their field of study, employers like Surman are finding many of them lack the soft skills that are the foundation of a liberal arts education. Patrick Kelly, co-author of the report released by AAC&U, found this to be true in his research. “If you ask any employers what they would like to see better associated with graduates, it’s communication skills, the ability to write well, and the ability to work in teams.”

In an interview with The Wall Street Journal, Brian W. Casey, president of DePauw University, said “[Employers] want people who are creative, who can deal with complexity, who can think for themselves, work with other folks, which is exactly what these [liberal arts] schools aim to do and do with remarkable success.”

Experts are recognizing the importance of what Northwest Nazarene University has been advocating 
for a century—the education of the whole person. It’s not enough to know C++, the names of all 206 

human bones, or the formula for bond valuation. Employers are looking for graduates who have also learned to express themselves through the written and spoken word, who know how to reason and think critically, and who have empathy and the ability to collaborate with co-workers. Whether your degree is in engineering or history, we believe the education of the whole person makes NNU grads not just better employees, but better people.