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Death of a Liberal Arts Degree

By Dorothy Bunce

It is with a sad heart that the liberal arts degree has been declared officially dead. The cause of this death is reputed to be from the amounts owed on student loans, a cumulative amount now greater than that owed on all credit card debts. The death of the liberal arts degree was hastened by an anticipated increase of the interest rate charged for private student loans, which is set to increase from 3.4% to 6.8%. What does that mean in real dollars and cents terms? For someone with a modest $10,000 student loan payable over a 10 year period of time, payments will increase from just under $100.00 per month to just under $120.00 per month, which is probably no big deal. But for someone with a more typical student loan balance of $60,000.00, the increase of $100.00 per month in the student loan payment to from $590.00 per month to just under $690 per month may significantly cut into money to pay for necessary groceries.

The truth is, of course, far more complicated than just the numbers indicate. The cost of a college education has more than doubled in the past 10 years, and for the 20 years before that, always substantially exceeded the rate of inflation. It is a wonder that liberal arts degree programs have survived this long. Those of us of a certain age remember the liberal arts degree program with great fondness. Classes that allowed students to explore subjects of such diverse topics as “Western Civilization,” “European Art,” “Medieval History,” “Speech Communications,” “Symbolic Logic,” or “English Literature,” that cost thousands of dollars each, no longer make any practical sense.

Fortunately, these college courses are still available at a reasonable price to students everywhere. Although courses like these and many many more aren’t available at a reasonable price on college and university campuses, the entrepreneurial system and technology has come to the rescue. Lectures of professors from the finest institutions in America are available to provide a “liberal arts education” to virtually everyone. Instead of going to a far away college campus, the public, with or without pre-requisites, may learn from the finest professors at some of the most exclusive institutions of higher learning by watching DVD’s in their own homes.

Unfortunately, viewing these videos will never provide someone with a college degree. Even so, these lectures offer those who are unable or unwilling to spend tens of thousands or even hundreds of thousands of dollars to get a university degree to get an equivalent (or better) education.

Although I have a graduate degree in law and have been admitted to the Nevada Bar for many years, I have always been interested in art, medicine, and foreign languages. Now, through this new method of learning, I have been able to study the paintings of the Louvre Museum, find out how cancer invades the body, and learn how languages developed; and the cost of theses studies was far less than taking one course at the local state university!

Although a University Degree is now out of the financial reach for many, technology has brought us a way to obtain a University Education. It is too bad society still rewards the degree instead of rewarding the education that the degree represents. For many people their only education is available at the school of hard knocks.

Our society will be a less diverse place without young students having the opportunity to acquire a liberal arts education at an institution of higher learning. The education someone receives within the campus environment, with discussion of a wide range of ideas, cannot be replicated with an online, at home, solitary experience. We are saddened by the tragic death of the liberal arts degree program.