Liberal Education

From the Editor

Since launching the Liberal Education and America’s Promise (LEAP) initiative in 2005, AAC&U has been advocating for, and providing research to support, the importance of liberal education for the individual student, for the US economy, and for our democracy. In addition to AAC&U member campuses, from whose innovative work LEAP’s twenty-first-century vision of liberal education emerged, an increasing number of employers from all sectors of the US economy are joining the effort to promote liberal education. To this end, more than 130 business and nonprofit leaders and more than 100 college, community college, and university presidents have so far signed on to the LEAP Employer-Educator Compact, pledging to work together in order to ensure that all college students have access to a high-quality liberal education that fully prepares them for life, work, and citizenship. The Compact was released in April at an employer-educator forum held in Washington, DC; the full text is printed in this issue.

To provide some context for this promising alliance between employers and educators, this issue of Liberal Education focuses on the question of what employers want from colleges. The most obvious way to approach this question is by asking employers themselves, which is something AAC&U has been doing for several years through public opinion research commissioned by the association and conducted by Hart Research Associates. The report on the latest employer survey is included in this issue.

Also included are two articles that explore in some depth the relationship between educational quality and student’s long-term success—including, but not limited to, their economic success. The first of these is the lead article, in which Debra Humphreys, AAC&U vice president for policy and public engagement, invites students and parents to become more discerning about their investment in college education; not all degree programs will necessarily contribute to a graduate’s success over the long term, she explains. Humphreys calls on educators, too, to be more discerning, to pursue—and make more transparent to students and prospective students—those educational practices and curricular pathways that are most effective in preparing students for long-term success. In the second article, Norm Augustine, the former CEO of Lockheed Martin, draws on his experience as an accomplished business leader and on his own personal story to raise concerns about the state of education in America and to make connections between educational quality and our nation’s future prospects for economic and civic flourishing.

So, what do employers want from colleges? As this issue makes clear, they want colleges to provide all students with the broad knowledge and high-level capacities that they will need to navigate a fast-paced economy and to contribute to the future of our democracy. In other words, employers want more liberal education.

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