In recent years, the rising costs of higher education nationwide, coupled with declining federal and state support for higher education, have been the subject of considerable debate in media and society. At times, this debate has led to considerable confusion about the value of a college education and, more importantly, the value of a liberal arts education. Mercyhurst University curriculum is grounded in the liberal arts. Why does that matter? Consider some of the many differences in student outcomes for attendees of liberal arts institutions versus student attending a regional or research public university:
Small class sizes, low faculty-to-student ratios, and intimate campus communities ensure students persist to graduation. Students who attend a private college are more than 50% more likely to graduate college in 4 years (59% vs. 38%). Moreover, first-generation students (those whose parents did not attend college) are much more likely to graduate college than their counterparts at public universities (70% vs. 57%). On average, students from private colleges graduate 10 months sooner (two semesters) than do students from public universities.
Not only do students from private colleges and universities save nearly a year of additional tuition, they hit the workforce more quickly than their peers at public universities. That's nearly a year of lost earnings potential and a year in tenure in the workplace. The Council of Independent Colleges estimates that the "true" cost of education (loan debt + foregone earnings) is nearly 30% higher at public universities as a consequence of longer time-to-graduation rates.
A recent survey of employers found that 80% of them want employees with a broad knowledge base, exactly the type of education that liberal arts education fosters. Liberal arts emphasis on critical thinking and inquiry, strong communication skills, and education across a range of disciplines creates exceptional future employees whose skills are in-demand. 93% of employers think these skills (critical thinking, clear communication, and ability to solve complex problems) are better signals of ability than a student's choice of major.
Students at smaller private colleges and universities are more likely to volunteer (64% vs. 22%) than are other young adults, contributing to the public good. Graduates from liberal arts campuses are also more likely to register to vote and participate in our democracy.
In fact, private colleges and universities award nearly six times as much grant aid to students than does the entire federal government. In 2011, the federal government awarded $4.7 billion in grant aid; private colleges dolled out $27.9 billion in institutional grant aid. Students at private campuses are twice as likely to receive institutional aid than are their peers at public universities.