ERIC Number: ED246834
Record Type: RIE
Publication Date: 1984-Mar-1
Reference Count: 0
The American Liberal Arts College in the Eighties--Dinosaur or Phoenix?
Pfnister, Allan O.
The historical development of the liberal arts college in the United States and its status in the 1980s are discussed. Although for nearly 300 years, liberal arts colleges have been a dominant force in North American higher education, in the 1980s they have come to constitute a small and decreasing portion of postsecondary education. The position of the liberal arts college began to recede after World War II. At least two factors contributed to the maintenance of the English form or pattern in America: American colleges were designed to serve a particular constituency and were relatively isolated from one another; and they were responsible to local boards of control consisting of lay persons. By the 1920s the liberal arts college had accepted a combination of basic education and specialized education. The curriculum continued to expand, and so did the degrees, until by the 1970s, 650 bachelor's degrees could be identified. Debates have continued over the proportions of the curriculum to be devoted to general education, the major, and electives. The critical element is the ability of liberal arts colleges to retain their historic orientation while adapting to the expectations of the contemporary student. Some liberal arts colleges stand between the purely comprehensive and the purely liberal arts types. (SW)
Publication Type: Historical Materials; Opinion Papers
Education Level: N/A
Sponsor: National Inst. of Education (ED), Washington, DC.
Authoring Institution: N/A
Identifiers: Excellence In Education
Note: Background paper prepared for The Study Group on the Conditions of Excellence in American Higher Education. For final report, see HE 017 750.