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ERIC Number: EJ994656
Record Type: Journal
Publication Date: 2012
Pages: 6
Abstractor: ERIC
ISSN: ISSN-0024-1822
Where Are They Now? Revisiting Breneman's Study of Liberal Arts Colleges
Baker, Vicki L.; Baldwin, Roger G.; Makker, Sumedha
Liberal Education, v98 n3 p48-53 Sum 2012
In 1990, David Breneman asked the provocative question, are we losing our liberal arts colleges? More than twenty years later, it is time to ask Breneman's question again: in 2012, what is the position of liberal arts colleges in the landscape of American higher education? The liberal arts college, a distinctively American institution, has been a core element of the US higher education system since the colonial era. Historically, its defining attributes have included a curriculum based primarily in arts and science fields; small classes and close student-faculty relationships; full-time study and student residence on campus; and little emphasis on vocational preparation or study in professional fields. At its best, the liberal arts college has provided a distinct and highly valued model of undergraduate education. Breneman's (1990) research showed that many liberal arts colleges were gradually evolving into career-oriented "professional colleges" where a large percentage of students major in professional fields (e.g., business, nursing, allied health) rather than arts and science disciplines (e.g., English, history, chemistry). The consequences of this academic evolution for the mission and intellectual coherence of the liberal arts college were among Breneman's chief concerns. In order to understand the current state of the liberal arts college and the role it now plays in American higher education, the authors replicated Breneman's 1990 study. They employed Breneman's methodology for classifying liberal arts colleges. The trend Breneman first pointed out more than twenty years ago is continuing. Some liberal arts colleges are disappearing, while others are changing their curricular focus and approach to undergraduate education. An increasingly smaller number of these institutions have been able to maintain a dominant arts and sciences emphasis in their curricula. Liberal arts colleges have played an important role in US higher education in spite of their small size and the percentage of students they enroll. The influence of this sector may be diminishing, however, as their numbers decrease and their educational focus becomes less clear. American higher education will be diminished if the number of liberal arts colleges continues to decline. The authors urge academic leaders, foundations officials, and public policy makers to take note of the trend Breneman brought to attention two decades ago. They encourage these leaders to take steps to renew and reinvigorate these valuable institutions before liberal arts colleges disappear from the higher education landscape or shrink to the status of a minor educational enclave that serves only the academic and socioeconomic elite.
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Publication Type: Journal Articles; Reports - Descriptive
Education Level: Higher Education
Audience: N/A
Language: English
Sponsor: N/A
Authoring Institution: N/A
Identifiers - Location: United States
Grant or Contract Numbers: N/A