The liberal arts education market is suffering from a major shortage of graduates with relevant skills, a new report from the New York Times says.
The report comes as the Federal Trade Commission and other federal agencies are seeking to expand STEM enrollment to help boost the economy and expand access to STEM education.
The shortage is also being fueled by the increasing number of students who choose not to attend liberal arts schools, said Mark DellaVedova, a professor of education at Emory University who was not involved in the study.
The shortage is not a problem of one or two liberal arts universities.
It is a structural problem that affects every major college, said DellaVelova, who has researched the problem for the Times.
DellaVeloso said the growing number of non-STEM students in liberal arts programs, coupled with an increasing number who go to private institutions or colleges that don’t offer the kind of curriculum required by liberal arts, have led to an “overall shortage” of graduates.
While the shortage may be exacerbated by the fact that many of the most promising graduates go on to earn degrees in engineering, social sciences and other STEM fields, Della Velova said he believes it is far from a new problem.
“I have heard about this problem for 30 years.
I think we are really at the start of the problem,” he said.
Despite a lack of progress in recruiting students who want to enter the workforce, DallaVedovic said that “many institutions are still doing the right thing.”
He added that “we need to stop looking at ourselves and the college as an end in itself.”
According to the report, which is based on a survey of more than 700 college students and their parents, the college education market has been growing in recent years and is “strongly dependent” on students with relevant STEM skills.
The college enrollment growth has accelerated in recent decades, with the proportion of students in college attending four-year colleges growing from 6% to 8% between 2006 and 2015.
This increase has been driven by the rising number of young people who are going to college, the report says.
A 2015 survey of colleges by the National Association of College and University Business Officers found that about 1 in 5 students who attend a four- or five-year college does not earn a degree.
But Della Vedova said the number of STEM graduates with similar skills has actually been declining.
In 2016, the Times reported that only 37% of STEM students graduated with a degree, compared to 70% of their peers who did not graduate.
Students with similar STEM skills are likely to be the ones who end up in jobs where they are needed, DllaVedov said.
“There are more jobs for students who have the right experience, and those students tend to do better,” he added.
Although the Times study says that the overall shortage is only a problem for liberal arts students, it does note that some schools are doing a better job recruiting and retaining these students.
The paper said that the number and size of liberal arts college enrollments rose by nearly 50% between 2007 and 2015, with some schools such as Georgetown University and Boston College enrolling over 400,000 students.
The report also says that, since 2011, colleges have made some changes to their curricula, but that “the most significant change is the inclusion of social sciences as a STEM-related discipline in their curriculum.”