Private liberal arts colleges provide high-quality undergraduate education, but their survival is in doubt. Some see the liberal arts as increasingly irrelevant in a world marked by growing demand for technical training. Others wonder how private colleges, many with few students and high tuitions, can compete successfully against heavily subsidized public colleges and universities.
David Breneman, an economist and former college president, explores these and many other educational and economic issues in this book, a detailed analysis of more than 200 liberal arts colleges. Breneman describes the recent financial and curricular history of liberal arts colleges. He explains how they have survived and how many have prospered despite severe competitive pressures. He shows how both outsiders and college administrators themselves misunderstand the role and effects of unfunded student aid (tuition discounting) and how this misunderstanding leads to questionable policies. He shows why the universe of liberal arts colleges—which includes such diverse members as women’s colleges, black colleges, religiously affiliated colleges, and highly selective colleges—have had diverse experiences and confront different futures.
Breneman includes sketches of twelve colleges that provide insight into both the shared and distinctive concerns of a varied but representative set of liberal arts colleges. He weaves these specific cases into a concluding chapter on the prospects for liberal arts colleges.
This book is designed to appeal to college administrators, trustees, faculty, students, alumni, policymakers, and anyone who cares about quality higher education.