Wisdom is the principle thing…
The lasting value of NSA’s Christian liberal arts education
What is college for? Our society seems to think that a college degree—any college degree—is inherently valuable. After all, if people are competing for the chance to shell out tens (even hundreds) of thousands of dollars and four years of their lives—not to mention dive deep into debt— to get it, surely it must be a good investment. But is it really?
Get a job?
The solitary reason we often hear for justifying the years and the expense of college is simply this: job training. That’s it. It’s all about acquiring a narrow set of technical skills that promise a paycheck once the ink dries on the diploma. Choose a major, pay your dues, land your dream job—that’s the expectation that draws thousands of high school graduates into higher education every year.
The reality, however, rarely lives up to these promises. Here are the unfortunate statistics:
• The average college student graduates with more than $37,000 in student loan debt. (https://www.forbes.com/sites/zackfriedman/2017/02/21/student-loan-debt-statistics-2017)
• These same graduates take an average of 21 years to pay off those loans, and more than one in ten are either delinquent or in default on their student debt. (http://bit.ly/2t8zW8W).
• Only about 27% of college grads end up working in a job that has anything to do with their major (http://wapo.st/2GterHX).
In other words, if the purpose of college is job training, then the average college has nearly a 75% failure rate. Let’s repeat that so it sinks in: Despite having spent four years of their lives and having plunged close to $40,000 into debt to train for a particular job, three out of every four college graduates do not get hired in their major field. That number is even lower among college graduates several years after graduation.
Faith under fire
The financial toll of higher education is tremendous. The years spent narrowly pursuing careers that never materialize is disheartening. But far worse than the loss of years and money is the spiritual toll of the average college experience.
• One survey found that the percentage of atheists among college professors is five times the rate of atheism among the general population.
• Another study of faculty viewpoints concluded that college professors feel more negatively toward evangelical Christians than toward any other religious group.
• And yet another survey found that more than 75% of young people quit attending church by the end of their freshman year at college.
(All three studies referenced here.)
The American university has become one of the most actively hostile environments for the evangelical Christian faith, and yet Christians continue to hand over their wallets, their years, and their souls to these institutions every single year—and all for the promise of a job that only one graduate in four will find when it’s all over.
The real-world value of the liberal arts
When it comes to job success, one thing that those who question the value of a liberal arts education miss is this: Very often the most successful careers, even careers in STEM (science, technology, engineering and medicine), began not with specialized degrees in computer science or biology but in the broad, interdisciplinary learning provided by the liberal arts. (And did you know that the liberal arts include math and science? Check out NSA’s year-by-year course list to get a clearer picture of a true liberal arts education.)
Just recently, Google’s internal study of its most successful employees revealed that “among the eight most important qualities of Google’s top employees, STEM expertise comes in dead last.” The best determiners of career success—in a top-tier tech company, mind you—were not skills in computer science but the kind of skills emphasized in the liberal arts. These include communication skills, “being a good critical thinker and problem solver; and being able to make connections across complex ideas.”
This discovery is not unique to Google. Tech companies around the globe are now on the lookout for liberal arts graduates because they are able to see problems and anticipate solutions that mere code crunchers miss (see http://bit.ly/2Hp3Blp).
And beyond the tech sector, medical schools, too, are actively recruiting liberal arts majors because of the wider human perspective they bring to the medical field. Dr Nathan Kase, dean of the Mt. Sinai School of medicine said this:
“You couldn’t be a good doctor and a well-rounded doctor — relate to patients and communicate with them — unless you really had a good grounding in the liberal arts.” (See: http://n.pr/2HqRNiq)
What’s becoming increasingly clear is that narrowly focused STEM degree programs don’t always produce the best STEM employees. The liberal arts, especially when taught from a solid Christian perspective, provides the kind of wisdom and broad understanding that are foundational for excellence in nearly every human pursuit—including STEM fields.
Clearly, it’s time for a paradigm shift when it comes to college education. First, college should not be funded through government subsidies and decades’ worth of debt. This is why NSA strives to keep its tuition affordable—less than half the national average for a private college. And with funding provided through private scholarships rather than federal loans, only a fraction of our students graduate with outstanding debt.
And while we believe that landing a good job is a worthy goal, at NSA we also believe that higher education should be far richer, deeper, and more rewarding than mere data transfer in pursuit of a paycheck. It should also be about the pursuit of wisdom above all else. And in pursuing wisdom, many other blessings come as a result.
One look at the range of careers and leadership roles held by our alumni reveals that NSA’s Christian liberal arts education not only provides the broad scope and critical thinking skills necessary for excelling in a variety of careers, but it also equips our students to live wise, productive, and faithful lives. This is true not just in the workplace, but in their homes, churches, families, and nations. These are the kind of graduates who don’t just earn a paycheck but who also go into the world to fight for truth and build the culture for Christ. New Saint Andrews College is higher education that puts wisdom first, which means it’s a college investment that pays dividends for a lifetime.