Few questions make liberal arts majors wince more than the time-honored ”But what are you going to do with that?” (As the accounting student said to the English major.) Now, with tuition costs rising as fast as parental anxiety levels, colleges have begun asking the same question — and helping their students answer it through professional training programs that look ahead to the day after graduation.

Colleges say they aren’t abandoning the liberal arts education but rather bringing the ideal slightly more in line with the job-market reality.

Yet others aren’t entirely convinced. ”To dilute the power of the liberal arts with premature professionalism will deprive our society of the thoughtful leadership it needs,” Anthony Marx, the president of Amherst College, was quoted as saying in The Times earlier this year. If they have the luxury of time, he said, students should ”go deeper into the liberal arts, because that is the seed corn of an intellectual life and informed citizenship.” After all, college is breathlessly short, and working life increasingly long. How many professionals think back fondly to those industry-specific lingo-training courses of their undergraduate days?

Source: New York Times