Need advice re: Liberal Arts Colleges...

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cheapskate
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Need advice re: Liberal Arts Colleges...

Post by cheapskate » Tue Mar 13, 2018 12:32 pm

Thought of getting some advice here, in case Bogleheads have kids who have degrees from Liberal Arts Colleges (LACs) in Social Sciences - Political Science/Public Policy/History/Economics. My younger daughter is a Junior in high school who is dead set on a LAC. She is unsure what she wants to do, and believes an LAC will allow her to take classes in various areas before she decides on a major. She also thinks the small classes etc will be valuable.

D is a strong, hardworking student, but she does not have the stats to get into the very top tier of LACs (Pomona/Williams/Amherst etc) where employers would go and recruit grads. She has a good chance at second tier LACs. She also has the stats to get into many of the in-state U of California (UC) campuses. D refuses to consider Computer Science/Statistics/Engineering. I've been trying to encourage her into getting a business degree - Accounting/MIS/Business Analytics/Operations Management all seem in high demand, jobs wise. But she is not interested in B-school :(

- Is a degree from a LAC useful from an employment point of view ?
- My daughter *thinks* she wants to do Law, but isn't sure. I pointed out to her that there is a glut of lawyers in the market right now, and that unless she can make it to a top tier law school, she is going to have a hard time with a law degree. She says she is open to other Grad school (if not law) to improve her employment prospects post a LAC degree.
- I can afford to pay full tuition at a LAC, but is it worth the $$$ ? Most LACs don't give out merit aid (and we won't qualify for need based aid). Would it be better to just go to an in-state UC campus or attend one of the local Community Colleges for 2 years and then transfer to a UC campus if she wants to get a Social Science degree ?
- Most LACs are out in the Boonies. I have a hard time believing companies would go on-campus to the middle of nowhere to recruit. Do LACs do a good job helping students find jobs ?

I don't have friends with kids who have attended LACs, so I don't know anything about degree outcomes - any advice/pointers would be helpful.

miamivice
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Re: Need advice re: Liberal Arts Colleges...

Post by miamivice » Tue Mar 13, 2018 12:37 pm

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Last edited by miamivice on Tue Mar 13, 2018 12:40 pm, edited 1 time in total.

barnaclebob
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Re: Need advice re: Liberal Arts Colleges...

Post by barnaclebob » Tue Mar 13, 2018 12:38 pm

Don't fall for the scam of "everyone has to go to grad school to get a job these days". If it were me I wouldn't pay more than in state tuition for a liberal arts degree.

It really doesn't make sense to pay for another few years of high school while she figures out what she wants to do. Maybe a year off working near minimum wage in an industry she thinks might be fun and supporting or nearly supporting herself could give her some motivation for a degree which will have prospects of a good paying job. There might be a stigma from her peers for not going to college right out of high school but its better to take 5 years and end up with a degree that's she can use vs 4 for an expensive piece of paper.

What are her interests?
Last edited by barnaclebob on Tue Mar 13, 2018 12:44 pm, edited 2 times in total.

KlangFool
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Re: Need advice re: Liberal Arts Colleges...

Post by KlangFool » Tue Mar 13, 2018 12:41 pm

cheapskate wrote:
Tue Mar 13, 2018 12:32 pm

- I can afford to pay full tuition at a LAC,
cheapskate,

1) Can you afford to pay for a second degree? Aka, another bachelor degree or graduate degree? You may have to do that if she made a mistake. Can you afford a do-over?

2) So, your daughter has no idea what she going to do with her degree and how to earn a living. But, you as an adult is going to go along with her idea aka a minor?

3) IMHO, if my children have no idea how they are going to use their degree to earn a living, I am not paying for it.

KlangFool

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Watty
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Re: Need advice re: Liberal Arts Colleges...

Post by Watty » Tue Mar 13, 2018 12:45 pm

cheapskate wrote:
Tue Mar 13, 2018 12:32 pm
She is unsure what she wants to do.....
Taking a gap year and working in some low level job might help her make up her mind.

I worked a couple of summers at a nursing home when I was in high school and college and seeing some of my coworkers who were in their 20's and 30's and working in jobs like that, with few prospects, was a bit of a eye opener and helped me to be more active in pursuing a career.

PhilosophyAndrew
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Re: Need advice re: Liberal Arts Colleges...

Post by PhilosophyAndrew » Tue Mar 13, 2018 12:47 pm

About the value of liberal arts educations: Students who flourish at liberal arts colleges leave with marketable skills, namely sophisticated critical reading, writing, thinking, and oral communication skill. Liberal arts colleges also provide their students with greater individual support than do many larger universities.

About a high school student not being certain of her career path: A hallmark of American education is that we offer four-year undergraduate degrees and do not require high school students to apply to study in a specific discipline. This is a great thing because few 17-year-olds are ready to make that life-changing decision, and many change their minds at least once. The American system of general education allows undergraduates to secure a broad education while also taking the time to make an informed, authentic decision about major field of study.

As a parent and someone whose career has been in higher education, I would want to know whether a child is ready for higher education. If the answer is “no,” I would address that before matriculating. Otherwise, let the child’s preferences dominate the decision-making process consistent with what is possible financially. Trying to micro-manage -- or, worse, dictate -- school or major can have dreadful consequences for family relationships and student learning.

DW and I are graduates of one of the top-tier SLACs you mentioned. Our teenage daughter likes our alma mater, but we would be fine if she decided to attend a second-tier school like the ones you mention. Alignment of school to a child’s needs, interests, and passions is more important than school reputation.
Last edited by PhilosophyAndrew on Tue Mar 13, 2018 2:23 pm, edited 2 times in total.

miamivice
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Re: Need advice re: Liberal Arts Colleges...

Post by miamivice » Tue Mar 13, 2018 12:47 pm

KlangFool wrote:
Tue Mar 13, 2018 12:41 pm

3) IMHO, if my children have no idea how they are going to use their degree to earn a living, I am not paying for it.

KlangFool
Keep in mind that KlangFool thinks other parents shouldn't pay for their children's education; but magically, he paid for both of his own children's education.

KlangFool
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Re: Need advice re: Liberal Arts Colleges...

Post by KlangFool » Tue Mar 13, 2018 12:48 pm

OP,

If your daughter has no idea what she is going to do with her life, won't it makes more sense to save the difference between a decent college and LAC? You can give her the difference for a downpayment on a house. Then, she can survive with a low paying job.

Now, if you are like one of my family members that pay 200+K each for his kid's college and give 200+K each to his kid before they graduated college, then, money is no problem. For rest of us, we would want to spend the money wisely to help our children.

KlangFool

oldfatguy
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Re: Need advice re: Liberal Arts Colleges...

Post by oldfatguy » Tue Mar 13, 2018 12:49 pm

cheapskate wrote:
Tue Mar 13, 2018 12:32 pm
My younger daughter is a Junior in high school who is dead set on a LAC. She is unsure what she wants to do, and believes an LAC will allow her to take classes in various areas before she decides on a major.
That's true of pretty much every 4-year college/university in the US.

CascadiaSoonish
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Re: Need advice re: Liberal Arts Colleges...

Post by CascadiaSoonish » Tue Mar 13, 2018 12:50 pm

My wife has a degree from a top-tier liberal arts school. I'm always impressed when I meet her classmates -- smart people doing interesting work. And they seem happy. Personally, I've got a music degree but ended up in tech and am now a small business owner. I wouldn't make the argument that my classes in harmony and counterpoint have come in handy in my current career. But I'm still a strong supporter of a broad liberal arts education. Sure, it's not as practical as a degree in accounting, but IMHO a liberal arts education provides a path to a thoughtful and fulfilling life. Self-examination and mindfulness and perspective and an appreciation of beauty are all skills worth cultivating.

abner kravitz
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Re: Need advice re: Liberal Arts Colleges...

Post by abner kravitz » Tue Mar 13, 2018 12:51 pm

If you believe that the sole purpose of college is to advance a career, you might never feel you got your money's worth. On the other hand, if learning for its own sake and social development are important goals, sometimes small LACs are a good choice. I went to a small LAC (not top tier, maybe top 20), and if I had to do it again I would absolutely go to the same school. Of course, tuition and room and board were around $4,000 then.

NotWhoYouThink
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Re: Need advice re: Liberal Arts Colleges...

Post by NotWhoYouThink » Tue Mar 13, 2018 12:52 pm

One of the most financially successful people I know graduated from a LAC with the kind of degree your daughter is considering. LACs do in fact have placement offices and are generally successful in placing students in good jobs, or helping them get to grad schools which generally are funded programs, so you don't have to worry about paying for it. Her career trajectory may not be clear from day one, but the good news is it's her career not yours, so you don't have to be the one planning it.

If she doesn't have the talent and mindset for coding or engineering or science, then making her take those courses won't help, she'll just be a poor STEM student. But she could turn into a great leader, and have engineers and coders and researchers working for her. It happens all the time. Really, the key is her talent and motivation, not her school.

Colleges don't have to be trade schools, although my engineering degree did open a lot of doors for me. But other doors opened for other people, and we all found our place.

If you can afford to pay, then pay attention to your student and help her find a place where she can succeed. Then stand back and take credit like the rest of us proud parents. If she graduates without debt and you can still afford to retire some day, everybody wins. Good luck.

KlangFool
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Re: Need advice re: Liberal Arts Colleges...

Post by KlangFool » Tue Mar 13, 2018 12:53 pm

miamivice wrote:
Tue Mar 13, 2018 12:47 pm
KlangFool wrote:
Tue Mar 13, 2018 12:41 pm

3) IMHO, if my children have no idea how they are going to use their degree to earn a living, I am not paying for it.

KlangFool
Keep in mind that KlangFool thinks other parents shouldn't pay for their children's education; but magically, he paid for both of his own children's education.
miamivice,

The parent shouldn't pay for their children's college education until their retirement/FI is fully funded.

<<but magically, he paid for both of his own children's education.>>

My portfolio is at 20 times my current annual expense. I do not need to save in order to reach my FI goal in a few years.

KlangFool

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Re: Need advice re: Liberal Arts Colleges...

Post by RadAudit » Tue Mar 13, 2018 1:00 pm

There are a number of individuals who go to and graduate from any number of LACs who live perfectly satisfying lives - maybe not what a BH, engineer / MBA would want, but ...
barnaclebob wrote:
Tue Mar 13, 2018 12:38 pm
Don't fall for the scam of "everyone has to go to grad school to get a job these days".
+1
cheapskate wrote:
Tue Mar 13, 2018 12:32 pm
Is a degree from a LAC useful from an employment point of view ?
Probably. The ability to work hard and think is highly desirable to some potential employers. Others, maybe not so much.
cheapskate wrote:
Tue Mar 13, 2018 12:32 pm
unless she can make it to a top tier law school, she is going to have a hard time with a law degree.
Possibly. But, it's always a little iffy to guess what field may be hot to hire folks 7 to 10 years down the road.

By the way, I learned more after I got out of school than when I was in school. Maybe a LAC will give her a leg up on that process.
FI is the best revenge. LBYM. Invest the rest. Stay the course. - PS: The calvary isn't coming, kids. You are on your own.

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MnyGrl
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Re: Need advice re: Liberal Arts Colleges...

Post by MnyGrl » Tue Mar 13, 2018 1:00 pm

oldfatguy wrote:
Tue Mar 13, 2018 12:49 pm
cheapskate wrote:
Tue Mar 13, 2018 12:32 pm
My younger daughter is a Junior in high school who is dead set on a LAC. She is unsure what she wants to do, and believes an LAC will allow her to take classes in various areas before she decides on a major.
That's true of pretty much every 4-year college/university in the US.
+1. With a few exceptions (like engineering or premed programs), most undergrads will start by taking a number of other general classes unrelated to their majors.

123
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Re: Need advice re: Liberal Arts Colleges...

Post by 123 » Tue Mar 13, 2018 1:00 pm

If D is interested in liberal arts it might make a lot of sense to at least do her first two years at a community college. Yeah, maybe not glamorous enough for her. Advantages of a community college is that if she's a good student she'll likely have a great GPA (sadly community college are reputed to get a lot of laggards). In California community colleges can get her another chance at UC admission as a transfer student. In the long run no one will ask or likely care that she went to a community college since they only care where she got her Bachelor's from.

In addition to lower cost there is another distinct advantage of a community college. It is quite likely that many of her fellow students will actually be working with part-time jobs. That is a totally different environment than the typical "Ivory Towers" of a 4 year school. Questions about where do you work and what do you want to be are more common at a community college. Community College students face the reality of having skills or knowledge that will get them a job earlier than 4 year school students.

I've gotten degrees from a community college, 4 years schools (and higher). I'm eternally grateful for my community college experience, it added a perspective to my later education that I might otherwise not have gained.
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livesoft
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Re: Need advice re: Liberal Arts Colleges...

Post by livesoft » Tue Mar 13, 2018 1:01 pm

cheapskate wrote:
Tue Mar 13, 2018 12:32 pm
I don't have friends with kids who have attended LACs, so I don't know anything about degree outcomes - any advice/pointers would be helpful.
Try this: Every person you meet for the next 2 weeks, ask them how they got their job and find out if they went to college. Then please come back and tell us what you learned.

My career was in science and engineering, but many people I worked with every day had college degrees not in STEM. That includes many of the sales and marketing people, the support staff, the people doing customer support, the people working in shipping, receiving, and order fulfillment, the people managing government grants, the people in the development office, and so on.

Also many of the stay-at-home-parents that I meet have degrees from LACs.

Get out there and find out. Get your child to find out, too. You can have a contest to find out who meets the most people with LAC degrees.
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Re: Need advice re: Liberal Arts Colleges...

Post by onourway » Tue Mar 13, 2018 1:10 pm

Seems perfectly fine to me. Liberal Arts Schools tend to produce graduates with a well rounded education which allows for them to choose from a wide variety of careers. It prevents one from getting pigeon-holed into a track that may turn out to be unfulfilling, un-marketable due to societal changes, or a poor fit in an infinite number of other ways.

I graduated with about as broad a liberal arts degree as can be imagined, and that has turned out great, personally. I've had fulfilling work my entire career, and now, in my late '30's am on track to be FI/RE by my late 40's even with several kids. The majority of my friends I keep in touch with from that period are the same.

MI_bogle
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Re: Need advice re: Liberal Arts Colleges...

Post by MI_bogle » Tue Mar 13, 2018 1:16 pm

PhilosophyAndrew wrote:
Tue Mar 13, 2018 12:47 pm
In general, students who flourish at liberal arts colleges leave with highly marketable skills, namely sophisticated critical reading, writing, thinking, and oral communication skill. Liberal arts colleges also tend to provide their students with greater individual support than do many larger Universities.

A hallmark of American education is that we offer four-year undergraduate degrees and do not generally require high school students to apply to study in a specific discipline. This is a great thing because few 17-year-olds are in a position to make that life-changing decision, and many end up changing their minds at least once. This system allows undergraduates to secure a broad education while also taking the time to make an informed, authentic decision about major field of study.

As a parent and someone whose career has been in higher education, I would want to know whether a child is ready for higher education. If there are specific reasons why the answer is “no,” I would address those before matriculating. Otherwise, let the child’s preferences do I ate the decision-making process consistent with what is possible given family finances. Absent financial necessity, trying to micro-manage or, worse, dictate type of school or major can have dreadful consequences.

DW and I are graduates of one of the top-tier SLACs you mentioned. Our teenage daughter is interested on our sons mater, but we would be fine is she decided to attend a second-tier school like you mention. Alignment of school to a child’s needs, interests, and passions is much more important than school reputation.
+1 for sure.

Much of the generic college advice I see online, especially on forums like Bogleheads, trends a lot more toward "know future career, go to school for only that career, disregard everything else" but college is not a one size fits all.

Pushing a kid to a certain major or type of school can be a big mistake IMO. Especially if they want to go to a LAC and are getting pushed toward a business degree at an in-state school. That's almost the antithesis of what OP's child seems to want

OP, I went to a LAC and know many classmates who majored in political science, history, and econ are successful in their careers in politics, public health, international affairs, finance, and a whole host of other things. Most went to grad school afterwards and thrived due to their writing and critical thinking skills emphasized during their undergrad. And many of them were paid to attend grad school

I'd echo what CascadiaSoonish said, too - LACs are full of smart, driven people doing really interesting work. Whenever people from other areas of my life meet my circle of undergrad friends, they always are intrigued by the interesting careers and obvious passion my friends have for their work. Not that other higher learning institutions are devoid of those folks, but there is often a higher concentration of them at higher end LACs. I did my graduate work in a very highly regarded R1 public school, and the quality of undergrad student was starkly lower there, and there was much less focus on classroom discussion, critical thinking, writing, and public presentation compared to my liberal arts undergrad. And that school is annually ranked in the Top 5 for the undergrad program in my field. Just one anecdote though

In the end, it's a blend of what your kid wants, if they have a plan, if they are a hard worker, and obviously the financial aspect too. It's ok to not know what you want as an 18 year old. A gap year can help... but so can going to a school full of passionate people that will help discover and direct passions.

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Re: Need advice re: Liberal Arts Colleges...

Post by kaudrey » Tue Mar 13, 2018 1:20 pm

I think it's fine too. Many people I know switched majors, switched colleges, or didn't decide on a major until their junior year, based on the classes they liked in the first two years. Not all 17 year olds know what they want to do; in fact, most probably don't. And if they think they do, they'll change their minds. Let her go where she wants and explore.

miamivice
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Re: Need advice re: Liberal Arts Colleges...

Post by miamivice » Tue Mar 13, 2018 1:22 pm

It's my opinion that parents should pay for any degree that their child is interested in (within reason), regardless of fond of the degree the parents are or whether they think the child will be successful with that degree.

To do anything else, especially if there are siblings, has the issue of either causing the child to pursue the wrong major due to funding, or worse, create a lifetime of resentment.

Especially if one child pursues becoming a medical doctor, which the parents fund heavily, while the other pursues art, which the parents don't fund. The budding artist may resent the parents for a lifetime as well as resent his/her sibling.

financeidiot
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Re: Need advice re: Liberal Arts Colleges...

Post by financeidiot » Tue Mar 13, 2018 1:26 pm

PhilosophyAndrew wrote:
Tue Mar 13, 2018 12:47 pm
In general, students who flourish at liberal arts colleges leave with highly marketable skills, namely sophisticated critical reading, writing, thinking, and oral communication skill. Liberal arts colleges also tend to provide their students with greater individual support than do many larger Universities.
I agree wholeheartedly. The education is excellent if the student listens and applies it. Some do, many don't.

I'm 28 and have an undergraduate and graduate liberal arts education (international relations). I do not now nor have I ever had substantial difficulties getting a job because of my degree. On the contrary, writing, speaking, critical thinking, and researching skills are always in high demand (sales, marketing, consulting, etc.). Assuming the liberal arts education stuck, a graduate should be able to think about and improve people, processes, products, and services.

However, many of my classmates have struggled to get jobs, make far less than STEM or business majors from the same school, or are unsatisfied with their jobs. We all got the same education, we're just unique people who retained and applied it differently.

Getting a job with a liberal arts degree comes down to:
1. Can you convince an employer you can do something valuable?
2. Can you actually provide value once you have a job?

Of course, the true liberal arts Jedi master would say, "Why do I need your job if I can create one for myself?"

Some things to consider when selecting a school are:
1. Can your daughter find her own way in a nontraditional career path or does she need someone to tell her what to do? Maybe a liberal arts education will build her confidence or maybe it will mire her in indecisiveness.
2. How close is the college to a healthy job market? I live in the Washington, DC metro area. Liberal arts majors are in high demand for consulting positions here but less so elsewhere. Pick a school near a good job market that has a variety of knowledge economy jobs.
3. Differentiate between liberal arts programs and "liberal arts colleges." Plenty of liberal arts programs within larger universities or colleges award merit scholarships. Alternatively, there are some good state schools, such as William and Mary, that are reasonably affordable. One of your state schools probably has a more than adequate liberal arts program.
4. If the traditional liberal arts college (not program) is the only solution, go all in. St. John's campuses in New Mexico/Annapolis focus on a "great books" curriculum. Their graduates are uniformly the happiest, most thoughtful and fulfilled people I have ever met. There's more to ROI than just job prospects.

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Re: Need advice re: Liberal Arts Colleges...

Post by coalcracker » Tue Mar 13, 2018 1:27 pm

I can give a n=2 sample size studies of two LAC graduates (my wife and I) from the early aughts.

We attended a good (top 25) but not uber-top liberal arts school and both opted for the pre-medicine track. It was great. There were no graduate students, so we and the vast majority of our friends worked directly with professors on research and other projects. We were accepted at an excellent medical school, and make a very good upper-middle-class living practicing medicine.

My close friends from college include other M.D.s, a PhD who is president of a biotech company, a software engineer, director of fundraising at a large university, and a few lawyers.

Let your kid go where she wants if you can afford it. That's our "plan" with our two children.

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Re: Need advice re: Liberal Arts Colleges...

Post by shawndoggy » Tue Mar 13, 2018 1:28 pm

An alternative to consider might be looking at the honors programs in the bigger state schools? You get the smaller class sizes, integrated curriculum, living-learning communities, etc., but also have more diverse potential majors, bigger alumni networks, etc. There may also be some merit money for your daughter at these schools. ASU and U of Utah come to mind, but I'm sure that there are others. That could "scratch the itch" but also leave $$$ in the warchest for grad school if necessary.
- My daughter *thinks* she wants to do Law, but isn't sure. I pointed out to her that there is a glut of lawyers in the market right now, and that unless she can make it to a top tier law school, she is going to have a hard time with a law degree. She says she is open to other Grad school (if not law) to improve her employment prospects post a LAC degree.
Why do you think only top tier law school grads can be successful? That's definitely not true at all. And as of the past few years, law school enrollment has actually been way down. Combine that with aging baby boomers...

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JMacDonald
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Re: Need advice re: Liberal Arts Colleges...

Post by JMacDonald » Tue Mar 13, 2018 1:33 pm

I went to a community college for two years in California then transferred to a state college. If your daughter does the same route, she should have a better idea what she will want to do when she transfers to a four year university. The advantages for me was smaller classes for those first two years compared what the UC classes would have been like. Also the cost was considerable less. I also had great teachers at the community college. What your daughter get out of going to collage will be how much she puts into it, not her major or the university.

PS: I have a liberal arts degree.
Best Wishes, | Joe

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Re: Need advice re: Liberal Arts Colleges...

Post by johnz1001 » Tue Mar 13, 2018 1:48 pm

CascadiaSoonish wrote:
Tue Mar 13, 2018 12:50 pm
My wife has a degree from a top-tier liberal arts school. I'm always impressed when I meet her classmates -- smart people doing interesting work. And they seem happy. Personally, I've got a music degree but ended up in tech and am now a small business owner. I wouldn't make the argument that my classes in harmony and counterpoint have come in handy in my current career. But I'm still a strong supporter of a broad liberal arts education. Sure, it's not as practical as a degree in accounting, but IMHO a liberal arts education provides a path to a thoughtful and fulfilling life. Self-examination and mindfulness and perspective and an appreciation of beauty are all skills worth cultivating.
+1 - I went to a LAC and studied philosophy for 4 years. I ended up with a master's in the history of philosophy before going into education. It worked out for me. Was I lucky? I was somewhat, but I wanted a solid liberal arts education, I had a strong work ethic and had a commitment to making a difference where a difference needed to be made. I certainly could have sought a law degree or gone into accounting. Those were straightforward alternatives for me, and I was understandably pressured to be practical. But my choice didn't end up costing me a life of poverty or regret at all.

I would find the best 2nd tier LA Colleges that you can afford and give her the option to go to the one she selects. The schools should be those that have a strong documented reputation for educating students liberally not necessarily providing a definate career -- since that is what she wants. And there are some powerful arguments to be made to have that as a goal.

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Re: Need advice re: Liberal Arts Colleges...

Post by Clever_Username » Tue Mar 13, 2018 1:51 pm

cheapskate wrote:
Tue Mar 13, 2018 12:32 pm
Thought of getting some advice here, in case Bogleheads have kids who have degrees from Liberal Arts Colleges (LACs) in Social Sciences - Political Science/Public Policy/History/Economics. My younger daughter is a Junior in high school who is dead set on a LAC. She is unsure what she wants to do, and believes an LAC will allow her to take classes in various areas before she decides on a major. She also thinks the small classes etc will be valuable.

D is a strong, hardworking student, but she does not have the stats to get into the very top tier of LACs (Pomona/Williams/Amherst etc) where employers would go and recruit grads. She has a good chance at second tier LACs. She also has the stats to get into many of the in-state U of California (UC) campuses. D refuses to consider Computer Science/Statistics/Engineering. I've been trying to encourage her into getting a business degree - Accounting/MIS/Business Analytics/Operations Management all seem in high demand, jobs wise. But she is not interested in B-school :(
Is she refusing to consider STEM fields because she wants to go to LAC or because she doesn't want to go into those fields? Plenty of LACs, including the three you listed have computer science programs. I believe all three are pretty good programs, too. And if you're looking at Pomona, Harvey Mudd is right there too.
cheapskate wrote:
Tue Mar 13, 2018 12:32 pm
- Is a degree from a LAC useful from an employment point of view ?
- My daughter *thinks* she wants to do Law, but isn't sure. I pointed out to her that there is a glut of lawyers in the market right now, and that unless she can make it to a top tier law school, she is going to have a hard time with a law degree. She says she is open to other Grad school (if not law) to improve her employment prospects post a LAC degree.
- I can afford to pay full tuition at a LAC, but is it worth the $$$ ? Most LACs don't give out merit aid (and we won't qualify for need based aid). Would it be better to just go to an in-state UC campus or attend one of the local Community Colleges for 2 years and then transfer to a UC campus if she wants to get a Social Science degree ?
- Most LACs are out in the Boonies. I have a hard time believing companies would go on-campus to the middle of nowhere to recruit. Do LACs do a good job helping students find jobs ?

I don't have friends with kids who have attended LACs, so I don't know anything about degree outcomes - any advice/pointers would be helpful.
I don't know about the second or third questions. And, in the interest of full disclosure, I went to big state school for both undergradaute and grad school (different schools) and have never been affiliated with a LAC.

Good LACs are generally regarded as well as good larger colleges. Those with good programs don't have trouble with students finding jobs -- I know many major employers send recruiters for Computer Science students at Pomona/HMC. There probably isn't a Microsoft representative stationed on campus 365, but I'm sure they send folks out there, and it's not like the schools in the middle of a major city have a recruiter on campus 365 either. I realize other fields aren't quite this, but I don't think the school being outside of a major city hurts recruiting efforts.
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Re: Need advice re: Liberal Arts Colleges...

Post by aristotelian » Tue Mar 13, 2018 1:53 pm

I am a liberal arts grad from one of the top tier that you mentioned.

Pros: I don't think you can beat them for the quality of education and the small, residential atmosphere has intangible benefits. I think they are great at producing overall intelligent people who generally find themselves in good jobs that they enjoy. They are great at preparation for grad school. At least at the higher levels, I believe you will get what you pay for.

Cons: That said, you do not get a lot of concrete direction or pipeline directly into a job. You may spend a year or two figuring things out afterward before settling on graduate school. They reek of privilege and entitlement, and often bad habits come with that. They are also very expensive.

At the end of the day, it comes down to whether you trust her to take the opportunity seriously. If she is self-motivated, she will thrive and love learning, and nothing but good can come out of that. If she is a slacker, she will take advantage of the lack of requirements, take all the easy classes, and act like an entitled rich kid. One possibility would be to have her pay for her living expenses or the cost differential above tuition at a public 4-year college. Then she is not treating you as a blank check, and also has an incentive to be productive in her studies.

By the way, there is no reason she can't go to a liberal arts college and major in computer science or economics.
Last edited by aristotelian on Tue Mar 13, 2018 1:56 pm, edited 2 times in total.

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Re: Need advice re: Liberal Arts Colleges...

Post by PhilosophyAndrew » Tue Mar 13, 2018 1:55 pm

NotWhoYouThink wrote:
Tue Mar 13, 2018 12:52 pm
One of the most financially successful people I know graduated from a LAC with the kind of degree your daughter is considering. LACs do in fact have placement offices and are generally successful in placing students in good jobs, or helping them get to grad schools which generally are funded programs, so you don't have to worry about paying for it. Her career trajectory may not be clear from day one, but the good news is it's her career not yours, so you don't have to be the one planning it.
+1

I was (unsurprisingly, given my username) a philosophy major. At my liberal arts alma mater, there was a strong 'pipeline' between philosophy majors and Harvard Law, and several of my classmates went there, including the wealthiest member of our graduating class who first worked as a lawyer, then for one of the top consultancy firms, and finally as co-founder and of what is now a significant hedge fund. When I've talked with him about his career path, he believes that his strong liberal arts education prepared him well to flourish in each of his careers -- and he still reads philosophy in his free time.

To add to my earlier response: Not only are 17-year-olds unprepared to select their career, but many adults will change their careers. A big advantage of liberal arts education is honing critical thinking, writing, communication, etc. skills that will be extremely valuable throughout a complicated career path.

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Re: Need advice re: Liberal Arts Colleges...

Post by Pajamas » Tue Mar 13, 2018 1:59 pm

I was recently discussing this topic with a university professor who lamented the fact that many liberal arts schools are shifting their focus from providing students with a good education including critical thinking skills on a broad range of important topics to focusing on career-oriented training. They are eliminating general majors such as art for career-specific majors such as graphic design as well as many general classes.

College is an important part of maturation and transition into adulthood. Leaving home to go to school can be as important as the specific school and major or even going to school. There is no one right path for all students and what is right for your daughter is what's important. You should give a lot of weight to the fact that she thinks a liberal arts college is the right choice for her. Not every seventeen or even twenty-four year old knows what they want to do with their lives but at least she has a general direction.

Going to a good community college is fine as long as your daughter gets an associate's degree so that her next school won't pick away at her transcript to decide if each class should be accepted for credit. The right associate's degree could even make her very employable. My later education and career choices were heavily influenced by some classes I took at a community college. There are some excellent professors at some of them. Student peers are more of a mixed group than at top universities, but that is a plus, not a negative, for someone who goes on for further education and who will eventually encounter a range of people in their work. Community college can also be a good transition from high school to university, whether through classes taken while in high school or afterwards.

A four year liberal arts degree can lead to any type of further education and career. It's not an irrevocable decision to teach kindergarten or work in a coffee shop or try to get jobs acting or a combination. There are several successful people in professions such as medicine and law and careers including information technology and business in my family who started out with a liberal arts degree. Sure, one doctor I am thinking of had to take some additional science classes before going to medical school and the person in information technology basically started from scratch when entering that field. But in all cases, the liberal arts education gave them a good foundation for further education and eventual success in their fields and in many cases gave them the ability to work and pay for the further education.

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Re: Need advice re: Liberal Arts Colleges...

Post by alfaspider » Tue Mar 13, 2018 2:08 pm

I went to a liberal arts college and majored in philosophy. My current career as a tax attorney is highly compensated with a good work-life balance to boot. All of my classmates I can think of who wanted highly-paid careers ended up in them after additional degrees or self-teaching of applicable skills (such as coding). My college did not offer any career oriented majors such as accounting or engineering, and still does not. It does, however, actively support students who are interested in those fields. Of course the plural of anecdote is not data, but I think you will find plenty of statistics that undermine the assumption that going to a liberal arts college and majoring in something that is not directly marketable is a bad career move. A very good friend of mine was basically forced by his parents to study engineering at a state school. His college experience was not particularly fun, and he's less satisfied with his career than I am.

I will spare you the platitudes about critical thinking, but one thing that I think is helpful about these sorts of schools is that they provide tremendous personal support and flexibility that is often not available at larger public schools. Professors are primarily dedicated to teaching, and classes are never instructed by a TA or other non-PHD holding instructor. If you want to change your major, they will help you do it and they will make sure you will graduate on-time. A friend of mine from college decided halfway through his sophomore year as an English major that he wanted to go to medical school. Not only did he graduate on time, he graduated early without overloading his schedule. This was enabled in part because there was not a rigid series of prerequisites and no formal procedures required to take the medical prerequisites as an English major.

With that in-mind, I would say that the benefits of liberal arts schools are likely highly concentrated towards the top-end of the spectrum. A student with top-notch academics is probably better served by the less rigid environment than a struggling student. Also, for those so inclined, employers like high-end consulting firms and investment banks actively recruit from the top liberal arts colleges (regardless of major), but won't from less highly ranked schools.

Overall, I am happy I attended a liberal arts college to the point that I am saving with the assumption that I will be ready to pay if my children would like to do the same. I'm extremely grateful my parents did not have Klangfool's attitude towards paying for college.

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Re: Need advice re: Liberal Arts Colleges...

Post by Elsebet » Tue Mar 13, 2018 2:20 pm

Watty wrote:
Tue Mar 13, 2018 12:45 pm
Taking a gap year and working in some low level job might help her make up her mind.

I worked a couple of summers at a nursing home when I was in high school and college and seeing some of my coworkers who were in their 20's and 30's and working in jobs like that, with few prospects, was a bit of a eye opener and helped me to be more active in pursuing a career.
In my freshman year of college in 1994-95 I didn't take my education very seriously and thus did not have very good grades. I was on academic probation and decided not to go back for reasons I don't really remember now. Instead I got a job making $4.30 an hour at a grocery store bakery. It only took about 6 months of that to light a fire under my behind to get back to school and take it seriously this time. By the time I was accepted and the next term began I had been working there for about a year. In late 1996 I left home with $500 to my name and a U-haul (did not have my own car at the time). The second time around in college I made the Dean's list most semesters and graduated with a BS in CIS in 2001. Have been working solidly ever since.

Working that minimum wage job was a huge eye opener for me. I treat store employees very kindly because I know what it's like to work there.

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Re: Need advice re: Liberal Arts Colleges...

Post by hand » Tue Mar 13, 2018 2:32 pm

cheapskate wrote:
Tue Mar 13, 2018 12:32 pm
- Is a degree from a LAC useful from an employment point of view ?
My take (coming from a top 20 LA background) is that a liberal arts degree is different from a vocational degree - few employers specifically hire for liberal arts skills, however those same critical thinking, reading, writing skills act as "force multipliers" in conjunction with the vocational skills the student will eventually pick up on the job or in graduate / professional school.

Personally, I took a lot of value from the small class size, in depth relationships with professors and broad based course work. If I had it to do over again, would likely have picked a concentration (or two) earlier in my undergraduate career rather than testing the water with a large number of intro classes which were less valuable than the upper level classes irrespective of the subject.

At full cost, a top liberal arts degree is an expensive way to figure out what to do with your life; a gap year leading to a more structured approach to getting the most out of a liberal arts degree, might be worth considering.

Two additional notes:
1) It is overly simplistic to think that employers only recruit at top liberal arts colleges - talk to the career offices at the schools under consideration for a better picture of who is hiring their students (or what graduate schools they attend)
2) While top liberal arts schools are clearly good jumping off points for meaningful careers, as you work your way down the rankings, there is probably a point where students would be better served with vocational degrees given their limited career prospects.

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Re: Need advice re: Liberal Arts Colleges...

Post by Alexa9 » Tue Mar 13, 2018 2:38 pm

There are areas in liberal arts that have decent job prospects but I think you should have a goal career in mind and some purpose and a plan B and even C if your dream job doesn't work out. Public Health, Clinical Psychology, Administration, Education, Government, etc. type jobs can be lucrative for a hard working student that pursues mentors and internships.

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Re: Need advice re: Liberal Arts Colleges...

Post by Isabelle77 » Tue Mar 13, 2018 2:41 pm

I went to a top-tier LAC as did my husband (currently ranked #10 on US News), neither of us went to grad school. Well, that's not entirely true, neither of us finished grad school, my husband attended briefly right out of school and then quit when he had a good job offer.

My husband has a fine arts degree and runs the marketing department (25 people or so) for a mid-size company, he started in production and moved into marketing from there. An MBA probably would have advanced his career more quickly but he never got one and has several MBAs that report to him. An alumni connection got him his first job.

I went to the same school determined to be a lawyer until I met my husband's family who are all lawyers and hate it. Our school while a liberal arts school has a reputable undergrad business school so I switched from politics to business/finance. I was hired through an alumni connection at what was then Smith Barney, right out of college. Many of my classmates were hired at the large investment banks and accounting firms, many also work in DC in politics. Now I'm a stay home mom.

I have no idea if a student beginning a liberal arts school today would have similar luck, I can only share our experience. We graduated in 1999.
Last edited by Isabelle77 on Tue Mar 13, 2018 2:43 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Need advice re: Liberal Arts Colleges...

Post by saltycaper » Tue Mar 13, 2018 2:42 pm

cheapskate wrote:
Tue Mar 13, 2018 12:32 pm

D refuses to consider Computer Science/Statistics/Engineering. I've been trying to encourage her into getting a business degree - Accounting/MIS/Business Analytics/Operations Management all seem in high demand, jobs wise. But she is not interested in B-school :(
Why so sad? If that's the way she wants it. Well, she gets it....

I'd encourage D to search for one or two topics outside of her eventual major that she might pursue with some passion. "Yes, I was a [major] major, but I also [do such and such]." All that well-roundedness is very good, and meeting the minimum major requirements probably is also very helpful, but something more is better still. It sets you apart from being just another [major] major, which is good not just for employment prospects. If you're going to a LAC, at the very least you should make it a point to not be dull when you come out on the other side.

I'd disregard comments about "wasting" a year or a couple years or whatever. Some STEM majors don't make it. I hardly think they waste those years. And some people who go to B-school and graduate think they wasted most of their years, and not for lack of trying.
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Re: Need advice re: Liberal Arts Colleges...

Post by Isabelle77 » Tue Mar 13, 2018 2:52 pm

I just wanted to add that if your daughter doesn't want to have a STEM career, I certainly wouldn't force it on her. Successful people do what they're good at, a would-be attorney might not fit in an engineering box.

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Re: Need advice re: Liberal Arts Colleges...

Post by miamivice » Tue Mar 13, 2018 2:57 pm

My suggestion is to support her with whatever she finds interesting.

As a parent, I think it's our role to help our children explore various career paths. Taking her to the library, helping with personality and career choice tests, helping her meet people in various careers are all things that we can do as parents.

However, I think we should leave the actual career choice to our children. It's their life to live, not ours.

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Re: Need advice re: Liberal Arts Colleges...

Post by saltycaper » Tue Mar 13, 2018 3:01 pm

Isabelle77 wrote:
Tue Mar 13, 2018 2:52 pm

.... a would-be attorney might not fit in an engineering box.
Maybe, but I think the engineers could make it happen. :wink:
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Re: Need advice re: Liberal Arts Colleges...

Post by mhadden1 » Tue Mar 13, 2018 3:05 pm

My own children were state college STEM students but they had the aptitude and made their own decisions about major. Still I agree with most of the supportive LAC comments on this thread and I like to think I would have been ok with other choices. DS1 and DS2 both had AP credits and scholarships so they were holding up their end.

Most every locale has community college programs where properly selected courses are guaranteed to transfer to State U. CC is much cheaper and in that way allows for more experimentation.

Not everybody wants to be or can be an engineer or a doctor. In any field, even where job prospects are not obviously good: every graduate that wants a job will eventually get one. It may be hard to find, it may not be in the major field, it may not pay well. Maybe nobody will come to the school to recruit. But things will still probably work out fine over time.

Anecdotally, I observe more successes in liberal arts fields where the student jumps in on all the clubs, professional organizations, internships and such, as well as getting good grades. In any case, low or no student debt makes things much easier. It's very tough for a young person with modest earnings to pay back $10,000, much less $100,000.

For undergrad or grad school, a job at a company with tuition reimbursement (like my old MegaTech) is pretty great.

The thing I would try to help a student to avoid is a degree that results in mediocre pay (sometimes by definition, like Social Work) along with a big pile of debt. Even worse - no degree, and a big pile of debt.
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Re: Need advice re: Liberal Arts Colleges...

Post by Pajamas » Tue Mar 13, 2018 3:08 pm

miamivice wrote:
Tue Mar 13, 2018 2:57 pm
My suggestion is to support her with whatever she finds interesting.

As a parent, I think it's our role to help our children explore various career paths. Taking her to the library, helping with personality and career choice tests, helping her meet people in various careers are all things that we can do as parents.
Community colleges often have departments with people devoted to doing all that. In this case, however, it seems like she already knows that she wants to go to a liberal arts college.

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Re: Need advice re: Liberal Arts Colleges...

Post by alfaspider » Tue Mar 13, 2018 3:13 pm

hand wrote:
Tue Mar 13, 2018 2:32 pm


Two additional notes:
1) It is overly simplistic to think that employers only recruit at top liberal arts colleges - talk to the career offices at the schools under consideration for a better picture of who is hiring their students (or what graduate schools they attend)
2) While top liberal arts schools are clearly good jumping off points for meaningful careers, as you work your way down the rankings, there is probably a point where students would be better served with vocational degrees given their limited career prospects.
I should clarify my above comments to say that I was specifically referencing employers like investment banks and consulting firms rather than employers as a whole. They tend to have unique recruiting practices that are attempting to find the brightest recruits but not necessarily ones with any specific pre-existing skillset (whether they succeed in that quest is a matter of debate).

I also agree that lower-ranked liberal arts schools present a much less compelling proposition.
D refuses to consider Computer Science/Statistics/Engineering. I've been trying to encourage her into getting a business degree - Accounting/MIS/Business Analytics/Operations Management all seem in high demand, jobs wise. But she is not interested in B-school :(
There's nothing wrong with accounting, computer science, or engineering degrees, but attempting to pound a round peg into a square hole is more likely to result in frustration on her part than a satisfying career. It's hard to excel in something you dislike. I've always counseled against undergraduate business degrees. Business is actually the most common major in the U.S., but it is far from the most remunerative. An undergrad business degree is actually a negative if you are applying to MBA programs.

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Re: Need advice re: Liberal Arts Colleges...

Post by mw1739 » Tue Mar 13, 2018 3:41 pm

I attended a 2nd tier liberal arts college and majored in Economics. I believe there is great value to employers in having well-rounded employees who are able to read and write well,think critically, and convey conclusions. Even my classmates who didn't major in Economics, but instead chose subjects like History, Philosophy etc. are successful in the business world today because they know how to do these things. I may be biased, but I feel that the new employees we hire with Finance and Accounting degrees have good technical knowledge of their areas, but no idea how to apply it in the business world.

Anecdotally, my college roommate recently completed a top 10 MBA program and found it to be ridiculously easy compared to undergrad.

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Re: Need advice re: Liberal Arts Colleges...

Post by Pigeye Brewster » Tue Mar 13, 2018 4:07 pm

PhilosophyAndrew wrote:
Tue Mar 13, 2018 12:47 pm
About the value of liberal arts educations: Students who flourish at liberal arts colleges leave with marketable skills, namely sophisticated critical reading, writing, thinking, and oral communication skill. Liberal arts colleges also provide their students with greater individual support than do many larger universities.
This was my experience a number of years ago. Several younger family members have recently had similar experiences.

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Re: Need advice re: Liberal Arts Colleges...

Post by Hillview » Tue Mar 13, 2018 4:13 pm

Really depends on what you do after a LAC degree. I went to a top 50 liberal arts school (based on US News and World report ranking). I make low 6 figures without a second degree. I have friends from college who are
- lawyers
- doctors
- sales people
- work in fed / state govt
- CEO of a defense company
- stay at home mom
- head of athletics at a div 3 school
- work for a non profit (jr level)
- investment banker (and makes big dollars)
- substitute teacher
- manages sports models

So there is a huge range.

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Re: Need advice re: Liberal Arts Colleges...

Post by KlangFool » Tue Mar 13, 2018 4:15 pm

OP,

1 ) LAC at $X

2) CC and/or state university at 50K or 100K less. Then, you give your daughter the 50K or 100K upon her graduation.

Which option will help your daughter the most in her life? The problem is the most parents do not give the children that choice. So, it costs the same to the children. So, they do not care.

How would your life be if you graduated the college with 50K to 100K of investment?

My children go to state universities. They will graduate with about 15K to 20K of investment.

It is not worth that kind of money for an undergraduate degree. If your kids are smart, they will be paid by the employer or they will get a full scholarship to attend the Ivy leagues for their graduate degree. If they are not that smart, why spend that kind of money in the first place? That 50K to 100K will give them a head start in their lives.

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Re: Need advice re: Liberal Arts Colleges...

Post by Pajamas » Tue Mar 13, 2018 4:19 pm

KlangFool wrote:
Tue Mar 13, 2018 4:15 pm
OP,

1 ) LAC at $X

2) CC and/or state university at 50K or 100K less. Then, you give your daughter the 50K or 100K upon her graduation.

Which option will help your daughter the most in her life? The problem is the most parents do not give the children that choice. So, it costs the same to the children. So, they do not care.

How would your life be if you graduated the college with 50K to 100K of investment?

My children go to state universities. They will graduate with about 15K to 20K of investment.

It is not worth that kind of money for an undergraduate degree. If your kids are smart, they will be paid by the employer or they will get a full scholarship to attend the Ivy leagues for their graduate degree. If they are not that smart, why spend that kind of money in the first place? That 50K to 100K will give them a head start in their lives.

KlangFool
If you are primarily concerned with the financial return on a degree and what a degree is "worth" in dollars, then just get a fake degree from a diploma mill as that will provide the biggest bang for the buck. For that matter, you could get two or three degrees for the cost of one semester at a community college, which will open up a lot of career opportunities. :annoyed

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Re: Need advice re: Liberal Arts Colleges...

Post by Jack FFR1846 » Tue Mar 13, 2018 4:20 pm

mw1739 wrote:
Tue Mar 13, 2018 3:41 pm
I attended a 2nd tier liberal arts college and majored in Economics. I believe there is great value to employers in having well-rounded employees who are able to read and write well,think critically, and convey conclusions. Even my classmates who didn't major in Economics, but instead chose subjects like History, Philosophy etc. are successful in the business world today because they know how to do these things. I may be biased, but I feel that the new employees we hire with Finance and Accounting degrees have good technical knowledge of their areas, but no idea how to apply it in the business world.

Anecdotally, my college roommate recently completed a top 10 MBA program and found it to be ridiculously easy compared to undergrad.
Even engineers have to complete humanities courses (gasp). My undergrad college is a bit different in that they really focus on a number of large projects, one of which is called a sufficiency in humanities where the student takes 5 humanities courses of his choice, then spends a term tying them all together and writing a term paper taking something from every course. We also had to complete an "Interactive Qualifying Project" which is a four term project that relates technology to society. This can be a wide variety of topics. Mine was developing a computer programming course for high school students and then teaching the course for a semester at a local high school. As an engineer, I can write (many publications) and I doubt you can show me a single engineer who doesn't think critically.

Certainly a big focus these days is on college majors that directly lead to a career. What's an electrical engineering major going to likely be? An electrical engineer. What's a nursing major going to likely be? A nurse. I'd be pretty scared paying $70k a year for any major that didn't lead to a clearly defined career. I work with several sales people for technical products who do an excellent job. Were they to try to get a job at one of the previous Megacorps I worked for, they would not even get past the first screening as that Megacorp required at minimum a BSEE. So even engineers who graduate are free to go in different directions with some doors open for them. A very good option for engineers is going on to law school to become a patent lawyer. I was in a program at an old Megacorp to send engineers to law school to then work in their patent law group. Although I did very well on the LSAT and was accepted to law school, having a technician degree, a BSEE and MSEE with lots of night school, I decided that I'd had it with more night college and took another job. But many MS engineers are able to make a good living and 9-5 hours working as patent attorneys.
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Re: Need advice re: Liberal Arts Colleges...

Post by Lynette » Tue Mar 13, 2018 4:41 pm

As an old lady, my perspective is that the jobs that are available today may not even exist in twenty years time. The requirement in most professions is that you have to be a lifelong learner. I did my degrees in another country and started off as a History and Latin major to teach. I decided I did not want that for a career so I did a degree in accounting. Then I worked as a technical assistant and sales assistant for several years. Then I did an MBA and landed up as a manager. Then I came to the US and gradually worked my way into more technical positions such as a database administrator. I retired as a cyber technician. Now I am retired and taking classes in Spanish and photography at a community college. I have become intrigued with photography but fortunately do not have to make a living from it.

Who knows what effect artificial intelligence will have on careers in the future. I am amused at my elderly Spanish professor who does not like technology. He has banned us from using technical translators. I understand where Google translator makes mistakes and for example gets the he/she mixed up. These translators are getting better and better. Photoshop is unbelievable in how it can sense the current environment and duplicate and patch other areas using artificial intelligence.

My advice would be to get a broad general education and understand that you will likely have to become a lifelong learner to stay employed.

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Re: Need advice re: Liberal Arts Colleges...

Post by Nowizard » Tue Mar 13, 2018 4:48 pm

A liberal arts education is an excellent degree. In our state, a liberal arts college is the highest ranked college or university. Learning to write, use languages from another country, and exposure to a variety of other areas is invaluable. It is not inconsistent for such schools to have strong programs that prepare for law, medicine and mathematically related positions. If a person is going for an advanced degree, a liberal arts school is the way to go, in my opinion, having done so and become a member of the healthcare profession. In fact, the college I attended has the reputation of never having a graduate turned down for medical school. That is almost certainly a stretch, but possibly accurate given the individual counseling available to graduating students. There are differences of opinion based on personality, the degree to which a person entering college has firmed up their vocational goals, and the degree to which they may have been influenced by their parents. Lifelong learning is a requirement in this changing world.

Tim

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