Value of a Liberal Arts Education

In the decision of where to attend college, there are lots of choices: large universities and state schools, fine-arts schools, community colleges, and professional, vocational, and technical schools. So what does a residential liberal arts college offer that these other choices don’t?

According to the Annapolis Group, a consortium of 130 liberals arts colleges across the United States (including Luther), the liberal arts experience offers:

  • intimate learning environments where extensive interaction between faculty, students, and staff fosters a community of serious discourse
  • small class sizes that emphasize individualized instruction and have dedicated faculty
  • a way of learning that helps students understand, develop, and use their own intellectual resources
  • a process of growth that is focused on intellectual engagement which is deeply personal, highly communal, and grounded in the development of critical and analytical thinking
  • an atmosphere where students participate as fully in the greater campus community as they do in the classroom
  • broad-based learning in the humanities, sciences, and arts and the cultivation of critical thinking and examination, preparing students for lives of service, achievement, leadership, and personal fulfillment

By asking students to learn in many disciplines, a liberal arts education teaches them to think flexibly and expansively, and it gives them a rich body of knowledge upon which they can draw to solve problems, think critically, and work creatively in many areas. Perhaps this is why students who graduate from small, residential liberal arts colleges report more meaningful and lasting benefits from their education than students at private research universities, leading public universities, and other institutes of higher learning.

Luther’s Liberal Arts Curriculum

At Luther, we uniquely embrace the liberal arts through our curriculum generally, and specifically through our signature Paideia program, an interdisciplinary, school-wide course series that asks students to contemplate complex questions. The program also incorporates performances and events, and it creates a campus-wide conversation that keeps students engaged in learning.

But, liberal arts learning extends beyond campus. In ancient Greece, the liberal arts were designed to develop an active and educated citizenry. In the twenty-first century, our citizenship is global. Luther places a premium on introducing students to the wider world. More than two-thirds of our undergraduates study off campus through dozens of programs that span the globe from Cambodia to New Zealand to Tanzania and beyond.

However, while the liberal arts model encourages broad and worldwide education, Luther also encourages depth of learning. Students choose a major to focus on and they are encouraged to research and intern within this major in order to test their future career goals and gain real-world experience within a profession.

In addition, our January Term, a three-week period between the fall and spring semesters, offers students a chance to explore a particular subject in depth, either in a classroom setting, through research collaboration with faculty on campus, or through one of our many study-away programs. All Luther students take at least two January-term courses—First-Year Seminars and January Term 2—but most Luther students participate in J-term all four years.

The liberal arts foundation that students build at Luther will help them develop academically, professionally, socially, and personally throughout their lives.