Independent in All Things, Neutral in Nothing

Recruitment Trends and the Liberal Arts

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By Guest Blogger Ryan Berg

In light of my recent post about Leo Strauss, an education in political philosophy, and the liberal arts, I found a recent article in the Wall Street Journal about recruitment trends at America’s top colleges quite disconcerting.  Companies recruiting new hires have recently moved the preponderance of their recruitment efforts to state universities.  Recruiter’s top five favorite universities are all public, and the list is comprised mostly of top public universities.

Let me be clear: I am not unhappy about Ivy League universities experiencing a recruitment crisis.  I am concerned about the notion guiding this new recruitment effort, namely, graduates of big public schools are more well-rounded and better prepared for jobs upon graduation.  This trend carries with it the disturbing implication that students—and employers—no longer regard a liberal arts education as applicable and skill-based (vocational) enough for employment.  Although job placement is not the only factor in evaluating one’s education—some students are genuinely interested in learning for learning’s sake (hence, more likely to be liberal arts)—for many students, it is an important factor (if not the most important).  Universities use this statistical fodder in their literature to entice prospective students.  “Recruiters say graduates of top public universities are often among the most prepared and well-rounded academically, and companies have found they fit well into their corporate cultures and over time have the best track records in their firms.”

Furthermore, “Employers also like schools where they [students] can form partnerships that allow them to work with professors and their students, giving them an inside track when it comes time to make offers for internships and jobs.”  This notion must be examined critically, especially in light of the size of most state universities.  State universities have garnered a reputation as places where professors can engage in cutting-edge research, but sometimes shirking their teaching responsibilities.  Teaching assistants and graduate students often lead classroom discussions, and sometimes they teach large lecture classes.  Large class sizes make it easy to blend into the sea of people at many state universities—not to mention have meaningful relationships with professors.  Moreover, core curriculum and program requirements at state universities may be less rigorous than at private universities.  To exacerbate matters, because they are infused with public funding, fruitful disciplines such as Theology and Religion cannot be taught as part of the core curriculum.  The sheer size of most state universities may allow some students to slide by for four years, whereas sliding by may be more difficult at smaller, private universities.

One can certainly obtain a good education at a state university.  One can certainly obtain a poor education at a private university.  It all boils down to one’s ambitions.  A good, liberal education usually befalls those who seek it.

Ultimately, however, the article leaves too many questions unanswered.  It examines recruiting trends for business and financial institutions, as well as engineering, at the expense of fields like academia, law, and consulting, fields that traditionally attract many liberal arts graduates.  Many businesses and engineering firms included in the survey are larger companies.  Recruitment at public universities makes sense for these companies because companies may find more candidates at a large public university (and thus, the potential to find ambitious young men and women increases with size).  What is more, large companies often desire strong relations with state and local governments.  One way to facilitate such a relationship is to hire the students of state universities.  Some companies may also value employee allegiance.  Private school graduates may be more prone to job fluctuations throughout their early years, especially with large debts to pay off.  Another issue the article fails to address is promotion.  For what positions are state university graduates hired? Will they advance through the ranks at the same pace as their private school peers? These questions would seem more important than initial hiring for skill and career development.


Written by Russell S.

October 11, 2010 at 8:54 pm

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  1. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Robert Swope, Capitolism. Capitolism said: From Guest Blogger Ryan Berg: Recruitment Trends and the Liberal Arts: […]

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