Students and their families face myriad pressures as they navigate the process of enrolling in college. One of the most important decisions they can make in the college choice process is what to study. The benefits of the liberal arts have been well-documented and survey after survey indicate that employers prize the skills such an education cultivates, including skills in critical thinking, communication, and collaboration. However, the liberal arts is increasingly perceived as a luxury good, out of reach for all except the most affluent students. How can high school students get a deeper sense of what a rigorous liberal arts education offers so they can make educated choices about what to study as undergraduates? How can students who start their college careers at more affordable two-year institutions – and often express an interest in pursuing the liberal arts – be set on a well-marked pathway to complete the baccalaureate in the liberal arts? And how can students, regardless of where they are enrolled, have an enriching and enlarging liberal arts education that prepares them for lives of effective citizenship and satisfying work?
The Teagle Foundation has launched the Pathways to the Liberal Arts initiative to support a diverse array of institutions in the work of securing access to and success in the liberal arts. This initiative emphasizes major curricular reforms that deepen student learning and keep them on the path to the degree. Participating institutions are encouraged to choose one of three target areas:
strengthening access to the liberal arts in the transition from high school to college;
strengthening transfer access to the liberal arts from public two-year to private four-year colleges; and
strengthening the rigor and quality of liberal arts pathways at two- and four-year institutions.
Curriculum-based strategies to strengthen liberal arts pathways may take various forms: creating common intellectual experiences where students engage with enduring questions and classic texts; encouraging curricular alignment between two- and four-year transfer partners; and streamlining and enhancing alignment in remedial course sequences that serve as “gatekeepers” to credit-bearing liberal arts coursework. Funded projects may involve a single institution or multiple campus partners. Faculty at participating institutions are encouraged to create solutions by working together at a given campus, as well as benefit from cross-campus collaboration in multi-campus projects, with an eye to ensuring that reforms deepen student learning, are aligned with institutional priorities, and are sustainable.