Posted Wednesday, June 27, 2012, at 8:18 AM
One issue that was highlighted in the recent UVA mess is growing skepticism, particularly on the right, that traditional liberal arts education imparts real value to students. To the best that we're able to discern, this skepticism is unwarranted and as I've been saying for a while liberal arts professors would have a stronger hand if they would drop their own tendency to be skeptical of quantitative efforts to assess student learning.
The best information we have on this comes from the Collegiate Learning Assessment test where we're able to look at growth in student ability over time (as opposed to which majors simply have the smarted inputs) and we see that science, math, and engineering majors do well. But the other set of majors that does well is traditional liberal arts. What does poorly are "practical" fields like business and education that seem to be mostly doing unproductive credentialing.