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The Humanities, Arts, and Education

Not by Earnings Alone: A New Report on Humanities Graduates in the Workforce and Beyond

While much of the conversation about the outcomes of college graduates focuses on their earnings, a new report from the American Academy of Arts and Sciences’ Humanities Indicators offers a more expansive view of bachelor’s degree recipients’ experiences in the workforce and beyond. Drawing largely on original research, the report examines not only employment and earnings, but also graduates’ satisfaction with their work and their lives more generally. The data reveal that despite disparities in median earnings, humanities majors are quite similar to graduates from other fields with respect to their perceived well-being.

To offer some perspective on the report, William Adams, president emeritus of Colby College, former chair of the National Endowment for the Humanities, and now senior fellow at the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, teases out the limitations of a purely quantitative approach to these questions and examines the larger questions raised by the report’s findings.

January 29, 2018

Valuing the Humanities

posted By
William D. AdamsWilliam D. Adams is Senior Fellow at The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation and Former Chairman of National Endowment for the Humanities.

Defenders of the humanities in higher education tend to bristle when the topics of work and the economy come up. The humanities must be about more than jobs and compensation, they reason; we need to prepare students for all of the principal domains of adult life.

They’re right, of course, but questions about the economic returns on investments in higher education are not going away. Indeed they seem to be gaining momentum, even as our collective memory of the dark days of the Great Recession begins to fade. Consider, for example, recent suggestions by political officials—Kentucky’s governor comes to mind—that academic programs and concentrations should be assessed and supported according to job placement and compensation outcomes. If this example is extreme, it clearly conveys the tenor of the times.   More... 

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