OPINION: Relax seniors, a liberal arts degree ages well


Some of us are employed. Some of us are headed to teach English in foreign lands or work for government programs like Teach for America or Americorps. Others are off to bolster undergraduate degrees at graduate school. But the rest of us are freaking out - and rightfully so.
An article published last week by CNNMoney warned the class of 2014 to "get ready for a rocky job market." The percentage of "disconnected youth," or college grads that are neither in school nor working, is at 11 percent. This statistic is discouraging to those of us who are tirelessly and urgently searching for a job.
The frustration stemming from the job search (or those "I-told-you-so" remarks from the baby boomers and generation X) calls for some self-reflection from the unemployed, indebted students. We wonder, was the cost of a liberal arts degree worth it?
The cost of a four-year degree from DePauw University is up to $216,104. While this amount does not take into account financial aid or scholarships, its face value still begs the question: did we really take the "impractical" route to career/economic success?
We've been told that students graduating with "practical," or professional/pre-professional degrees are much more likely to be employed upon graduation than liberal arts students with "impractical" ones.
A recent study conducted by the Association of American Colleges & Universities, however, uses US Census data to prove that this contrast is overplayed. Students graduating with professional degrees face an unemployment rate of 4.2 percent, while those of us with a liberal arts degree face one of 5.3 percent, a one percent difference.
The same study proves that by our mid-50s we, as liberal arts majors, will be making more money than those with professional or pre-professional degrees (on average). In other words, economic success may be more of a marathon than a sprint.
The liberal arts degree ages well. If you're feeling impatient, though, perhaps you should consider the other values of a liberal arts education - or remember why you might have picked DePauw in the first place.
By nature, a liberal arts education is broad and diverse. No matter what you've studied here or what classes you took in order to fulfill your Q, S and W requirements, it's important to remember that you've acquired analytical skills, the ability to communicate more effectively (thank your professors for that participation requirement), the capacity to think critically and, perhaps, sustained many interests in different disciplines. The liberal arts students have every one else beat when it comes to meeting employers' expectations.
Some of the world's most successful people graduated with liberal arts degrees. Steve Ellis, CEO of Chipotle, was an art history major with no formal education in business. Mitt Romney majored in English. Jon Stewart studied psychology. J.K. Rowling graduated with a degree in French. These distinguished individuals studied their interests and banked on social skills and a broad knowledge of other fields to come out on top.
The job search (or the search for the right job) is long - on average it takes about seven months.
There's no refuting that the class of 2014 is entering a competitive market. But to believe the nay-sayers, to think that our education here wasn't actually worth it, is a conclusion drawn based on our desire for instant gratification. With a little patience and trial-and-error, we're going to be alright.

-Strader is a senior art history major from Danville, Ill.