November 16, 2011

LEWISBURG, Pa. — Do alumni consider a liberal arts education to be a good value? Does a liberal arts degree really make a difference for those seeking jobs in a bleak economy? And with online and commuter learning opportunities so widely available, does residential learning still matter?

According to a new report, the answer to these questions is a resounding "yes" — especially among alumni of smaller, private, residential liberal arts colleges like Bucknell University. || The Value and Impact of the College Experience: A Comparative Study

The report, commissioned by the Annapolis Group, a consortium of 130 leading liberal arts colleges, reveals that alumni of private liberal arts colleges believe their education has dramatically benefited their lives and careers. Conducted by the higher education consulting firm Hardwick Day, the findings are based on 21- to 24-minute telephone interviews conducted in 2002 and again in 2011 with 2,700 alumni of top private, public and liberal arts institutions. || Related: Bucknell Magazine story

Compared to graduates of top public universities and top private research universities, liberal arts alumni rated their colleges most highly in preparing them for first jobs, career changes and advancement, and overall preparation for life after college. They were more likely than any other group to have graduated in four years and to credit their undergraduate experience for helping them solve problems, make effective decisions, think analytically, write and speak effectively and work as part of a team. || What Matters in College After College

"This study is testimony to the lasting value of a residential liberal arts education," said Bucknell president John Bravman. "In the public debate about the value of higher education, it is exciting to have a national study in which alumni say institutions like Bucknell are providing an education that prepares them for a lifetime of success and fulfillment."

According to the report, liberal arts college graduates are more likely to say they experienced a sense of community, participated in smaller classes and had professors challenge them, work with them on independent study or research projects, talk with them outside of class and become their mentors. These activities, collectively termed student engagement, have been identified by scholars as essential components of an effective education.

NSSE results
"According to National Survey of Student Engagement (NSSE), Bucknell is doing well on all of these fronts," said Mick Smyer, provost of the University. "In comparison to our national liberal arts peers, higher percentages of Bucknell students report writing large numbers of papers, making oral presentations and participating in collaborative projects in and out of class, interactions with faculty outside of class, and community service or volunteer work."

According to 2011 data from NSSE, a highly regarded research instrument used at colleges across the country, 92 percent of first-year students felt Bucknell placed substantial emphasis on academics, 67 percent frequently discussed readings or ideas from coursework outside of class, and 69 percent said faculty were available, helpful and sympathetic. Of Bucknell seniors, 94 percent at least occasionally discussed career plans with faculty and 87 percent would choose Bucknell again if they could start over.

"Our faculty's commitment to teaching and our low student-faculty ratio help our students graduate on time, find the careers they desire and adapt rapidly to a changing world," said Smyer. "In addition, our students and alumni report to us time and again how rewarding they find the Bucknell experience. We are glad to see results like those underscored by this national study."

Bucknell's first-year retention rate is 94 percent and its four-year graduation rate is 87.1 percent. Eighty-eight percent of graduates of the Class of 2010 reported that they had secured jobs or enrolled in graduate school within nine months of graduation. The low 10:1 student-faculty ratio is partly the result of the University's adding 37 new tenure-track faculty positions in the last five years.

For related links see: Inside Higher Education; The Chronicle of Higher Education

Contact: Division of Communications
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