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Interesting Research

In my Thanksgiving post, I mentioned attending a recent meeting of the Annapolis Group presidents.

One of the ways the Annapolis Group supports liberal arts colleges is by sponsoring research. Recently, a survey of graduates showed that alumnae of residential liberal arts colleges report consistently higher levels of satisfaction with their undergraduate educations than do alumnae of either public or private universities.

To quote a few points from the piece at the link above:

  • Seventy-six percent of liberal arts college graduates rated their college experience highly for preparing them for their first job, compared to 66 percent who attended public flagship universities;
  • Eighty-nine percent of liberal arts college graduates reported finding a mentor while in college, compared to 66 percent for public flagship universities;
  • Sixty percent of liberal arts college graduates said they felt “better prepared” for life after college than students who attended other colleges, compared to 34 percent who attended public flagship universities.
  • Liberal arts college graduates are more likely to graduate in four years or fewer, giving them a head start on their careers.

This research has sparked considerable discussion. True, it doesn’t shed light on what might be “selection effect” and what might be “treatment effect,” by which I mean simply that it doesn’t analyze the impact of possible differences in the characteristics of students who choose to attend residential liberal arts colleges. And it relies on self-reported data; it doesn’t prove that liberal-arts college graduates are demonstrably better prepared than others, for example,  just that they report that they believe they are. In other words, it’s more of a J.D. Power “consumer satisfaction” survey than a Consumer Reports study.

But to my mind it’s important to know that students who invest in themselves by choosing a residential liberal arts education end up certain that they’ve received excellent value. I can, and do, tell families confidently that if they choose Sweet Briar they will, in decades to come, feel they made an excellent choice. And really, if our graduates aren’t the best authorities on the value of their experience, who is?