Elected officials calling for more funding towards science, technology, engineering and mathematics programs is causing a decrease in funding for liberal arts programs.
“More and more states have adopted the idea of rewarding public colleges and universities for churning out students educated in fields seen as important to the economy,” according to The New York Times.
Fifteen states are starting to offer rewards to public and state colleges for encouraging students to pursue high-demand degrees, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.
Mark Bennion, an English department visiting faculty member, said liberal arts programs are vital for everyone, regardless of what field they will study.
“Liberal arts programs teach us, I think, three very important skills: one, how to read a text closely and carefully, two, how to think critically about key issues, and three, how to write well,” Bennion said. “I think the liberal arts allows us to see why we’re fully human and allows us to see the contradictions in our nature and make sense of those contradictions and reconcile them.”
Political officials from both parties have called for colleges to train students for fields that are more aligned with the current job market, according to The New York Times.
Clarissa Enos, a senior studying English, said there are many opportunities for students in humanities majors to find jobs after college.
“Businesses are always in need of people who communicate well, and, unfortunately, less and less people know how to communicate effectively,” Enos said.
Bennion said that social media creates a new problem with communication for people who now have to filter what information they take in.
“So much information is thrown at us; it’s imperative that we learn how to sift and sort that information and try to recognize what information is absolute rubbish and what information is genuine, good and worth pursuing,” Bennion said. “I think a liberal arts degree can hopefully help us think about that kind of cultural moment that we’re in and kind of recognize the dangers of it.”
In 2013, President Obama declared there should be a government rating system for public colleges and universities, according to The New York Times.
“Mr. Obama and his aids say colleges and universities that receive a total of $150 billion each year in federal loans and grants must prove they are worth it,” according to The New York Times.
College ratings will include how many students graduate, how much debt students accumulate, and how much money students earn after graduating, according to The New York Times.
“STEM graduates are expected to receive the highest starting salaries, according to the results of NACE’s Job Outlook 2016 survey,” according to the Winter 2016 Salary Survey.
Schools that adhere to the regulations and receive a high rating based on the government’s list will receive more federal loans and grants to offer students, according to The New York Times.
Bennion said it is difficult to predict if BYU-Idaho will follow the trend and grant more funding and loans to STEM programs.
“I think given the fact we are a missionary church and our commission as Latter-day Saints is to take the gospel to the world, that it would be unwise to defund the liberal arts,” Bennion said. “The liberal arts allow me to understand the poetry in China, the history of Rwanda, or the art of mesmeric, and that’s such an integral part of the cultures.”
Bennion said Elder Oak’s talk “Getting to Know China” reinforces why the study of other cultures is crucial for missionary work.
“I thought maybe the gospel hasn’t gone to Iran yet because as a member of the Church, I’m not sympathetic or understanding enough of the people of Iran,” Bennion said. “I need to step back and think, ‘What do they value in that country?”
Enos said that people who are drawn to liberal arts should be encouraged.
“I think it would be great if kids were told it’s OK to follow your passions,” Enos said. “Passions shape who you are, and you can make a living doing what you love.”