Episode 3: Liberal Arts Study and Technical Study

This episode is part of our series on understanding the world of college. In this episode, we talk about the difference between liberal arts study and technical study.

For detailed show notes including links to all the colleges mentioned in this episode, visit http://usacollegechat.org/3.

NYCollege Chat is a weekly podcast for parents and high school students about the world of college brought to you by Policy Studies in Education.

Connect with us! Follow us on Facebook or Twitter as NYCollegeChat. Contact us with questions at 516-900-NYCC.

This episode is part of our series on understanding the world of college and is focused on the difference between liberal arts study and technical study.

NYCollegeChat Episode 3 Liberal Arts Study and Technical Study

1. Liberal Arts Study Defined

A study of the liberal arts means that students study a variety of academic subjects, typically including literature, history, mathematics, fine arts, philosophy, biological or physical sciences, foreign languages, and the social sciences, like psychology or sociology. Sometimes these subjects as a group are called the “arts and sciences” or “humanities and sciences.”

A “liberal arts college” usually refers to a relatively small, private four-year college, where a student studies a variety of courses in the liberal arts and chooses to major in one of them.

2. Technical Study Defined

Technical study usually focuses on one or more specific career fields, such as engineering, computer studies, construction trades, fashion design, and more. Technical study can be done at proprietary colleges, two-year colleges, four-year colleges, or universities. Two of our nation’s best universities specialize in technical study—Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Caltech (California Institute of Technology).

A “technical college” usually refers to a two-year college that offers associate’s degrees in specific career fields. Some technical colleges require students to take some liberal arts courses in their first year or two of study; others do not. Some technical colleges even offer a two-year degree in liberal arts—undoubtedly because some students just have not made a career decision yet.

3. Choosing Liberal Arts or Technical Study

Some people believe that all students should start out in the liberal arts so that they have a well-rounded education and so that they can sample many fields of study—including those that are not available to most high school students—before settling in on one.

Some people believe that students who are set on a specific career field when they leave high school should be able to pursue it immediately in college and thus move onto that career path faster.

Keep in mind that either liberal arts study or technical study can be pursued at two-year and four-year, public and private institutions, depending on a student’s circumstances. So a student has to make two important decisions: both the right institution and the right course of study.

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Episode 1: Public, Private, and Proprietary Colleges

This episode is part of our series on understanding the world of college. In this episode, we talk about the differences between public, private, and proprietary colleges.

For detailed show notes including links to all the colleges mentioned in this episode, visit http://usacollegechat.org/1.

NYCollege Chat is a weekly podcast for parents and high school students about the world of college, brought to you by Policy Studies in Education.

Connect with us! Follow us on Facebook or Twitter as NYCollegeChat. Contact us with questions at 516-900-NYCC.

Welcome to the first episode of NYCollegeChat, a weekly podcast for New York State parents and high school students about the world of college. NYCollegeChat is a program of Policy Studies in Education and is hosted by Regina Paul and Marie Segares.

This episode is part of our series on understanding the world of college and is focused on the differences among public, private, and proprietary colleges.

NYCollegeChat Public, Private, and Proprietary CollegesPublic College Funding

Public colleges are paid for, at least in part, by state and local governments—that means, by your taxes—primarily for the benefit of their own residents.

States fund public colleges. New York has the State University of New York, with its 64 two-year and four-year campuses. Some states have more than one system of colleges, like California’s University of California campuses, California State University campuses, and California Community Colleges campuses.

Some local governments, like big cities and counties, can afford to help fund their own public higher education—like the City University of New York or Dallas County Community College District. Even in those cases, however, the state governments provide part of the funding, at least in some cases.

But even with public colleges that are supported by tax dollars, student tuition is a major source of revenue.

2. Public College Enrollment and Tuition

Public colleges usually have a large student enrollment—larger than most, but not all, private colleges.

Public colleges have lower tuition than private colleges, so the cost of attending a public college is lower than attending a private college, unless a student has been awarded a generous scholarship by a private college. Of course, students can be awarded scholarships by public colleges, too, making the cost of attending a public college even more attractive.

3. Attitudes About Private Colleges

Private colleges, which are funded by the tuition of its students and by donations from its alumni and others, are often seen as being more prestigious or as being “better” colleges than public colleges. The fact is the some private colleges are indeed better than some public colleges; another fact is that some public colleges are better than some private colleges.

What is “better”? Students are smarter. Professors are better educated. Classes are smaller. Extracurricular activities are more available. Campus facilities are more impressive. Alumni are more successful. The fact is that some public colleges beat some private colleges in all these areas, so it pays to know as much as you can about what a variety of colleges have to offer your child.

4. Proprietary Colleges

Public and private colleges are nonprofit organizations whose first responsibility is to their students. Proprietary colleges are profit-making organizations whose first responsibility is to its owners and stockholders.

That does not mean that proprietary colleges provide a bad education; in fact, some provide a very good education.

You should have a close look at any proprietary colleges your child is interested in. Check out their majors, their courses, their faculty, their costs, and their record of success.

Listen to the podcast to find out about…

  • Great public colleges you might consider
  • Public and private college names that are misleading
  • The special public–private partnership that is Cornell University (Ithaca, New York), made up of 3 public colleges and 4 private colleges

Check out these higher education institutions we mention…

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Outside of New York State

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