He (Detweiler) noted that his research does back the common belief that liberal arts graduates earn less than others, but only for the first few years after graduation.
He said that his study shows a high relationship between a broad undergraduate education and financial success. Those who take more than half of their course work in subjects unrelated to their majors (a characteristics of liberal arts colleges but not professionally oriented colleges) are 31 to 72 percent more likely than others to have higher-level positions and to be earning more than $100,000 than are others
Detweiler said that his study not only suggests that the liberal arts college experience prepares students for a life well lived, but for a life of financial success.Why this is true may be revealed in some of the other findings of the study, like these:
- Graduates who reported that in college they talked with faculty members about nonacademic and academic subjects outside class were 25 to 45 percent more likely (depending on other factors) to have become leaders in their localities or professions. Those who reported discussions on issues such as peace, justice and human rights with fellow students outside class were 27 to 52 percent more likely to become leaders.
- Graduates who reported that students took a large role in class discussions were 27 to 38 percent more likely to report characteristics of lifelong learners than others were. Students who reported most of their classwork was professionally oriented were less likely to become lifelong learners.
- Graduates who reported that as students they discussed philosophical or ethical issues in many classes, and who took many classes in the humanities, were 25 to 60 percent more likely than others to have characteristics of altruists (volunteer involvement, giving to nonprofit groups, etc.).
- Graduates who reported that as students most professors knew their first names, and that they talked regularly with faculty members about academic subjects outside class, were 32 to 90 percent more likely to report that they felt personally fulfilled in their lives. Those who reported that professors encouraged them to examine the strengths and weaknesses of one's views, and whose course work emphasized questions on which there is not necessarily a correct answer, were 25 to 40 percent more likely to report that they felt personally fulfilled.
It is probable that students who participate a lot in class or talk with their professors outside of class are the type of people who are likely to be leaders and active in their communities, but one lesson of this study for students is get engaged in discussion, especially about difficult ethical issues, both in and outside of class, and talk with your professors.