Education Systems

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USA Higher Education System - Liberal Arts College

A liberal arts college has several features that distinguish it from a university or community college. In general, a liberal arts college is characterized by the following:

* Undergraduate focus - the number of graduate students at a liberal arts college is low or zero

* Baccalaureate degrees - most degrees awarded from a liberal arts college are four-year bachelor's degrees such as a B.A. (bachelor of arts) or B.S. (bachelor of science)

* Small size - Nearly all liberal arts colleges have fewer than 5,000 students, and most are in the 1,000 to 2,500 student range

* Liberal arts curriculum - liberal arts colleges focus on broad skills in thinking and writing, not narrow pre-professional skills. Courses such as religion, philosophy, literature and sociology are often required of all students.

* Faculty focus on teaching - At a large university, professors are often evaluated for their research and publishing first, and teaching second. At most liberal arts colleges, teaching has the top priority.

* Focus on community - Because of their small size, liberal arts colleges often highly value the interaction of faculty and students. The overall educational environment tends to be more intimate and personal than at larger universities.

* Residential - The majority of students at liberal arts colleges live at college and attend full time. You'll find far more commuter students and part-time students at public universities and community colleges

Reasons to choose Liberal arts colleges (Q&A)

Q: Everyone says that I should go to a Liberal Arts College (LAC) instead of a school like Harvard or Yale. What are three good reasons to go to a liberal arts school?

A: You will be taught by professors, rather than graduate student instructors. Professors will more easily be available to you as they will not be devoting their time to graduate students. It is easier to get to know your fellow students.

Some Liberal Arts Colleges, are very expensive and not easy to get in, but I heard some kids decide to go there instead ofStateCollegesor some finest universities.

Q: Someone be kind to teach me why they choose Liberal Arts Colleges? 

A: Liberal Arts Colleges offer several advantages that many prestigious universities do not offer. They have a smaller student-faculty ratio, meaning that it is much more likely that I would get to know the teachers there. They offer seminars where a small amount of students can discuss a topic with a professor. This more personable environment can be more attractive than being in a larger school.

In addition, the academics at quite a number of liberal art schools can frequently be as good as Ivy Leagues, so you are not sacrificing quality of education. Some people may not like the attitude present at Ivy Leagues. For instance, I know that big Ivy League schools can be a great platform for people to project their views. Liberal art schools are not as well known and do not reach as large a crowd so I assume that there is less competition to try and disseminate one's views to young college students... but that is speculation on my part.

A: LACs are about as expensive as their Ivy/etc. private peers. State universities are of course cheaper, and that's probably a decision you have to make on a case-by-case basis. Some people might find an LAC (or Ivy League, or other top private) to be cheaper with financial aid, or they might be full pay and get a full ride at their state flagship. Each type of college can be compared, but finances can always be the absolute determining factor.

Q: Are Liberal Arts Colleges good for Arts only? How about Engineering and Business?

A: The "liberal arts" technically include things like history and English as well as mathematics and the natural sciences. Many LACs don't have Engineering or Business, but many others have 3-2 programs with other universities (likeDartmouthorColumbia) so students can get a BA at their LAC and a BS in Engineering in 5 years. While there aren't majors like Accounting at LACs, you can still go into business if you desire. Economics is a popular major at most LACs, and they have a good track record for grad/business schools (this is in part due to the fact that some people treat LACs as pre-grad schools, so many people who attend LACs plan on doing post-grad studies anyway, which accounts for the higher rates of post-grad studies).

In a technical sense, LACs are not "pre-professional," but that isn't a blanket statement. LACs do well in med and law school acceptances even though most don't have Engineering or Business.

Q: Why would people choose LACs?

A: Low student-to-faculty ratios and small student body mean small class sizes, so professors will know you, be able to read your papers very critically, etc. Classes are more discussion-based than lectures. A lot of this stuff can be found at other schools, like the Ivies, but you can think of it this way: at a large school, even at an Ivy which has a lower student-to-faculty ratio than many LACs, your intro classes at least will be very large. At a 1,500-student school, it's unlikely that even something like Intro to Psych would have 150 students in it - because that would be 10% of the student population, in one class that is probably running both semesters. So the likelihood of having large lectures for anything other than your very popular intro courses is very small.

That said, LACs aren't for everyone. People very interested in the sciences might find more resources at other schools, might prefer lectures to discussions, might want a larger student body, etc.

A: Small class size, small community, and the first focus of professors are undergraduate students. For large universities, the priority of professors are research funding, graduate students and then undergraduate students.

Source: US Department of education, College websites, Wikipedia and various internet discussion groups

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