As noted by NWC’s Strategic Planning Committee, based on a report from The Art & Science Group LLC, the value proposition associated with the term liberal arts has decreased among prospective students. This perception follows students into their collegiate experience; many students see general education courses as a “pointless” nuisance they must endure.
However, general education courses strengthen ‘human skills’ such as creativity, caring, leading, and inspiring, which are becoming more important as technology replaces some job tasks that are repetitive in nature. In addition, employers are seeking the skills a liberal arts education develops, with a greater portion of respondents looking for communication, problem-solving, and teamwork skills on resumes than for technical or computer skills.
Ideas from Other Institutions
To better enable prospective and current students to understand the value of a liberal arts degree and general education courses in particular, a growing number of higher education institutions have strategically branded their general education curriculum. The AACU notes that many of these new names “have the advantage of drawing attention to distinctive features of the institutions’ educational programs.”
These brand names generally stem from the overarching theme or outcome of the curriculum’s completion. Both Sweet Briar and Agnes Scott have increased enrollment (the latter to its largest first-year class ever) by uniting their general education courses under the umbrella term leadership. The Chronicle notes how this change has benefitted Agnes Scott’s marketing efforts; the school, regardless of a prospective student’s specific major, can now represent itself as a “college for women who aim to become leaders in a world where problems and solutions are increasingly global.”
Suggestions for Northwestern
NWC should create a general education branding task force to develop a more marketable and inspiring umbrella term to describe the outcome of completing the general education curriculum.
Goal 3.1 – Pursue strategic enrollment growth – Increase residential undergraduate enrollment to 1,050 by 2023.
Goal 3.3 – Pursue strategic enrollment growth – Develop and resource an integrated marketing strategy that enhances Northwestern College’s reputation for intellectual rigor, vocational success, and select programs of strength.