Coffman Disses Everyone Except Business Majors?

Courtesy Westword’s Sam Levin, a fascinating newsletter sent by Rep. Mike Coffman at the end of last month. On the apparent fringe of yet another issue:

I think it is time to question whether a significant number of the majors taught at undergraduate institutions are a good investment.  This relates to the taxpayers, who subsidize the cost of higher education by either bearing part of the cost at public institutions, or by subsidizing loan programs at private ones.  Graduates, with liberal arts degrees, often find entry level jobs that are little better than what they would have gotten had they never attended college in the first place.

The question needs to be raised, during such challenging fiscal environments for both states and the federal government, whether taxpayers should only be subsidizing majors, or curriculums, that directly lead to employment in technically a related field. [Pols emphasis]

Got that? Unless you’re getting a degree that leads to “technical skills,” the government shouldn’t “subsidize” your education–which would presumably mean interest-subsidized student loans in addition to obvious things like Pell Grants. Now, it’s not a coincidence that all those liberal arts, social science, and other majors that don’t, in Coffman’s view, “directly lead to employment,” are the same ones that conservatives perennially complain are hotbeds of “liberal indoctrination.” So there’s that. But is it true that liberal arts degrees are useless in the job market as Coffman suggests? As if “they never attended college in the first place?”

Not according to FOX Business:

Liberal arts degrees get an unjustified bad rap, which is often perpetuated by anecdotal stories about a single person searching for a job, says Carole Haber, dean of the School of Liberal Arts at Tulane University.

“Two misconceptions fuel this discussion:  one, that the ‘worth’ can be measured by dollars alone rather than through higher level skills gained through the degree, and two, that the value can be measured through the individual’s first job, rather than through the life course,” she says.

Liberal arts grads can have an advantage over their peers by potentially earning a higher salary in the future, says Lee.

“There has been data to suggest that even though liberal arts graduates in an entry-level position tend to earn less than their counterparts who have very career-focused [degrees], within 10 to 20 years they tend to outpace their counterparts in terms of income,” she says. [Pols emphasis]

On top of that, a report from the Social Science Research Council shows students with skills typically taught in liberal arts programs tend to be more successful after graduation.

There are a host of other benefits frequently cited to justify the economic value of a nontechnical degree, from proficiency in foreign languages to broad-based critical thinking skills. There are anecdotal scenarios on both sides of the issue–certainly there are both history majors and MBAs who have had employment problems–but there’s really nobody except for hard-core GOP politicians (like Florida Gov. Rick Scott) seriously arguing that these degrees have no redeeming value to either the economy or society. It actually comes across as quite radical.

As Westword reports, Coffman’s opponent ses an opening, and is hitting this one hard:

Ryan Hobart, a spokesman for [Joe] Miklosi, Coffman’s Democratic challenger, sent us this statement in response to the newsletter:

“Making these drastic cuts to state and federal support for higher education would have a damaging effect on Colorado’s economic growth. Mike Coffman also supports the radical Ryan budget, which would cut Pell Grants, allow student loan interest rates to double and end Medicare as we know it — all while keeping taxpayer giveaways to Big Oil and companies that ship jobs overseas. This is just another example of why his agenda of promoting reckless cuts that put the burden on the backs of students and seniors is too extreme for Colorado.”

To be fair, though, fewer history majors could benefit politicians who shoot off at the mouth.

36 Community Comments, Facebook Comments

  1. OrangeFreeOrangeFree says:

    I know plenty of Liberal Arts majors, myself included, who are currently gainfully employed in the fields that they studied in.

    I also know plenty of Engineers who are unemployed because there’s an engineering-trained workers glut in this country after 30 years of pushing the “math and science is the only path to prosperity” tripe.

    • ArapaGOPArapaGOP says:

      Even Pols says there are anecdotes both ways.

      But Coffman is right, but the earning power and employability of liberals arts majors is lower than business majors and engineers. This economy needs trained educated engineers and business people now, not more hippies on a taxpayer subsidized existential journey of discovery.

      • Duke Coxdukeco1 says:

        Arguing with FOX Business? Did you not just read a direct contradiction to what you said?  Here… another chance to educate yourself…

        within 10 to 20 years they tend to outpace their counterparts in terms of income,” she says.

         

         

        • BlueCat says:

          Is Arap really Archie Bunker?  Arap’s come out of hiding but still nothing but fluff comments, this one  at least 40 years out of date. Nothing else going on in the world Arap finds worthy of comment, I guess.  

      • Lurker19 says:

        after a couple of days of silence, I was hoping you were banned.

      • Diogenesdemar says:

        what happened to “the government shouldn’t be in the business of picking winners and losers”?  I guess that was so last week, huh?

        Glad to see you finally climbed out from your bunker . . . now, please fuck off . . .  

        • Libertad says:

          You are one ignorant SOB Dio.

          ArapaGOP simply laid out the economics of general demand. Engineers and business people are generally involved in deploying private capital to create wealth … taxable wealth, jobs, income, and salable products.

          In your world these people are not needed, in the real world they make it happen.

          Worse, youre still on the page of ‘government must be deciding production’, as if Obamas central education planning council will be determining the number of entrant seats for all higher education slots.

          Face it, you’re a fascist who presents himself with a liberal-socialist veneer, but dreams only of total government control.

          • parsingreality says:

            Or something.

            Do you grasp Engish?

            Still jerking ‘n herking?

          • harrydobyharrydoby says:

            Why do you think the large organizations are outsourcing software and tech support jobs to India, China and other low wage countries?

            Technical skills are widely available and getting cheaper to acquire by the day.

            Critical thinking (something I got in Freshman English on my way to 3 degrees in Business and Computer Science) has served me well for 40+ years.

            My 12th grade English teacher, Rhoda Radow, inspired by the Great Books (despite my teenage protestations) probably did more to expand my mind than any other class I took:

            The Great Books of the Western World came about as the result of a discussion among American academics and educators, starting in the 1920s and 1930s and begun by Prof. John Erskine of Columbia University,[6] about how to improve the higher education system by returning it to the western liberal arts tradition of broad cross-disciplinary learning.

            These academics and educators included Robert Hutchins, Mortimer Adler, Stringfellow Barr, Scott Buchanan, Jacques Barzun, and Alexander Meiklejohn.

            The view among them was that the emphasis on narrow specialization in American colleges had harmed the quality of higher education by failing to expose students to the important products of Western civilization and thought.

            Today’s students should be so fortunate.

            • parsingreality says:

              As we settled down that first day we were told that we’d been selected for an experiment.  Instead of generic English, we were going to study the humanities.  Art, the Greeks and Romans, literature, philosophy.

              That was the first and last school class that I became excited about.  Got me to think, not just regurgitate.

              Of course, it helped that Marcia Valberg was in it and she became my girlfriend. :)

              • harrydobyharrydoby says:

                http://www.willdurant.com/home… I kept that book for over 40 years as a reminder of the lessons I got from that final year of high school.


                Perhaps the cause of our contemporary pessimism is our tendency to view history as a turbulent stream of conflicts – between individuals in economic life, between groups in politics, between creeds in religion, between states in war. This is the more dramatic side of history; it captures the eye of the historian and the interest of the reader. But if we turn from that Mississippi of strife, hot with hate and dark with blood, to look upon the banks of the stream, we find quieter but more inspiring scenes: women rearing children, men building homes, peasants drawing food from the soil, artisans making the conveniences of life, statesmen sometimes organizing peace instead of war, teachers forming savages into citizens, musicians taming our hearts with harmony and rhythm, scientists patiently accumulating knowledge, philosophers groping for truth, saints suggesting the wisdom of love. History has been too often a picture of the bloody stream. The history of civilization is a record of what happened on the banks.

              • GalapagoLarryGalapagoLarry says:

                The most challenging (not difficult, just challenging) course in my freshman year–and the most life-long rewarding.

          • Diogenesdemar says:

            Good news — this stuff is guaranteed to help soothe that chapped little butt of yours.

            http://www.bagbalm.com/uses.htm

            PS.  For over 60 years the company was run by the founder’s son, John Norris Jr., a music teacher.  Go figure.

      • spaceman65 says:

        but didn’t Reagan major in Economics and Sociology?  I guess the Economics qualifies as almost a business degree, but Sociology, ain’t that just hippie stuff?

        • BlueCat says:

          when he was an actor.  Raised taxes numerous times.  When over 200 marines were killed in a terrorist attack in Lebanon his response was to withdraw.  There was never any significant retaliation on his watch. And lots more stuff you aren’t going to hear Reagan worshiping GOP pols bragging about.  

      • OrangeFreeOrangeFree says:

        probably would have had a lot more fun in college.

        But gee, there’s another quote from the Westword article, from Coffman himself:

        I graduated from the University of Colorado, in 1979, with a BA in Political Science. No doubt, I would have been better off had I majored in Business and taken courses in Political Science as electives.

        http://blogs.westword.com/late

        A man with a liberal arts degree, who had a successful military career, started a supposedly successful small business, and then got elected State Treasurer, Attorney General and then became a member of the United States House of Representatives. Sounds to me like he’s done pretty well after his taxpayer subsidized (he attended college through the GI Bill) existential journey of discovery.  

  2. parsingreality says:

    ….they would subsidize it 100%.  

    Good comment above about engineers out of work and not so much some lib arts.  I will venture to say that that is because so much of what an engineer learned 35-40 years ago is irrelevant today.

    But lib arts skills, especially as noted, in critical thinking, never gets out of date.  

  3. ProgressiveCowgirlProgressiveCowgirl says:

    Those of the Coffman-esque disposition do not enjoy abstract critical thinking, so they don’t seek a Liberal Arts education. They do not learn to think critically or analyze in the abstract, so they remain strictly literal thinkers. As they grow older, they define “value” literally, not abstractly. A human’s value to society is, to them, measurable in dollars and cents.

    Noticing that people seeking a Liberal Arts education are failing to focus on increasing their dollars-and-cents value to society, the Coffmans of the world presume that Liberal Arts has no value and Liberal Arts graduates are freeloading leeches. Therefore, they attack Liberal Arts programs… further reducing the number of people in the world who can think critically and abstractly.

    I, personally, sought a career-oriented degree. I work with successful technical leaders in a major Web company. Their backgrounds include Cold War History and Library Science, among others.

    What counts is learning to learn, learning to think, and knowing what to do with it.

  4. Whiskey Lima JulietWhiskey Lima Juliet says:

    Did college change in 20 years.  How many of you work in your undergrad major?  How many 18 year olds know what they want to do for the next 50 years.  Hell, I’m still trying to figure it out.  

    However, college was the place I learned about what was possible. And 25 year later, my Communications / Sociology degree made me a military officer, a Fortune 100 executive, and restaurateur, a consultant to a few powerful people and an owner of a license that lets me sell a schedule one drug.

    College is not always about the major.  It is about challenging yourself in ways you never imagined.  Once you are aware that “you can do this” that philosophy stays with you throughout your life.

    • AristotleAristotle says:

      Conservatives seldom understand that which can’t be easily quantified and valued, nor skills which can’t be easily defined. A-BOT and TAD completely demonstrated that with their comments above. It’s the reason our nation always ends up in trouble when people like that gain control of our direction. They’re short sighted and unable to see anything beyond immediate results.

  5. Whiskey Lima JulietWhiskey Lima Juliet says:

    Or limit the Americans that can vote, for that matter.  But that’s another thread…..

    Education is a good thing on all degrees.  College exposes you to people you would never have the opportunity to know and be friends with.  It also has wonderful classes called electives where you may learn about art and literature or sports history.  You may learn to appreciate acting and public speaking or an amazing class on death and dying. Topics that make you a citizen of the world.  Topics that you can use at horrible political events and fundraisers with truly boring people.

    The possibilities are endless and it is the only thing that I believe every American should be given.  I believe education should be free in this country.  I know, no budget for that.  But somehow I feel that a highly educated people may not need to spend more money than every country on earth combined for a military superiority.  Just a humble opinion from a person with a less than valuable degree.

  6. Whiskey Lima JulietWhiskey Lima Juliet says:

    Or limit the Americans that can vote, for that matter.  But that’s another thread…..

    Education is a good thing on all degrees.  College exposes you to people you would never have the opportunity to know and be friends with.  It also has wonderful classes called electives where you may learn about art and literature or sports history.  You may learn to appreciate acting and public speaking or an amazing class on death and dying. Topics that make you a citizen of the world.  Topics that you can use at horrible political events and fundraisers with truly boring people.

    The possibilities are endless and it is the only thing that I believe every American should be given.  I believe education should be free in this country.  I know, no budget for that.  But somehow I feel that a highly educated people may not need to spend more money than every country on earth combined for a military superiority.  Just a humble opinion from a person with a less than valuable degree.

  7. TuxedoCat says:

    It’s not your degree, it’s your own drive. If you picked a Liberal Arts degree because you knew you needed a degree and you thought it was the easiest one, you’re not going to get very far ahead in life.  If you picked a Liberal Arts degree because you were passionate about History, or Philosophy, that will serve you much better in life.  On the same token, people who picked Business or Math degrees because it was the quick way to a paycheck will be disappointed when they graduate and find most businesses will pay well, but will want 60-80 hours a week from them.  (Bringing down that hourly average).

    I also know a lot of people with zero degrees that make a lot of money too.  But they were smart and driven in a different way.

    Besides, aren’t most politicians usually liberal arts majors? They don’t seem to be hurting much for cash.

  8. Duke Coxdukeco1 says:

    You are one ignorant SOB Dio.

    This is a quote from above by Libertad.

    I’ll start:

    Libertad calling Dio “ignorant”, is like Danny Devito calling Shaquille O’Neal “short”.

    feeling creative?…

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