College Planning & Management

MAY 2013

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Recruit & Retain MISERICORDIA UNIV ERSI T Y Liberal Arts Vs. Career Education Why not both? BY MICHAEL A . MACDOW ELL F OR MANY YEARS, THE arts have been abandoned? No. All students are required to intellectual elite and the pragmacomplete a core curriculum with courses in philosophy, history, tists have squared off against one religion, science, mathematics, English, and other traditional another about the value of the liberal arts. It subjects. The result is a well-rounded undergraduate experience. now appears that those who believe a college The decision to emphasize the health sciences here was education should provide employable skills made 12 years ago. We believed it made good strategic sense to have popular opinion with them. The current make a well-focused effort in the rapidly growing health and employment rate and rising college debt are medical sciences fields. American demographics were on our enhancing the argument for a practical college education. side. The growing cost of medical care, along with the shortage Perhaps there is too much being made of the trade-offs of M.D.s and D.O.s, and the hesitancy of private insurance and between a four-year liberal arts degree and a career-focused one. Medicare to continue to fund physician services for routine The benefits of a good liberal arts education can be effectively procedures, created a growing niche for a small university to combined with practiproduce quality health care cal career orientation professionals. Perhaps most satisfying is that health and a well-designed The downside is the science and liberal arts faculty have curriculum. expense of these programs. Based on the These nationally accredited worked cooperatively to create a solid tradition of graduating programs are limited in liberal arts core as the foundation for students who serve huenrollment by their accreditmankind, Misericordia all students, including — of course — the ing associations. Salaries for University has educated faculty and other professionhealth science majors. high-skilled nurses als are high. However, the since l944. Our tradition programs attract excellent in the health sciences was expanded in 1973 with the introduction students who are willing to stay at Misericordia for an underof one of the country's only medical imaging programs at a fourgraduate and graduate degree, creating the enviable enrollment year college. Later we introduced undergraduate-plus-masters patterns. (five-year) programs in occupational therapy, physical therapy, Perhaps most satisfying is that health science and liberal arts speech-language pathology, and physician assistant. faculty have worked cooperatively to create a solid liberal arts Driven significantly by an outstanding reputation of high core as the foundation for all students, including — of course — board pass rates and graduate success in the health and medical the health science majors. sciences fields, our enrollment has grown in the past 14 years Can a good core curriculum of 50-plus hours provide all that from a little more than 1,000 students to more than 1,900 fullis necessary to be considered liberally educated? The answer is time students and 1,200 part-time students. probably no. But if the purpose of a liberal arts education is to This growth occurred despite wavering and declining enprovide students with a solid structure for what a well-educated rollment trends at similar institutions. Last year, when many person should know, and instill in them a spirit of inquiry and institutions experienced decreased enrollment, Misericordia's the willingness to be a lifelong learner, then the basic liberal arts freshman class increased from 370 students to 510. Entering SAT education has been achieved. and ACT scores also continue to increase, while the discount rate The result is graduates who are able to reflect, reason well and has remained moderate relative to that of competing institutions. critically, and have the passion to continue to learn. After all, isn't Retention rates have been among the best of any similarly sized that what a good college education should be about? CPM institution. The result has been a significant increase in reserves, resulting in fiscal stability not shared by many others. Michael A. MacDowell has been president of Misericordia UniverDoes rapid growth in the health sciences mean that the liberal sity in Dallas, PA, for more than 14 years. 14 COLLEGE PLANNING & MANAGEMENT / MAY 2013 WWW.PLANNING 4EDUCATION.COM

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