The concept and practice of Business education is on the hot seat in a series of articles created in collaboration between the Chronicle of Higher Education and The New York Times (“Business Educators Struggle to Put Students to Work”). With over 20% of all college graduates majoring in Business, this is an important discussion. It also relates, very closely, to my previous post about liberal arts vs. professionally focused undergraduate education.
Some of the claims are that when compared with Liberal Arts majors, undergraduate Business majors:
- Spend far less time studying
- Frequently don’t even use their text books
- Show slower improvement of writing and reasoning skills
- Score significantly less on the graduate Business School admissions test – the GMAT.
Why would this be the case? Buried in the stories are a number of pertinent facts. Most importantly, these things are largely true of students who attend “lesser” undergraduate Business schools. Those would generally be, programs that are not as well funded, have a higher faculty to student ratio, and serve as more of a “cash cow” for a large (frequently public) university.
Why do so many students want to major in a Business subject? Quite simply, many of them are looking for the sort of training that will equip them to get a job. As the economy continues in its current cycle, this reason will continue to gain potency. Preparation for the next step in life – the job – is a logical outcome from 4 years of hard work and large amounts of tuition dollars. It would be short-sighted, however for anyone to overlook the importance of those other skills – those traditionally developed by English, Philosophy, History, Political Science, Chemistry, etc. Those disciplines have been shown help students develop crucial skills in reasoning and critical thinking. Skills that are important in life and career – no matter what career you may choose.
This discussion brings us back to the necessity of a balanced education, no matter what your choice of major. It is important to have a full education – one that trains students to think, reason, and express themselves. This isn’t just important as a means of stilling the critics. It is important as a means of keeping our society functioning and moving forward.
The best undergraduate Business programs include both sides of the equation. In fact, the major accreditation agencies demand that they do so. Choosing the right college, Business or otherwise, requires an exploration and understanding of the program, it’s requirements and the University in which it is housed.