Using Student Data to Understand the Economic Value of a Liberal Education


AVDF/ACLS Fellowships for Research on the Liberal Arts


The economic value of a liberal education faces growing skepticism. To measure economic value, previous studies have used proxies for a liberal education, such as attending a liberal arts college or majoring in a liberal arts and sciences field. These proxies, however, assume that students within the same college or major have the same educational experience. In response, Ithaka S+R developed a framework of the features of a liberal arts and sciences education and measured the association between institutional offerings of such an experience and students’ outcomes, all measured at the institution-level. In this project, Ithaka S+R researchers will apply this framework to individual-level data, investigating how students’ exposure to a liberal educational experience is associated with their academic and labor market outcomes. This study deepens the evidence base of the returns of a liberal education in an ecosystem increasingly focused on the market value of postsecondary credentials.