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Future Of Liberal Arts Colleges Focus Of Conference On South Coast

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Anna Lundsten grew up in St. Paul, Minnesota. When it came time to pick a college, she passed on some big name universities, deciding instead to go to a small, liberal arts school, a decision which landed her at California Lutheran University in Thousand Oaks.

She liked the idea of smaller classes, and more opportunities for on-campus jobs, and internships which would be harder to come by at larger institutions.

But liberal arts colleges have had to battle some perceptions that the education they provide is out of touch with the needs of current day college students.

The Council of Independent Colleges, which represents 680 non-profit independent colleges and universities, is trying to tackle the perception issue.

Dozens of the council’s leaders from around the country met on the CLU campus Monday.

S. Georgia Nugent, who’s the former President of Kenyon College in Ohio, is heading the CIC’s Campaign for the Liberal Arts, an education effort designed to reach the media, the public, and especially prospective students.  Nugent says there's a lot of misunderstanding about the state of liberal arts education, and they are trying to show that these colleges are accessible, affordable, diverse, and lead to success.

Chris Kimball, the President of California Lutheran University, says smaller institutions have the ability to be more nimble than big universities in changing their curriculum. While smaller schools often can’t offer the wide range of classes you find at bigger institutions, the tradeoff can be more personalized instruction,

Tom Hellie, the President of Linfield College, in McMinnville Oregon, says in recent years many liberal arts colleges worked to meld traditional curriculum with current day job needs. He says the colleges have evolved over the years.

Hellie believes that in the modern day job market, it’s important to have some of the background coming from a liberal arts education:

Council officials say liberal arts schools have been evolving to try to meet the needs of modern day students, by doing a better job of combining practical knowledge, and skills with some traditional liberal arts programs. They say they know they’re facing an uphill battle, because they don’t have the marketing dollars of big universities.

That’s why they’ve launched their now three year old grass roots campaign, to try to reach out to the prospective students of tomorrow.

CLU is the parent of KCLU Radio.