College and Beyond II: Outcomes of a Liberal Arts Education

graduates throwing caps into the air

About the Project

College and Beyond II: Outcomes of a Liberal Arts Education is a 2 ½ year initiative led by a team of researchers from the Inter-university Consortium of Political and Social Research (ICPSR) at the University of Michigan. The aim of the project is to refine and test a set of measures and methods for representing the nature and assessing the value of a liberal arts education. Learn more

*College and Beyond II: Outcomes of a Liberal Arts Education is supported by a grant from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation under the auspices of the Mellon Research Forum on the Value of Liberal Arts Education.

Project Goals

  • Develop and refine a set of measures of the liberal education experience that are validated, transferable across institutions, and scalable
  • Develop, refine, and collect a set of outcome measures that capture the full breadth of long-run impacts an undergraduate education is believed to provide
  • Provide preliminary evidence on the relationship between measures of undergraduate educational experience and various student outcomes
  • Delineate a clear path for scaling up the project (both measures and outcomes) to a much larger set of institutions and students with additional support

About AWMF

The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, a not-for-profit corporation, endeavors to strengthen, promote, and, where necessary, defend the contributions of the humanities and the arts to human flourishing and to the well-being of diverse and democratic societies.

About ICPSR

An international consortium of more than 700 academic institutions and research organizations, ICPSR provides leadership and training in data access, curation, and methods of analysis for the social science research community. ICPSR’s sponsored research focuses on the emerging challenges of digital curation and data science and initiatives that encourage the use of data in instruction.

About the Project

Rationale

The benefits of a college education are numerous and well-documented; college improves a wide range of economic, social, personal growth, health, and well-being outcomes; and the extent of college education is a key factor in growth and inequality. Exactly how college transforms students’ lives and which aspects of the experience are critical to this transformation is less well understood. Many people believe that a liberal education – a broad grounding in the humanities, mathematics, and the social and physical sciences – is key to developing the foundational knowledge and set of general skills, attitudes, and perspectives that facilitate this transformation. Others believe that college is most valuable when it is oriented towards providing specific vocational skills. Either way, little is known about how particular undergraduate experiences, academic and otherwise, lead to long-term salutary effects. Champions of the liberal arts point to the ability to think critically, to see questions from more than one perspective, to analyze precisely diverse forms of evidence, and to communicate effectively in many modes. They claim that a liberal education will prepare students for citizenship, career, and a lifelong aptitude for living well and effectively in a diverse and global society. With support from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, this study will develop quantitative metrics to shed light on these propositions, and on the broader question of how undergraduate education can be improved to best serve students and society.

Study Overview

We are partnering in this study with colleges and universities to better understand the importance of students’ experiences in and out of the classroom to their short- and long-run development in numerous domains. The project will pair rich administrative student record data regularly collected by institutions with survey, assessment, and other administrative data collected by the research team. The aim is to provide a comprehensive view of students’ collegiate experiences and their relationship to many outcomes. Survey and assessment information will be obtained for samples from two groups of students: graduates from older cohorts will provide information about long-run outcomes, while current students will provide short-run outcomes and rich qualitative and quantitative measures of college experiences. Both will help develop and validate new measures of the breadth, depth, and richness of students’ academic experiences that go beyond the major and GPA typically reported in students’ records. Furthermore, administrative records will be used to construct many of these measures for all students as far back as possible. We will thus be able to document the evolution of and disparities in participation in enriching experiences across students and over time.

The project team has launched a 2 ½ year pilot which will refine and test a set of measures and methods valid for representing the nature and assessing the value of an undergraduate education. These approaches will be employed in research during the project and are expected to be used more widely in subsequent studies, both of the liberal arts and in assessment of undergraduate education more generally. The pilot will target a small number of institutions (6-8) with considerable depth, and will accomplish four goals:

  • Develop and refine a set of measures of the liberal education experience that are validated, transferable across institutions, and scalable
  • Develop, refine, and collect a set of outcome measures that capture the full breadth of long-run impacts an undergraduate education is believed to provide
  • Provide preliminary evidence on the relationship between measures of undergraduate educational experience and various student outcomes
  • Delineate a clear path for scaling up the project (both measures and outcomes) to a much larger set of institutions and students with additional support

Project Team

Principal Investigator

Paul Courant

Former Provost
Harold T. Shapiro Professor of Public Policy
Arthur F. Thurnau Professor
Professor of Economics and of Information
ICPSR Faculty Associate
University of Michigan

Co-Investigators

Susan M. Jekielek

Assistant Research Scientist at ICPSR
Director, Education and Early Childhood projects
University of Michigan

Margaret C. Levenstein

Director, Inter-university Consortium for Political and Social Research
Research Professor, Institute for Social Research and School of Information
Adjunct Professor of Business Economics and Public Policy, Ross School of Business
University of Michigan

Tim McKay

Arthur F. Thurnau Professor of Physics, Astronomy, and Education
University of Michigan

Kevin Stange

Associate Professor of Public Policy
Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy
University of Michigan

Advisory Committee

Peter Bearman

President of The American Assembly
Director, Interdisciplinary Center for Innovative Theory and Empirics (INCITE)
Jonathan R. Cole Professor of the Social Sciences
Columbia University

Matthew M. Chingos

Vice President for Education Data and Policy
Urban Institute

David Deming

Professor of Public Policy
Harvard Kennedy School
Principal Investigator, CLIMB Initiative
Research Associate, National Bureau of Economic Research

Angela D. Dillard

Associate Dean of Undergraduate Education in the College of Literature Science and the Arts (LSA), University of Michigan
Richard A. Meisler Collegiate Professor of Afroamerican and African Studies and in the Residential College

Camille Farrington

Managing Director and Senior Research Associate
University of Chicago Consortium on School Research

Robert M. Groves

Provost
Gerard J. Campbell, S.J. Professor in the Math and Statistics Department and the Sociology Department
Georgetown University

Fayneese Miller

President
Hamline University

Cybele Raver

Deputy Provost and Professor of Applied Psychology
New York University

Doug Shapiro

Executive Research Director
Clearinghouse Research Center
National Student Clearinghouse

James Shulman

Vice President and Chief Operating Officer
American Council of Learned Societies

Sarah E. Turner

University Professor of Economics and Education
Souder Family Professor, Department of Economics
University of Virginia

Charlie Blaich

Director of the Center of Inquiry and Higher Education Data Sharing Consortium
Wabash College

Harry Brighouse

Mildred Fish Harnack Professor of Philosophy of Education
Professor of Philosophy
Carol Dickson-Bascom Professor of the Humanities
Affiliate Professor of Educational Policy Studies, School of Education
University of Wisconsin-Madison

Stephen DesJardins

Marvin W. Peterson Collegiate Professor of Education
Professor, Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy
Evaluation Faculty Lead, Center for Education Design, Evaluation & Research (CEDER)
University of Michigan
International Co-Investigator, Center for Global Higher Education
University College-London

Diana Hess

Dean, School of Education
University of Wisconsin-Madison

Alondra Nelson

President of the Social Science Research Council
Professor of Sociology
Columbia University

Cecilia Rios-Aguilar

Professor
Associate Dean of Equity, Diversity, & Inclusion
Graduate School of Education & Information Studies
University of California, Los Angeles

News & Events

Project News

Upcoming Events

  • Public Seminar Series - Measuring the Liberal Arts: In Principle and In Practice

    With this public seminar series, the project will draw together research communities interested in using data of all kinds, including student life course learning analytics data, to better understand and represent the experience of students (especially undergraduates) in higher education and connect those focused on measuring and representing the student experience in higher education with others focused on elucidating the various goals of the American college and university system.

  • More information is coming soon!

Contact Us


Additonal Contact Information

ICPSR
330 Packard Street
Ann Arbor, MI 48104

Research Manager
Allyson Flaster
aflaster@umich.edu
(734) 615-5747

Project Manager
Anya Ovchinnikova
anyao@umich.edu
(734) 615-0448