The Danger of Private Liberal Arts Colleges

When deciding where to attend college, I envisioned a small, private liberal arts school nestled in the woods. I wanted a place that emphasized progressivism, artistic freedom, and personal expression, for I wanted a new home that matched my persona. I chose Skidmore College in upstate New York prior to attending the College of Charleston. I soon realized that although these qualities that attracted me to Skidmore are strong and should circulate throughout all colleges, Skidmore felt plagued by elitism and a lack of drive from the students.

Location, Location, Location

This elitism originates from the location of the school, the generally high socioeconomic status of the students, and the size of the student body. Skidmore is located in Saratoga Springs, a quaint, upscale town. The campus itself is a ways down the road from downtown. Due to the closed-off nature of the campus, everyday life is confined to merely a few acres, separated from any issue plaguing the world. This effectively allows students to run away from communities where their ambition and youthful drive can be used for the progress of a community. This isn’t to say it is wrong to live in a place that is closed off, but these schools merely serve self-proclaimed “alternative” students an out-of-danger place where they can be united in what they claim to care about.   

Diversity? There is None.

Skidmore and other small private liberal arts schools cost a pretty penny, so most students that go to these schools are mostly in the one percent. Of course, there is nothing wrong with being wealthy, but putting these kids in the same space does not spark productivity. This system, rather, allows the narrative of wanting to help marginalized people to be prevalent but not explored. To be an active citizen, there needs to be people in the community that are unfairly disadvantaged by societies rules. With the fact that these student bodies are so small (usually round 1500-2500 people), ideas and progressivism can only spread so far.

College of Charleston – We Do it Right.

Mike Ledford/Courtesy of College of Charleston.

Students who truly want to spark social change through a liberal arts school should likely go to a school more similar to the College of Charleston. Instead of being isolated geographically, our campus is embedded in city where there is much to be fought for and active citizenship is vital. Civil discourse and an openness to alternative views is essential, especially in this day and age. The College is an example of what should be happening in the world today, but unfortunately, echo-chambers like Skidmore reflect what is truly occurring in the political sphere.

Politicians are constantly bashing each other causing the two sides of the aisle to become more polarized everyday. This can stem from allowing like-minded youth to come together in one concentrated area where they develop elitist mentalities through constant validation of their peers. College of Charleston reflects a system where there are many sides, allowing a true progression of society.

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