Not Liberal Arts: Who Are We?

Justin Banks-Staff Writer

Based on the responses of a small survey of both employees and students at Dordt College, the following unspoken truth may come as a shock to many—Dordt College is not a liberal arts institution.

In the Dordt Admission Office lies a promotional flyer for the college, titled The Skinny on Dordt College. One particularly interesting claim made in the flyer is, “At Dordt, Core Program courses focus on interdisciplinary themes grounded in a comprehensive biblical world and life view.”

If Dordt students are receiving a broad knowledge by way of various core programs, how then is this institution not a liberal arts college?

Like many students, sophomore Samantha Hoekstra believed that Dordt College was a liberal arts college based on the fact that students “learn things that go beyond their majors.”

“What is a Liberal Arts College?,” a page on the Liberal Arts College website,  helps students choose the right college for them. This page is designated solely on defining what a liberal arts college is. According to the definition, “A liberal arts college is a school that offers four-year degrees that are on general liberal arts education. These degrees are broad in breath… [covering] subjects like Art, Literature, English, Sociology, Political Science, Philosophy, Mathematics, History, Anthropology, Linguistics, Mathematics, etc.”

The Carnegie Classification of Institutions of Higher Education provides standards that help explain why Dordt College is not technically a liberal arts institution. In 1970, the Carnegie Commission of Higher Education developed a framework to classify colleges and universities; more recently, the traditional classification framework was updated to the Basic Classification. The classification system has been updated over six times since 1973, and the last update was made in 2015 when the group redefined the Associate’s Categories. Changes were also made to the categories of the Research Doctoral Universities.

According to The Carnegie Classification of Institutions of Higher Learning, Dordt College falls under the category of Baccalaureate Colleges: Diverse Fields. The Baccalaureate Colleges: Diverse, a subcategory of Baccalaureate Colleges, is defined as a four-year college or university where baccalaureate degrees are offered.

Also under the category of Baccalaureate Colleges is the Baccalaureate Colleges: Arts & Sciences Focus, more commonly known as liberal arts college.

The two subcategories are very similar, but according Jim Bos of the Dordt Registrar Dordt College is a Baccalaureate College: Diverse Fields because approximately 40 percent or more of Dordt College alumni earned majors in either education or business.

Therefore, though Dordt College has a strong tradition in the liberal arts, because a large portion of alumni majored in fields unaffiliated with the arts and sciences, Dordt will remain a Baccalaureate Colleges: Diverse and not a liberal arts institution. However, the popularity of STEM programs continue to build across the globe, and with the addition of the new science building, it is possible that future alum will impact change in Dordt’s official institution type.

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