Colleges and Universities

The Humanities & Business Education In an Economic Crisis

July 31, 2020  • Business and Society Program

As colleges weigh whether to welcome students back to campus this fall, they do so under the burden of financial pressures on higher education that have been building for over a decade. Among these pressures is a question increasingly prominent in media: Given the rising cost of tuition, what is the return on investment of a college education? Since the last financial crisis, this question has often been used to set up a false choice between liberal arts education and career-oriented education in STEM or business. In this episode, we’ll hear why this based on a flawed understanding of “employability” in evaluating higher education, and learn why moving beyond the binary of liberal arts vs business helps students and even, democracy itself.

The Business 20/20 podcast is a series that explores the changing relationship between business and society from 1999 to today. Each episode unpacks a key event—from the Seattle WTO protests to the global financial crisis and beyond—to find insights for the future. Produced by the Aspen Institute’s Business & Society Program and hosted by Michelle Harven.

Follow the Business & Society Program on @AspenBizSociety and subscribe to the Business & Society Newsletter.

Episode Notes


Matthew Tadashi Hora, Lynn Perry Wooten, Pierre Gentin


Michelle Harven

Writing and Production

Written by Keith Schumann with input from T.A. Frank, Miguel Padró, Felicia Davis, and the Business & Society Team.

Recorded by Ben Eyler and Amina Akhtar and edited by Jesse Krinsky.

The Business & Society team wishes to thank the audio technicians and everyone involved in the production of this episode, including:

  • Phoebe Petrovic
  • Megan Noel Organ
  • Meg Murnane
  • Michelle Stabile
  • Lucy Huang
Music Samples Featured in this Episode

Chad Crouch – Algorithms (Excerpted form of the track; used under Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 3.0 License)

Chad Crouch  – Starlight (Excerpted form of the track; used under Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 3.0 License)

Ketsa – Capable (Excerpted form of the track; used under Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License)

Tobacco Road – Storyblocks Audio

Archival Audio

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Feb 2, 2014

Facebook page of Senator Josh Hawley, July 29, 2019

Business and Markets
Economic Crises: A Crucible for Change?
March 31, 2020 • Business and Society Program