In evolutionary biology, there is a concept of conspicuous display of resources, even wasting resources (especially among males), to advertise that one has good and to spare. Peacock tales are the most frequent example: they provide no particular advantage and use up a lot of the body's resources to produce such a display. Yet because of this, they are a sign of good genes and general health. I've got resources to burn, peahen, baby.
I wonder if something similar hasn't been increasingly at work in liberal arts college education. On a national cultural level, it is We have such an abundance of wealth that we can afford to spend thousands of dollars to educate some our most talented youth in fields that don't promise to increase the GDP much. Countries on the make can't afford such luxuries, and they send their best and brightest into science and technology or business degrees.
On an individual level, a degree one finds enjoyable, rather than one that is geared toward income, announces that the bearer has such talent that they can find remunerative work anyway. I think uncomfortably of my own studies in Theatre and Medieval English Literature. To the question "What are you going to do with that?" I was arrogant enough to brush it off. I'll find a way to make it work. You'll see. I no longer think that was a good attitude or a wise bet.
Humans are more complex than peacocks, so the comparison is not as linear. There are certainly at least some job possibilities attached to every field (though various "Studies" come close to being entirely self-referential). And there is certainly significant benefit to a society for some people to know history, philosophy, or literature - it's just that the proportion of people we send into those fields may be askew.
Of course, sports provides some of the same evolutionary cues. I have enough health and strength that I can waste it on entertainment. Which may account for the animosity that starts at a relatively young age between jocks and intellectuals - they are signaling different types of abundance with overkill, completely eliminating the other group from one sector of the mating pool. One could extend this to include artists, fighters, and preps as well.