by Daniel L. Bennett
Our friends at the American Council of Trustees and Alumni released a new report today, effectively titled What Will They Learn?, that looks at and assigns grades to 100 U.S. colleges and universities based on their general education requirements. They've also launched a corresponding website that features a comparison tool that allows users to compare school's GE requirements side-by-side and offers an expanded list of schools.
In compiling the project, ACTA identified seven subjects (Composition, Literature, Foreign Language, US Government or History, Economics, Mathematics, Natural or Physical Science) that it considers essential to a liberal arts education and reviewed each college's catalog to determine whether each subject is a GE requirement. The schools were assigned a grade based on the number of compulsory GE requirements. Of the more than 100 colleges included thus far, only 7 made the "A List", which required at least 6 of the 7 GE requirements. I'll single out the US Military Academy as one of the 7 to make the "A List" because we recently ranked it the best college in the nation. Another important finding is that public colleges received better grades than private ones - probably due to the fact that public schools give up a bit of autonomy in curriculum decisions in return for subsidies.
With WhatWillTheyLearn.com, ACTA has developed a very useful tool for students and their parents to easily identify and compare what subjects students are expected to learn at various colleges. It also brings us a little closer to the goal of making more information about colleges publicly available and easily digestible so that students can make better decisions about where to attend college. This project will likely stir things up a bit in the higher ed establishment, as college officials (like students) don't like to receive failing grades. At the press release, Mel Elfin candidly remarked about the probable response of the establishment, stating that "their anger and passion is probably a sign that you are on the right track [to reform]".