Press Releases | General Education

What the College Rankings Won’t Tell You responds to public demand for focus on education and value
August 16, 2010

WASHINGTON, DC—Responding to the widespread dissatisfaction with traditional college rankings and the growing demand for universities to refocus on undergraduate education and value, the American Council of Trustees and Alumni unveiled today its 2011 college evaluations on

The free website evaluates more than 700 colleges and universities based on their general education curricula: the core courses aimed at providing a strong foundation of knowledge. Mel Elfin, founding editor of U.S. News & World Report’s college rankings, praised the website as “an invaluable and unique additional resource for parents” and The Wall Street Journal called its focus on education “admirable.”

The website assigns each institution a grade from “A” to “F” based on how many of the following seven core subjects it requires: Composition, Mathematics, Science, Economics, Foreign Language, Literature, and American Government or History. Only a handful get A’s, and most do not require college-level courses in many of these critical subjects.

“The crisis in higher education is about more than money—it’s about what we are paying for. And when it comes to ensuring graduates possess the basic skills and knowledge they need to succeed, universities are shortchanging students,” said ACTA president Anne D. Neal, speaking at the National Press Club. “Since when is do-it-yourself an educational philosophy?”

Key Findings:

— Colleges and universities have by and large abandoned a coherent content-rich general education curriculum, thereby allowing students to graduate with important gaps in their knowledge:

— More than 60% of all institutions receive a “C” or worse for requiring 3 or fewer subjects.

— Nearly 40% don’t require college-level mathematics.

— Less than 5% of colleges and universities require economics.

— Less than a third require intermediate-level foreign language, a broad survey class in American government or history, or literature.

— Paying a lot doesn’t necessarily get you a lot: Average tuition at the more than 100 “F” schools is $28,200 (2009 figures). At the 16 “A” schools, it’s $13,200.

— Public institutions are doing a relatively better job of ensuring students graduate with some of the basic skills and knowledge they need than private institutions: More than half (52%) of all privates receive a “D” or an “F” for requiring 2 or fewer subjects, while a little under half (44%) of all publics receive a “B” or better for requiring 4 or more subjects.

The American Council of Trustees and Alumni is an independent non-profit dedicated to academic freedom, academic excellence, and accountability. Since its founding in 1995, ACTA has counseled boards, educated the public and published reports about such issues as good governance, historical literacy, core curricula, the free exchange of ideas, and accreditation in higher education.


Launched in 1995, we are the only organization that works with alumni, donors, trustees, and education leaders across the United States to support liberal arts education, uphold high academic standards, safeguard the free exchange of ideas on campus, and ensure that the next generation receives an intellectually rich, high-quality college education at an affordable price.

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