Press Releases | Core Curriculum

National Group Gives Bowdoin’s Core an “F”

Calls on leaders to end the $40,000 “anything goes” curriculum and put students first
April 30, 2013

Washington, DC—The American Council of Trustees and Alumni is calling on the trustees and administration of Bowdoin College to improve their educational standards to address an inadequate core curriculum that leaves students with harmful gaps in their skills and knowledge.

Bowdoin College President Barry Mills contacted ACTA to challenge the school’s “F” rating in the What Will They Learn?TM study of core curriculum. The study examines 1,070 institutions nationwide on whether students are required to take a course in seven key areas critical to a strong educational foundation: composition, literature, foreign language, American government or history, economics, mathematics and science.

Bowdoin has only one general education requirement—science—and falls in the bottom 9% of schools surveyed in terms of its curricular expectations.

“This is an opportunity to address a major shortcoming of the Bowdoin College education. Frankly, students are being disadvantaged when they are not getting college-level exposure to key subject areas,” said Anne D. Neal, ACTA president. “The trustees have the responsibility to ensure the students of Bowdoin College receive an excellent education—and that starts with insisting on a strong educational foundation.”

According to the Association of American Colleges and Universities, 91% of employers expect employees to use “a broader set of skills than in the past.” Additionally, a 2011 Roper study commissioned by ACTA found that 70% of Americans believe colleges and universities should require all students to take basic classes in core subjects. That number increased to 80% among Americans between 25 and 34 years old—recent college graduates who may be struggling to find employment.

“Graduates are far better prepared if they have taken classes in a broad range of crucial courses,” said Michael Poliakoff, vice president of policy and director of the study. “It’s a tremendous disservice for students to graduate with no more understanding of these key subjects than a twelfth grader.”

ACTA responded to President Mills with a letter explaining the benefits of a strong core curriculum. The council is eager to work with the administration, faculty, students and trustees to expand the general education requirements and ensure Bowdoin College students are as prepared as possible for life after graduation.


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.

Discover More