Press Releases | Costs

Bloated College Curricula Cause Exploding College Costs

Strategies for Improved Learning and Major Savings
November 9, 2015

WASHINGTON, DC—The American Council of Trustees and Alumni (ACTA) announces the release of its newest report The Cost of Chaos in the Curriculum coauthored by Elizabeth D. Capaldi Phillips and Michael B. Poliakoff. The Cost of Chaos shows how the vast array of course choices given to college students is a cause of exploding costs and poor academic outcomes. Moreover, a bloated undergraduate curriculum is particularly detrimental to the success of students from lower socioeconomic backgrounds.

The Cost of Chaos shows how at most schools an expansive list of general education choices replaced the thoughtful and efficient core curriculum that was previously part of every student’s college education.  Restoring a coherent core offers amazing cost reductions––nearly 10% of educational costs per semester, and this reduction could ultimately be reflected in the price of tuition. The report also shows that graduation rates are higher with such a curriculum, and appropriate foundational courses provide what students need for success in career, community and citizenship. A well-designed curriculum does not waste scarce resources on overly specialized classes that correspond more to faculty research than to building essential skills and knowledge.

ACTA President Anne Neal observed, “It is time for higher education to put the focus back on providing the best education at the lowest cost to students. A school’s priority must always be placed on students.”

As Capaldi Phillips noted, “The curriculum needs to be coherent to achieve the learning outcomes expected for a college graduate. Curricular coherence also improves student success and reduces costs.”

Capaldi Phillips and Poliakoff have a combined administrative experience at six major universities. Capaldi Phillips is currently a university professor and professor of psychology at Arizona State University as well as former provost there. Poliakoff has been ACTA’s vice president of policy since 2010, overseeing programming and publications on behalf of higher education reform. ACTA is an independent, nonprofit organization committed to academic freedom, excellence and accountability at America’s colleges and universities.

For access to the full report, click here.


Molly Mitchell
Director of Communications


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