Press Releases | General Education

Deep in the Heart of Texas, Students Find Strong Liberal Arts Programs

What Will They Learn? survey finds three in five Texas colleges require a strong liberal arts foundation for undergrads
November 16, 2016 by ACTA

WASHINGTON, DC—Texas institutions of higher education ranked above average in general education, according to the new What Will They Learn? report from the American Council of Trustees and Alumni (ACTA). Of the 50 major Texas colleges surveyed, 29 earned a “B” or higher for their core requirements. Over 70% require students to take an American history course, nearly 75% require a writing composition course, all but eleven require college-level mathematics, and all except Rice University and Abilene Christian University require natural science.

Now in its 8th edition, What Will They Learn? evaluates the strength of core curricula at every major undergraduate college and university in the U.S., based on the requirement of seven key subjects: Composition, Literature, Intermediate-level Foreign Language, U.S. History or Government, Economics, Mathematics, and Natural Science. Schools receive a grade on an “A” through “F” scale, with only 25 schools nationwide earning an “A” by requiring six or more of those core subjects.

Nationally, most colleges allow students to graduate without deep immersion in the liberal arts and sciences. ACTA found that of the 1,110 surveyed institutions, the largest share, 32%, earned a “C,” requiring only three of the seven core subjects. A large majority of institutions (82%) do not require their students to take a course in U.S. history or government. Only 13% require an intermediate-level foreign language, and a mere 3% of colleges and universities require students to take even one course in economics.

Texas alone boasts two “A” schools, Baylor University and the University of Dallas, and only one “F” school: Rice University. Despite its reputation as a top-ranked research university, Rice does its undergraduates a disservice by failing to require any of the seven core subjects.

“Due to the prevalence of weak graduation requirements, too many students can pass through college with no little to no development of core knowledge,” said Dr. Michael B. Poliakoff, president of the American Council of Trustees and Alumni. “Texas, however, is bucking the trend. By upholding their commitment to rigorous academic standards, higher education leaders in the Lone Star State are delivering on the promise of the liberal arts and ensuring that students receive a rigorous and well-rounded education.”

Texas exceeds the national average, but there remains much room for improvement: Fourteen institutions received a grade of “C” or lower, leaving large numbers of graduates with significant gaps in their knowledge and ill-prepared for their careers. Only one institution requires economics. In one of the most heavily bilingual states in the country, only six Texas institutions require intensive foreign-language study at the intermediate level.

To see the full Texas report card, click  here.


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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