Press Releases | General Education

Southern Colleges Outperform Nation in Curricular Survey

November 14, 2017 by ACTA

WASHINGTON, DC—Southern colleges and universities stand out among other regions for their robust general education curricula, according to the American Council of Trustees and Alumni’s (ACTA) survey of undergraduate general education programs, What Will They Learn?™. Of the 374 schools in the South, 54% of them earned a “B” or higher for their liberal arts core.

Now in its 9th edition, What Will They Learn?™ evaluates the strength of core curricula at over 1,100 colleges and universities based on the requirement of seven key subjects: Composition, Literature, (intermediate-level) Foreign Language, U.S. Government or History, Economics, Mathematics, and Natural Science. Schools receive a grade on an “A” through “F” scale, with only 24 schools nationwide earning an “A” for requiring six or more of these core subjects.

The south is home to 11 of them: Georgia Southern University, Kennesaw State University, Morehouse College, and University of Georgia in Georgia; Baylor University and University of Dallas in Texas; Gardner-Webb University in North Carolina; Bluefield College, Christopher Newport University, and Regent University in Virginia; and the University of Science and Arts of Oklahoma.

No other region in the country can claim to have so many colleges with above-average curricular requirements. Less than half of schools in the Midwest (20%), the West (28%), and the Northeast (24%) boast curricula including five or more of the subject requirements ACTA considers essential for a liberal education. And 32% (121 schools) of southern schools require U.S. government or history courses as part of their core curriculum, as opposed to 18% nationally.

Across the country, many colleges allow students to graduate without an enriched liberal arts and sciences education. ACTA found that of the surveyed institutions, 33% of schools can boast a “B” grade or higher. Only 31% of schools receive a “C,” requiring just three of the core subjects. The remaining 36% of schools are separated into “D” schools (24%) and “F” schools (12%).

Still, there are areas where southern colleges could strengthen requirements. Only 15% of southern schools require students to complete three semesters of a foreign language and only 17 schools in the region require students to study economics.

“It is a great oversight to neglect these subjects as the global marketplace contracts and becomes more vulnerable to disruptive technology,” said Eric Bledsoe, ACTA’s Vice President of Curricular Improvement and Academic Outreach. “Trustees and other university leaders should continue to build on this already firm foundation by adding these missing course requirements.”


CONTACT: Christine Ravold,


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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