Choosing which college or university to attend is a momentous decision. Yet so many college-bound students focus solely on prestige, reputation, and student perks in making their choice. Too few consider the academic offerings and educational environment that can help students flourish intellectually. ACTA’s resources provide insights on how to distinguish which colleges and universities foster rigorous study of the liberal arts and a campus culture that promotes academic freedom. These resources help students and parents make informed choices about where to direct their tuition dollars.
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On Academic Excellence
Preparing Students for Rewarding Careers
Recent studies have shown that many students, even graduates of elite institutions, fail to improve their critical thinking abilities while in college—the skill employers rank as their top priority. With the average person changing jobs as many as 11 times during his or her first decades of employment, students need to know which colleges require a liberal arts education that prepares them for the 21st century workforce. WhatWillTheyLearn.com grades over 1,100 institutions on an “A” through “F” scale based on the core requirements all undergraduate students must complete. The website also provides information on graduation and tuition rates, a school’s commitment to free expression on campus, and what employers are saying about the importance of the liberal arts. You can even test yourself on your knowledge of American history.
Preparing Students for Informed Citizenship
In 2019, ACTA commissioned a survey of civic knowledge. The results were stunning, but perhaps not surprising given that only 18% of colleges require students to take foundational courses in U.S. government or history. According to the survey, 18% of respondents chose Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez as the author of the New Deal, and over 60% could not identify the term lengths for members of Congress. ACTA tirelessly advocates for strengthening civic education at our nation’s colleges and universities. Our latest publication, 10 Things Everyone Should Know About American History by distinguished history professor Allen Guelzo, takes readers through pivotal moments in American history and illustrates the contemporary importance of our past.
On Academic Freedom
Despite falling standards at many institutions, excellent campus programs exist that promote rigorous academic study, liberal arts curricula, and engagement with a broad range of viewpoints and perspectives. ACTA designates these programs as Oases of Excellence, which introduce students to the best of the foundational arts and sciences, teach American heritage, and ensure free inquiry into a range of intellectual viewpoints.
In an age of increasing polarization, students must learn how to engage in civil, informed, and constructive discourse on controversial topics. Through a partnership with Braver Angels, ACTA helps student groups across the country host on-campus debates that teach students to strengthen their own arguments and respectfully listen to opposing viewpoints.
College students need a campus culture where the mind and character can grow, but at too many institutions, substance use threatens student safety and development. ACTA’s 2019 report, Addressing College Drinking and Drug Use, explores how alcohol and drug use can affect student achievement and calls for collaborative action by college presidents and trustees to address the problem and help students maximize their potential.
Asking the Right Questions
ACTA arms students and parents with the resources they need to ask the right questions in the search for the right college. For students: see 10 Questions to Ask on a Campus Visit. For parents: What’s a Parent to Do? helps you ask the necessary questions and evaluate the answers.
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
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