ACTA is an independent, non-profit organization committed to academic freedom, excellence, and accountability at America's colleges and universities.

ACTA is an independent, non-profit organization committed to academic freedom, excellence, and accountability at America's colleges and universities.

ACTA is an independent, non-profit organization committed to academic freedom, excellence, and accountability at America's colleges and universities.

  • According to data from the Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), the United States spends more money per pupil in higher education than any other industrialized nation, but with inferior results. 

    The outlay for children’s education is the second largest family expense—second only to buying a house. And student loan debt now surpasses credit card debt. Meanwhile, our graduation rates are below those of almost every other OECD nation..

    While families are paying more, they are receiving less, with survey after survey showing troubling declines in adult literacy and skills. The National Assessment of Adult Literacy found that the majority of college-educated American adults cannot understand texts such as newspaper editorials or do the calculations necessary to understand the cost per ounce of food items. Professors Richard Arum and Josipa Roksa in their groundbreaking work, Academically Adrift, found that nearly half of students had little or no cognitive gain in their first two years of college; over a third (38%) had little or no learning gains in four years.

    A recent poll by Public Agenda found that the public’s confidence in higher education is rapidly eroding. Nearly 80% of Americans believe students have to incur too much debt for college, and only 44% believe students get their money’s worth. Nearly half said that public higher education should be “fundamentally overhauled.”

    "ACTA [is] the most important and creative organization in higher education, one that supports high academic standards ...  and institutional accountability. There is a great need for a national organization that oversees this field."

    – Benno Schmidt, chairman, CUNY Board of Trustees

    ACTA has been at the forefront of a long-overdue accountability revolution in higher education. Parents and citizens are asking hard questions about quality and costs. The public and their elected officials are looking for better information about educational results. They want to ensure that higher education is getting the “biggest bang for the buck” in meeting their state’s needs and they want trustees to do a better job of representing the interests of students, parents, and taxpayers.

    What We Are Doing

    ACTA is demanding accountability—and is reaching out to parents, taxpayers, alumni, donors, policymakers and trustees to ensure excellence and affordability around the country.

    Informing the Public

    Colleges and universities must explain what they are doing and document that they are doing it well. Greater information and disclosure enable parents, students, alumni, and taxpayers to evaluate colleges’ performance. ACTA’s What Will They Learn?™ project gives college-bound students, their parents, along with high school guidance counselors, key data on the academic quality of over 1,070 colleges and universities including evaluation of the core curricular requirements, graduation rates, tuition costs, and use of nationally normed assessments of academic progress for each institution.

    Informing and Engaging Trustees

    Through publications and seminars, ACTA provides trustees with the independent information they need to be effective fiduciaries of their institutions with final authority for the fiscal, academic, and social well-being of the campuses they oversee. ACTA's series of trustee guides from our Institute for Effective Governance focus on such issues as identifying and eliminating outdated or low enrollment courses; employing new technologies; using the campus year-round; utilizing buildings efficiently and scheduling classes when students need them; identifying incentives for faculty to teach more courses; controlling growth in administrative costs; monitoring academic standards and stopping grade inflation; and developing effective policies to control alcohol and substance abuse on campus. ACTA’s seminars for trustees, jointly directed with the Aspen Institute, help trustees understand and contextualize their duties within the historical tradition of academic excellence.

    Informing Policymakers

    ACTA works with governors and legislators throughout the nation, providing information through our series of state reports and guides outlining careful practices for cost and effectiveness. ACTA staff have given testimony and presentations on cost control and challenges facing American higher education at conferences sponsored by governors and high-level state education officials in Indiana, Virginia, South Carolina, Maine, Texas, and Colorado. ACTA has also developed publications to help policymakers understand changes in the Higher Education Act and the recommendations of the Spellings Commission in order to stay abreast of accountability issues at the national level.

    Encouraging Intelligent Donors and Engaged Alumni

    Alumni and donors can let administrators and faculty know that they support high academic standards, cost-effective academic management, and intellectual diversity. They can advocate change through concerned alumni groups and can provide targeted gifts that are designed to provide students with rich educational options they would not have otherwise. ACTA’s Intelligent Donor’s Guide to College Giving helps prospective donor make such informed choices, and has won praise from the Philanthropy Roundtable.

    Learn how ACTA provides opportunities and information for alumni & donors, trustees, policymakers, and students & parents regarding higher education reform.

    Our Initiatives