Trustees | General Education

ACTA Publication Indicates Colleges Fail To Prepare Students

ULOOP   |  September 16, 2019 by Danielle Wirsansky

Students are often told that they must go to college. They are told that higher education is the key to their future and that they will not be able to make it very far without it. However, studies show many colleges are actually failing their students and are not adequately preparing them for the real world, according to a recent press release.

The American Council of Trustees and Alumni (ACTA) released the latest edition of its signature publication What Will They Learn? 2019-2020, which assesses the core academic requirements at 1,123 four-year institutions that together enroll more than eight million undergraduate students. ACTA then scores each school based on whether each institution requires all students to take courses in seven priority subject areas as part of their general education programs.

“It’s not surprising that public confidence in higher education is falling,” said Michael Poliakoff, ACTA’s president. “Amidst all the fanfare about the release of the latest college rankings this week, there is not a peep about ill-informed citizens, often underprepared for the workforce, who are graduating from our colleges and universities with mountains of student debt. By focusing on resource inputs, admissions selectivity, and institutional reputation, the major rankings systems drive costs up but show little interest in what students learn—or don’t learn.”

This year’s results show that only 22 institutions were able to earn an “A” for requiring their students to take 6–7 of the core subject areas. On the other side of the spectrum,137 schools completely failed ACTA’s assessment.

The core classes that ACTA’s Council of Scholars are of utmost importance include: Composition, Literature, (intermediate-level) Foreign Language, U.S. Government or History, Economics, Mathematics, and Natural Science. One particular finding showed that while many universities in this ranking require students to take courses in composition and the natural sciences, curricular gaps are common everywhere else.


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