Trustees | General Education

Beyond rankings: Organizations focus on curricula, censorship on campus

USA TODAY   |  August 26, 2009 by Mary Beth Marklein

For all the debate about whether the US News college rankings provide any sort of meaningful measure of quality, they have encouraged increased public scrutiny of what goes on at the nation’s colleges and universities. I’ve come to appreciate the potential value of rankings or report cards that focus on a particular quality (as opposed to the overbroad idea of best college) in higher education.

A couple of first-time full-page ads in this year’s America’s Best Colleges guidebook (and in the current edition of the magazine) provide two recent examples.

1) On the inside front cover, an ad placed by the American Council of Alumni and Trustee urges readers to “Find out What the College Rankings Don’t Tell You.” Its new website seeks to answer for 100 universities by assigning each a grade from “A” to “F” based on how many of the seven key subjects it requires students to take: Composition, Mathematics, Science, Economics, Foreign Language, Literature, and American Government or History. Among findings:

  • No institution requires all seven. Five require six subjects: Brooklyn College, Texas A&M, UT-Austin, University of Arkansas, and West Point. (Of those, only UT-Austin and West Point show up in U.S. News’ top 50 in national universities or liberal arts colleges)
  • Average tuition at those schools is $5,400. Average tuition at the 11 schools that require no subjects is $37,700.
  • Barely half, 53 out of 100, require math.

2) Meanwhile, toward the middle of the guidebook, an ad placed by The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (or FIRE) urges readers to check out school policies related to its mission. A separate ad in the magazine (out this week) highlights schools it considers the “worst of the worst” when it comes to liberty on campus. Those are: Brandeis University, Colorado College, Johns Hopkins University, Michigan State University, and Tufts University. Bucknell University, a late addition to the list, will be featured in Facebook ads and in the school’s newspaper.

FIRE also posted a 14-minute video about the trials and tribulations of a student-employee at Indiana University— Purdue University Indianapolis who got into trouble for reading a book called Notre Dame vs. the Klan: How the Fighting Irish Defeated the Ku Klux Klan.


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