Students & Parents | General Education

Many U.S. colleges fail to prepare students, new report says, but University of Science and the Arts

OKLAHOMAN   |  October 15, 2014 by Kathryn McNutt

Only 2 percent of U.S. colleges and universities are giving students the best tools for success, according to a report released Wednesday.

The 2014-15 edition of What Will They Learn? surveyed 1,098 institutions, both public and private, to see if they require graduates to complete seven core curriculum courses.


Only 23 schools — including one Oklahoma university — received an A for requiring at least six of the seven subjects deemed essential to a liberal arts education: composition, literature, intermediate-level foreign language, American government/history, economics, math and science.

The annual report is issued by the American Council of Trustees and Alumni, an independent nonprofit focused on academic excellence and accountability.

“In too many places, graduates aren’t expected to have any more knowledge of these pivotal courses than a high school student,” the report states. “Virtually every institution we studied offers similar statements about the importance of its core curriculum. But these are often empty promises.”

More than 62 percent of the schools surveyed require three or fewer of the seven core subjects.

The University of Science and Arts of Oklahoma in Chickasha, the state’s only public liberal arts college, received an A for requiring every subject except foreign language.

The report states USAO is “committed to a thorough, foundational general education … USAO’s faculty and administration have devised a careful sequence of courses to develop collegiate skills and knowledge.”

All 17 of the Oklahoma institutions surveyed require graduates to take composition, math and science, and 16 require U.S. government/history.

The University of Tulsa earned a C for requiring three core subjects. All other Oklahoma schools in the survey received a B.

Of the 1,098 schools surveyed, 18 percent require students to take an American history course, 14 percent require foreign language and only 3 percent require economics.

USAO, Cameron University and Oklahoma Panhandle State University require economics, while the University of Oklahoma requires a foreign language.

“We focus on the institution’s general education, or core curriculum, program. These are the courses — outside the major — designed to equip students with the essential skills and knowledge they will need for the challenges of the modern workplace and the demands of engaged citizenship,” the report states.

Cost and reputation do not predict the strength of a school’s core curriculum, the report notes.

At schools receiving an F average, tuition is more than 26 percent higher than at schools receiving an A.

“The famous Ivy League, for instance, is home to two B’s, three C’s, two D’s and one F. These grades reflect significant curricular weaknesses,” the report states.

“Yale does not require its students to take a college-level math or a dedicated composition course; Harvard accepts elementary-level study of a foreign language; and Brown has an ‘open curriculum,’ meaning students may take whatever classes they wish, with no requirements at all.”

Go to to read more about the report.



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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