Students & Parents | General Education

New college ranking system gives more accurate view

THE LARIAT   |  December 3, 2009 by Editorial

The American Council of Trustees and Alumni has formed a promising new system of ranking universities based on the comprehensiveness of the courses required by their core curriculum.

The system gives a more comprehensive look at the liberal arts education a university provides rather than zoning in on the prestige or reputation of a university like many other ranking systems such as U.S. News & World Report.

Because college is such a life-changing, as well as expensive, decision, it is crucial for students to take into consideration what kind of comprehensive education they will be receiving. By taking a more expansive approach to the rankings, this will provide students and parents with a more complete picture of a university.

The idea is to ensure that students are brought into contact with subjects that span the scope of arts and sciences and mathematics.

The ACTA Web site,, focuses specifically on seven core subjects at universities: composition, literature, foreign language, U.S. government or history, economics, mathematics, and natural/physical science. The more of these core subjects a given university requires, the higher their “grade” will be.

These criteria are legitimate ways to measure the value of a school’s core curriculum. Writing is an essential skill in any job since. Communication spans into all careers and fields. Foreign language requirements are another key component to measure. Regardless of what field graduates enter, they will undoubtedly be working with or in contact with people from other countries. Proficiency, or at least competency, in a foreign language is something employers are actively seeking out.

The ACTA defines this requirement as at least three semesters of college-level study, three years of high school training or an appropriate examination score.

Out of the top 100 leading colleges in the nation, 42 received a D or an F rating, meaning the required two or less of the required criteria subjects for graduation.

Though the site is newly released and can’t be held in the same esteem as other more established ranking systems, its efforts are commendable.

A student can get an excellent education as a science major or a business major, but in order to be truly viable candidates for employment after graduation, students must also have a strong and broad-based general education.

The site reports that only 24 percent of employers thought college graduates were excellently prepared for entry-level positions.

U.S. News & World Report has gotten complaints in the past of not measuring the true quality of universities. Some of its categories of criteria include peer assessment, faculty resources, alumni giving rate and financial resources. The ACTA rightfully states that it takes more than these areas to ensure success after graduation.

In an increasingly globalizing world and marketplace, it is important to equip future graduates with an expansive knowledge of the world and the intricate ways different fields intertwine.

This new system of ranking could also serve as a reminder that the decision about college and worth of a college cannot be determined by any stand alone ranking. Many aspects of a university are beyond numerical measurement.

A well-rounded education cannot be considered one where the university requires one random course in humanities and one semester of foreign language. A wide-ranging core curriculum is necessary to a well-rounded education, and a ranking system that takes that into account is one that should be respected.


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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