Students & Parents | General Education

Shopping around for a good education

JACKSONVILLE DAILY NEWS   |  August 30, 2010

Once upon a time, the remark “Oh, that’s a fine school” had a distinct meaning and connotation.

Competition is keen for students trying to get into colleges, colleges trying to attract the best students and employers trying to get the best college graduates. Smart shopping is essential.

A degree from University X may or may not mean what you think. How much exposure an undergrad receives to knowledge outside of their major depends on a college’s requirements.

That’s where rankings can help prospective students and their families; that is, as long as the shopper is aware that the comparisons are mainly informative and not always apples-to-apples.

U.S. News & World Report’s rankings are generally acknowledged as a solid barometer and are the most closely watched.

But also of interest is the nonprofit American Council of Trustees and Alumni (ACTA) report on Here, colleges and universities are graded in seven areas—composition, literature, foreign language, U.S. history, economics, mathematics and science—of their core curriculum, a measure of the exposure students receive.

There’s nothing wrong with Harvard, but if you want the better well-rounded experience, you’d choose Lamar in Texas according to ACTA’s grading system. ACTA freely admits its system doesn’t tell the whole story, it just offers an evaluation that is often missing.

North Carolina State University was the only one of 19 institutions graded in the state to earn a passing mark in five of the seven categories on Nine others (East Carolina, Duke and UNC-Chapel Hill among them) earned good marks in four categories.

Three schools (Appalachian State, Wake Forest and Western Carolina) earned good marks in only two. That’s was the same as as Harvard.

The U.S. News report ranks universities in several major categories nationally and several in North Carolina scored well.

UNC-Chapel Hill ranked fifth nationally among public universities for the 10th straight year. NCSU was 52nd while Duke tied for ninth among national universities offering doctoral degrees.

Elon was second among Southern regional universities and Appalachian checked in at No. 9.

N.C. Central was 11th among historically black institutions, a spot above North Carolina A&T.

Our state, like many others across the nation, is blessed with fine institutions of higher learning. Some are specific to certain areas of knowledge, while others will give the graduate a more well-rounded education.

A good education is a huge investment for the future and it behooves parents as well as students to know what they are looking for. By doing some comparative shopping beforehand chances are increased that you can find a school that is a good fit—probably right here in North Carolina.


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