ACTA is an independent, non-profit organization committed to academic freedom, excellence, and accountability at America's colleges and universities.

ACTA is an independent, non-profit organization committed to academic freedom, excellence, and accountability at America's colleges and universities.

ACTA is an independent, non-profit organization committed to academic freedom, excellence, and accountability at America's colleges and universities.

What Will They Learn? 2019-2020

A Survey of Core Requirements at Our Nation's Colleges and Universities

September 2019 by ACTA

In this 11th edition of its flagship annual survey of college general education curricula, What Will They Learn?, ACTA shines a light on the wide disparity in academic standards at institutions of higher learning across the country. What Will They Learn? reviews the core curricula of over 1,100 four-year public and private institutions to determine the rigor of each school’s general education program. Ratings are based on how many of the following seven core subjects are included in the curriculum: Composition, Literature, Foreign Language (intermediate-level), U.S. Government or History, Economics, Mathematics, and Natural Science. Grades are awarded on an “A” through “F” scale, depending on how many of the seven core subjects institutions require. This year, 372 schools earned an "A" or "B" grade, while over 400 received a "D" or "F." Too many colleges and universities continue to offer unstructured and chaotic curricula, causing students to sort through a plethora of course options in the name of "choice" and "self-discovery." What Will They Learn? 2019-2020 and its interactive companion website WhatWillTheyLearn.com can help orient students, parents, and trustees as they consider what educational quality looks like in 21st century America.


Selected Findings

Executive Summary

This year across America, tens of thousands of high school seniors and their parents will agonize over choosing the right college to attend. Unfortunately, many will neglect the most urgent issues in making such a choice. That is why the American Council of Trustees and Alumni (ACTA) launched What Will They Learn?® 11 years ago, to help students and parents answer the most important questions: Will the institution I choose be a place that deepens my intellect and prepares me for the challenges ahead? How can I help my son or daughter identify a high-quality college education?

The stakes have never been greater. For over a decade, ACTA has expressed concern that rising employer dissatisfaction with college graduates, as well as the decline in civic competency and informed discourse in the public square, are attributable to an overall deterioration of core curricula in the liberal arts. That is why ACTA evaluates over 1,100 general education programs every year in light of standards and criteria established by the committees of scholars we convened. Continue Reading>>

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