ACTA: Colleges Failing to Teach Students the Basics

The American Council of Trustees and Alumni has released a report that shows an increasing number of colleges and universities are failing to teach their students "the basics." To reach its conclusions ACTA looked through the curricula from over 1,000 schools across the country to see how much attention the schools paid to teaching college students seven fundamental subjects: English composition, U.S. History, higher-level mathematics, science, economics, literature and foreign language.

The results are outlined in ACTA's fourth annual study titled "What Will They Learn?" Subsequent to the review, each institution was assigned a letter grade from A – which meant that the school required courses in at least 6 of the 7 basic subjects – to F, which indicated that a school required few or no courses in the fundamental subject areas as part of its graduation requirements.

According to Business Insider, only 21 schools out of 1,000 received an A grade, while the majority required fewer than five of the courses.

While topics like U.S. History and economics might only give a boost to graduates in specific career fields, you would think colleges would be really pushing career-boosting subjects like foreign languages.

About 14 percent of the institutions required an intermediate foreign language course and less than 40 percent required a course in literature. Math was even more lacking, with one in three requiring students to study at the college level.

ACTA's president Anne D. Neal said that in many cases, even when students and their families are investing a large sum of money in education, they are not getting good value in return. This is especially true in case of some Ivy League schools, many of whom charge tuition in excess of $200,000 over four years, yet, like Harvard and Yale, merited no higher than a D grade on the ACTA study.

A perusal of the top performers reveals some surprising standouts. City University of New York, a school that charges in-state tuition of only $5,6000 per year, scored an A — as did the University of Georgia, which costs a bit under $10,000 a year for local residents. Baylor also turned out to be a top performer, though its hefty $30k+ yearly tuition might give students pause.

Luckily, the most popular subject offered, science, is also one of the more lucrative focuses out there. Of the highest-earning college majors released by PayScale last month, more than half required some element of science.

Granted, success in any career path involves a lot more than high grades in a designated pool of subject areas, but this study offers another way to judge a college before paying up.

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