Report: American Colleges Fall Short on Core Subjects


A new study conducted by the American Council of Trustees and Alumni entitled ‘What Will They Learn?' suggests that students may not be getting bang for their buck despite the continuous rise in student debt.

The research looked at curricula at over 1,000 colleges and universities in the United States, reports CBS Philly. ACTA graded the schools based on seven ‘essential' subjects including literature, composition, foreign language, science, math and economics.

Only 23 schools received an A grade, meaning they require at least six of the seven subjects.

"Too many college rating systems rely on largely extraneous measures like alumni giving or selectivity to determine which colleges top their list," Anne D. Neal, ACTA president, said in a press release for the study. "‘What Will They Learn?' looks at the most important data — the strength of a college's education — to find out which institutions are delivering the tools students will need to succeed in career and community."

40 percent of schools surveyed do not require a college-level math course, 17.4 percent don't require composition and 62 percent do not require literature, reports Ashe Schow for the Washington Examiner. However, schools overall are doing better with science requirements, as 87 percent of schools require that students take a college-level science course.

The study also found that public institutions are better at maintaining English composition and science standards than their private counterparts.

Only 3.3 percent of the 1,098 schools require students to take an economics course, writes Tyler Kingkade of Huffington Post.

ACTA is strict on what courses they give credit to for each of the seven subject requirements. For example "Vampires: History of the Undead" at Richard Stockton College and "Mad Men and Mad Women" based on the AMC show Mad Men, offered at Middlebury College, meet these schools' history subject requirements but did not meet the ACTA's standards.

Hardin Coleman, the dean and professor of Boston University's School of Education, says that we should focus more on the outcome of the classes — not the input or specific subject matter, writes Jessica Dorfan for The Daily Free Press.

"An alternate approach, and one with which I concur, is to focus on what a student should be able to do as a result of their education," he said in an email. "Are they a good problem solver, can they work with people, are they good communicator, do they have strong analytic skills. I suggest that we focus on outcomes … of an education rather than the inputs."

Students also agreed with this sentiment, adding that if they were required to take a lot of core requirements unrelated to their major they wouldn't be able to get as in-depth in their chosen field of study.

The Chairman of the English Department at Whittier, Sean Morris, also believes that the survey is superficial and that students may not know the specifics of certain historical or scientific subjects, but instead have gained a broader knowledge of subject that allows them to make important connections, reports Douglas Belkin for The Wall Street Journal.

10 22, 2014
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