Earlier this week ACTA (American Council of Trustees & Alumni) released their 2011-2012 edition of their invaluable study of the state of general education in our nation's colleges and universities. The updated study covers all the major public and private colleges and universities in all 50 states -- a total of 1,007 four year institutions that together enroll more than seven million undergraduate students. Click on WhatWillTheyLearn.com to check out any school's grading from A to F based on ACTA's seven core subject evaluations - composition, U.S. government or history, economics, literature, math, science & foreign language at an intermediate level.
ACTA reports that "most of the findings are deeply troubling as several crucial subjects are completely ignored by American colleges and universities...And paying a lot doesn't get you a lot. The higher the tuition, the more likely it is that students are left without guidance on general education...The average tuition & fees at the "A" schools is $16,223. At the "F" schools, it is $27,529. The average number of subjects required by the Ivy League schools is only 2.88...The What Will They Learn? study shows that many colleges are letting students and taxpayers down. Tuition is at an all-time high, yet colleges and universities aren't ensuring students have the skills and knowledge they need to succeed in careers and life." This latter point is the most important to me – are our schools graduating people who can find employment or start a business either of which increases the American standard of living?
If you know of someone who will be attending college in the near future the above ACTA website is a common sense starting point to begin your search or @ least verify the school of your choice will be teaching what you want to pay for. For instance I checked out Albany State (just by chance) & found it got much higher marks from ACTA than many much better known schools.
But my study of the website did result in my questioning ACTA about their own grade inflation – in particular I questioned why Columbia got a "B" with only four of the seven core subjects being required. The answer to my question is below from Anne Neal – President of ACTA.
---ACTA Response To Grade Inflation Question---
Hi Doug and Carol,
Great to hear from you!
ACTA doesn't inflate our grades—if we did, surely there would be more "As" than 19 (a mere 1.9%) out of 1007 schools! In devising our grading scale and criteria, we strive to avoid two extremes—grade inflation on the one hand, and being too severe or not giving credit where it is due on the other, both of which would likely be counterproductive and defeat the purpose of our project. After all, the goal of our ratings is to point to some serious gaps in today's general education practices, give much-needed guidance to parents and students, and, at the same time, encourage colleges and universities to improve their own practices.
It would certainly be unfair to rate schools like Columbia—which, though not fully in line with our criteria, nevertheless has a commendable core—with ones like Brown or Evergreen State, schools that openly admit that they have no general education requirements whatsoever. Hence, Columbia gets a B, while the other schools fail. I think that's where we want to be!
I hope this answers your concerns.