New Web Site Evaluates Colleges and Universities on Core Requirements - Higher Education

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New Web Site Evaluates Colleges and Universities on Core Requirements

by Janelle L. Plummer

WASHINGTON

When it comes to college, paying a lot doesn’t necessarily mean getting a lot, a new Web site reports. WhatWillTheyLearn.com, launched by the American Council of Trustees and Alumni (ACTA), evaluates colleges and universities on their general education curricula and many of the most expensive schools received poor marks for requiring little study in core subjects.

WhatWillTheyLearn.com assigned each institution a grade from “A” to “F” based on how many of the following seven core subjects it requires: composition, mathematics, science, economics, foreign language, literature, and American government or history. ACTA, known as a conservative-leaning higher education accountability organization, formally announced WhatWillTheyLearn.com at a Washington news conference Wednesday. More than 125 schools, educating 20 percent of U.S. undergraduates, are included on the Web site.

  

ACTA reports that five institutions receiving an “A” charge in-state tuition and fees averaging $5,400 annually. Among the schools that received an “A” are: University of Arkansas, CUNY-Brooklyn College, University of Texas-Austin, Texas A&M University and the Unites States Military Academy. These schools require coursework in six core subjects. However, no institution included on the Web site requires study in seven core subjects.

The 42 institutions that received a “D” or an “F” require two or fewer few core subjects. Among the 11 schools receiving an “F” grade, their average in tuition and fees is $37,700 annually, according to ACTA. Two Ivy League schools, Harvard University and the University of Pennsylvania, each received a “D”.  

Anne D. Neal, president of the ACTA, said the core curriculum helps prepare students for life after graduation. Neal noted that some of the students who are not taking the core curriculum classes write poorly and are not prepared for life after college.  She said employers are voicing concern about poorly-educated college graduates. Sixty-three percent of employers say too many recent college graduates are not prepared to participate in today’s economy, according to USA Today.

“Students come [to college] with very different preparation levels,” she said. “The core curriculum helps bring those students together and helps build on what’s going on at the K-12 level and moves them successfully through college.”

Neal said the core curriculum allows different students from different backgrounds and varied educational experiences the opportunity to learn common values, and it can groom them into becoming lifelong learners.

In an interview with Diverse, Neal said the organization hopes to expand and focus on historically Black colleges and universities and other institutions with large minority populations in the future. 

While Americans across the board worry about higher education quality and expense, Neal said parents interested in minority-serving schools should be able to look at WhatWillTheyLearn.com and gain the knowledge to compare a historically Black institution, such as Howard University, against Harvard University. Howard University is the only HBCU included in WhatWillTheyLearn.com. She noted the Web site reports graduation rates. 

Dr. Wynn Goering, vice president for academic affairs at the University of New Mexico, said the ACTA unfairly penalized his institution by not crediting its requirements in composition and foreign language study. The University of New Mexico, which is a federally-designated Hispanic-Serving Institution, received a “D” on the ACTA web site. ACTA denied the school credit for composition with students being able to test out of the university writing requirement, or fulfilling the writing and speaking core requirement with a course in public speaking. There was no credit given to UNM’s foreign language requirement because intermediate level study is not required by the university.

“The University of New Mexico is unique in requiring a foreign language,” Goering said. “It’s part of the general education. We take language seriously here.”



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