Are students falling short in college when it comes to getting what they need to succeed in the real world?  The American Council of Trustees and Alumni, also known as ACTA, has released the latest edition of its publication “What Will They Learn? 2019-2020″ targeting this question.

The report centers on high school counselors and an emphasis on what employers believe a core curriculum should provide to students, according to a news release.

What Will They Learn? helps assess the core academic requirements at 1,123 four-year institutions that together enroll more than 8 million undergraduate students. Grades are assigned based on whether colleges and universities require all students to take courses in seven priority subject areas as part of their general education programs. Those subjects, identified as critically important to a 21st-century college education by ACTA’s Council of Scholars, are Composition, Literature, (intermediate-level) Foreign Language, U.S. Government or History, Economics, Mathematics, and Natural Science.

“It’s not surprising that public confidence in higher education is falling,” said Michael Poliakoff, ACTA’s president in the news release. “Amidst all the fanfare about the release of the latest college rankings this week, there is not a peep about ill-informed citizens, often underprepared for the workforce, who are graduating from our colleges and universities with mountains of student debt. By focusing on resource inputs, admissions selectivity, and institutional reputation, the major rankings systems drive costs up but show little interest in what students learn—or don’t learn.”

In 2019 only 22 institutions earned an “A” for requiring 6–7 of the core subject areas, and 137 schools failed.  While most universities require students to take courses in composition and the natural sciences, curricular gaps are common everywhere else.

Here are some more stats from the report:

  • 82% do not require students to take a foundational course in the U.S. government or history.
  • 43% do not require students to take a college-level mathematics course.
  • 68% do not require students to study literature.
  • 88% do not require intermediate-level foreign language courses.
  • 97% do not require a course in economics.

ACTA reports a rigorous and coherent core curriculum centered around courses in traditional arts and science disciplines, is the best way for students to develop the capacity for critical analysis, oral and written communication skills, and intercultural fluency employers increasingly demand.

Informed Citizenship

Colleges and universities are also failing to prepare students for informed citizenship. The lack of a U.S. government or history requirement, in particular, helps to explain why in a recent survey, nearly 1 in 5 Americans selected Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez as the author of the New Deal, the news release said.

At most universities, it is possible to take ACTA’s recommended core curriculum in 21 to 27 credit hours — which is less than one-fifth of a 120-hour Bachelor’s Degree. There is no reason that higher education cannot uphold this essential body of skills and knowledge for all students, ACTA said in the release.

ACTA reports it is a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization dedicated to academic freedom, academic excellence, and accountability in higher education.

Source: American Council of Trustees and Alumni