More: Have colleges watered down their curriculums?

A survey of 700 schools answers the question.

In a prior post, we outlined the criteria and method that the American Council of Trustees and Alumni (ACTA) used to assess whether students are learning the “essential skills and knowledge” for work and for life.


In a nutshell, ACTA researchers culled through over 700 schools’ course catalogs and web sites to determine what courses were being offered and, more important, which courses were required of all students.

Specifically, they investigated whether undergraduates are gaining a reasonable college-level introduction in seven core subject areas:

  1. Composition & argumentation
  2. Literature and critical thinking
  3. Foreign language & culture
  4. U.S. government & history
  5. Economics: Macro, micro, behavioral
  6. Mathematics, logic & computer science
  7. Science & scientific experimentation.

Here’s what they found …


The ACTA graded the 718 colleges that they reviewed based on the number of the 7 core subject areas they required for graduation via coursework or AP credits.


About 2/3s of the schools required 3,4 or 5 of  the ACTA-designated core subject areas.

About 1/3 of the schools required coursework in 2 or fewer of the the ACTA-designated core subject areas.

Only 2% of the schools required course work in 6 or 7 of the ACTA-designated core subject areas.

For a list of the schools currently earning an A grade from ACTA, see What Will They Learn – The “A” List.

The list will surprise you.

No wonder that employers say that 9 of 10 college grads are poorly prepared for work (or real life).


A proposed solution

Prof. Victor Davis Hanson  the Hoover Institution suggests:

The best reform would simply to be to force universities and colleges to offer the same sort of exit exams as the admission exams they insist on for entering students.

In other words, to earn a bachelor’s degree, graduating college seniors would be required to taking a national standardized test to ensure minimal competence in verbal and math skills.

This would certify that the four- to eight-year undergraduate experience has led to at least minimal practical knowledge.

The Common Core requires extensive “outcomes based” testing for elementary and high school students.

Why not apply to same principle to colleges?

Require that students take standardized exit exams covering all 7 of the ACTA-designated areas of study.

Might work…


Follow on Twitter @KenHoma

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One Response to “More: Have colleges watered down their curriculums?”

  1. Mike Gehringer Says:

    As much as I agree with the lament that colleges are not preparing students for the workforce and life in general, I don’t see that a standard test would help. Just like secondary education, the ‘teach to the test’ mentality would just encroach and take over. I would recommend that each discipline have a board or body that oversees the curriculum, the instructor, and the outcome of each course in its field and provide a grading of sorts based on difficulty, value, and results.

    I’m in the engineering field and have been so for well over 30 years. No doubt that the students today are educated but I question whether they are smart or have learned how to think. My father (also an engineer for 30+ years) always said to me, ‘remember, you go to college to learn how to think, not to learn this fact or that fact’.

    I also find that ‘advanced degrees’ are not what they used to be.

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