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Is an Elite Education Necessarily a Well-rounded One?


Brown, Cornell, Northwestern, and Yale all just scored Fs in a new set of college rankings—and it's not one about which are the best party schools. The American Council of Trustees and Alumni released its grades on which schools set their distribution requirements narrowly enough to guarantee students who attend a solid "general education."

I use the word "narrowly" because it's a school's use of a broad smorgasbord of classes to fill its requirements that, in part, can contribute to a low score. As noted in a Washington Post opinion piece by Kathleen Parker, the University of Wisconsin at Madison, for instance, allows students to take a course on TV to satisfy a humanities requirement. (Those sorts of standards earned the school a "D" in the ACTA ratings.)


The ACTA looked at requirements in composition, literature, foreign language, U.S. government or history, economics, mathematics, and science. Some of its main findings: Only 40 percent of the more than 700 colleges scored a B or better, meaning they require four of these subjects; economics is not a requirement at 95 percent of the schools; only 60 percent require mathematics; and public schools get better scores as a group than private ones.

Lastly, here's what could be some good news, given the economic climate: According to the ACTA ratings, the average tuition at the schools that earned an A is just north of $13,000. That's a paltry sum compared to the $28,000 shelled out each year by attendees of the F-rated schools.

Some other elite schools who fared poorly in the ACTA ratings include: Berkeley (F), Dartmouth (C), Harvard (D), Penn (D), Princeton (C), and Stanford (C). On the other hand, the ones that earned As, include: Baylor, Brooklyn College, East Tennessee State, Kennesaw State, Texas A&M, Arkansas, and the U.S. Military and Air Force Academies. You can see all the ratings on a site ACTA created called What Will They Learn?

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