Mary Grabar

So you think that if you plunk down $200,000 for Junior’s education at an Ivy League school, rated in the top ten by U.S. News and World Report or the Princeton Review, he’ll become a well-educated, well-rounded man ready to meet the challenges of tomorrow’s “global society”?

Do you think he’ll be better off than at a state university?

Not according to the American Council of Trustees and Alumni (ACTA), a group that works to ensure that a college education really means an education, and not indoctrination or trivial pursuit. They try to shine the light on schools and get information to trustees, alumni, donors, and parents.

They’ve expanded on their 2009 survey of schools “What Will They Learn?” to 714 four-year institutions representing over 6 million students across the United States. They’re announcing the release of the report at the Press Club in Washington on Monday, August 16, but you can read the report here.

David Azerrad, senior researcher, emphasizes that the report does not rank, but evaluates for various schools’ requirements.

The results are horrible. It’s not as if ACTA had been looking for schools that require the ancient languages or philosophy, although Azerrad, a philosophy major himself, said he personally would like to see such requirements (as would I).

ACTA limited themselves to the basics: reading (literature), writing (composition), and arithmetic (math); as well as economics, U.S. government or history, and an intermediate foreign language.

Over 60 percent of the surveyed institutions receive a “C” or worse for requiring three or fewer of these subjects. But the situation is worse among private schools. Over half received a “D” or “F” for requiring two or fewer of these subjects. There are no math or composition requirements at roughly half of the private institutions.

Perhaps our economic downward spiral can be explained in part by the fact that less than five percent of all the schools require a class in economics, and less than 20 percent require a broad survey class in U.S. government or history. Only a third required an intermediate-level foreign language.

Mary Grabar

Mary Grabar earned her Ph.D. in English from the University of Georgia and teaches in Atlanta. She is organizing the Resistance to the Re-Education of America at Her writing can be found at