Walter E. Williams

ACTA says that "paying a lot doesn't get you a lot." Generally, the higher the tuition, the less likely there are rigorous general education requirements. Average tuition and fees at the 11 schools that require no subjects is $37,700; however, average tuition at the five schools that require six subjects is $5,400. Average tuition fees at the top national universities and liberal arts colleges are $35,000 (average grade is "F").

Dishonest and manipulative college administrators might try to rebut the report saying, "We have general education requirements." At one major state university, students may choose from over 100 different classes to meet a history requirement. At other colleges, students may satisfy general education requirements with courses such as "Introduction to Popular TV and Movies" and "Science of Stuff." Still other colleges allow the study of "Bob Dylan" to meet a literature requirement and "Floral Art" to meet a natural science requirement.

ACTA's report concludes by saying that a coherent core reflects, in the words of federal judge Jose Cabranes, "a series of choices -- the choice of the lasting over the ephemeral; the meritorious over the meretricious; the thought-provoking over the merely self-affirming." A general education curriculum, when done well, is one that helps students "ensure that their studies -- and their lives -- are well-directed."

ACTA says that a recent study reports that 89 percent of institutions surveyed said they were in the process of modifying or assessing their programs. What these and other institutions need is for boards of trustees, parents and alumni to provide the necessary incentive to administrators and there's little more effective in opening the closed minds of administrators than the sounds of pocketbooks snapping shut.

Walter E. Williams

Dr. Williams serves on the faculty of George Mason University as John M. Olin Distinguished Professor of Economics and is the author of 'Race and Economics: How Much Can Be Blamed on Discrimination?' and 'Up from the Projects: An Autobiography.'
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