Parents may want to think long and hard before taking out a second mortgage to finance Junior’s tuition at one of the elite and pricey universities. According to an evaluation by the American Council of Trustees and Alumni, less prestigious schools offer a better grounding in core subjects that are essential to a well-rounded education. This organization evaluated 700 four-year colleges and universities based on their core curricular requirements in literature, composition, math, economics, U.S. government, history, and a foreign language. Those are the seven core subjects that should give students the knowledge and skills they need to be informed, productive citizens.
Parents and students need this kind of assessment tool because colleges often allow students to take worthless classes to satisfy core curriculum requirements. For example, at California State University, Monterey Bay, students can count the History of Rock and Roll as their required course in U.S. History. Emory University allows students to choose among 600 courses to fulfill the History, Society and Culture requirement, including one called Gynecology in the Ancient World. A class about television satisfies a Literature requirement at the University of Wisconsin at Madison. These courses may be interesting, but they crowd out general knowledge and skills that students need.
The results of this survey are jarring. Yale, Cornell, and Brown were among 103 schools that received an “F” because they require only one, or none, of the core subjects. 60% of the universities received a “C” or worse for requiring three or fewer core subjects. The expensive private universities tended to score worse than public universities. Only 16 schools got an “A,” meaning they require at least six of the seven core subjects.