Not All Colleges Are Committed to Core Subjects

Article excerpt

It is generally true that you get what you pay for, but not necessarily when it comes to higher education.

A new study released Monday about the value of a college education, at least when it comes to the basics, has found the opposite to be true in most cases. Forget Harvard and think Lamar.

Indeed, the Texas university, where tuition runs about $7,000 per year (compared with Harvard's $38,000) earns an "A" to Harvard's "D" based on an analysis of the universities' commitment to core subjects deemed essential to a well-rounded, competitive education.

In other words, Lamar requires courses that Harvard apparently considers of lesser value. These include six of the seven subject areas used in the study to gauge an institution's commitment to general education: composition, literature, foreign language at the intermediate level, U.S. government or history, economics, mathematics, and natural or physical science.

Harvard has comprehensive requirements for only two of these subjects -- composition and science.

The study was conducted by the nonprofit American Council of Trustees and Alumni (ACTA) to help parents and students determine where they might get the best bang for their buck. It focused its efforts on requirements as a measure of what an institution actually delivers. Anne Neal, ACTA president, is quick to point out that the grading system doesn't tell the whole story about an institution, but does offer a crucial part that has been missing.

On a user-friendly website, "What Will They Learn?" (www.whatwilltheylearn.com), visitors can compare the major public and private universities in all 50 states. Of the 714 four-year institutions reviewed, more than 60 percent received a "C" or worse for requiring three or fewer of the key subjects. …