What will they learn?
That is the simple question the American Council of Trustees and Alumni (ACTA) asks on this website. We do so by exploring the state of general education, those courses designed to give college students a firm grounding in the areas of knowledge they will use for a lifetime. Specifically, we evaluate whether major colleges and universities require seven key subjects: Composition, Literature, Foreign Language, U.S. Government or History, Economics, Mathematics, and Science. Begun in 2004 with a study of 50 colleges and universities, the project has grown to include over 1,100 institutions. In addition to the unique information it provides about general education requirements in higher education, What Will They Learn?™provides at-a-glance information on graduation rates, tuition costs, and other key data. The project has drawn the attention and acclaim of college-bound high school seniors, parents, taxpayers, and policymakers.
What we found, however, is alarming. Even as our students increasingly need broad-based skills and knowledge to succeed in the global marketplace, our colleges are failing to deliver. Topics like U.S. government or history, literature, mathematics, and economics have become mere options on far too many campuses. Not surprisingly, students are graduating with great gaps in their knowledge—and employers are noticing. If not remedied, this will have significant consequences for U.S. competitiveness and innovation.
ACTA has launched this free, online college guide to cut through the verbiage of college catalogs and show what really matters: what students will be expected to learn. Especially in this era of rising tuition and uncertain economic prospects, we hope our findings will help students and parents vote with their wallets—and motivate trustees and alumni to demand more of their institutions.
WhatWillTheyLearn.com bases its ratings on a detailed review of the most recently published college catalogs, as well as other publicly-available information on the institution's core courses. It is the goal of the What Will They Learn?™ project to maintain scrupulous accuracy in its evaluation of curricula, consistent with our criteria (viewable here). Our ongoing review of policies includes convening panels of scholars to advise What Will They Learn?™ on its rating criteria. If you have comments or information that updates our data, we encourage you to contact us.
ACTA is an independent, non-profit organization committed to academic freedom, excellence, and accountability at America's colleges and universities. Launched in 1995, we are the only organization that works with alumni, donors, trustees, and education leaders across the United States to support liberal arts education, uphold high academic standards, safeguard the free exchange of ideas on campus, and ensure that the next generation receives a philosophically rich, high-quality college education at an affordable price. Our national network includes alumni and trustees from more than 1,200 colleges and universities, including around 16,000 current board members. For more information, visit our website, www.goacta.org.