Colleges and universities have failed to prepare graduates for success after graduation, according to a new study from the American Council of Trustees and Alumni (ACTA). The fourth annual “What Will they Learn?” study combed through the general education curricula at 1,070 higher education institutions and found that 61% of colleges and universities require three or fewer general education courses.
The study rated the strength of a school’s general education requirements in seven subject areas: U.S. Government or History, composition, economics, literature, college-level math, science, and intermediate-level foreign language. Only 21 schools, less than 2% of those surveyed, required six or more core curriculum classes and 89% required four or fewer.
Composition and science are the most often required classes, with 83% and 92% of schools mandating them. Only 34% of surveyed schools required college-level mathematics and 62% did not require students take a literature course to graduate.
Less than 14% of institutions have an intermediate-level foreign language requirement. More than 95% of schools don’t require students to take an economics course and less than 20% require a basic course in U.S. history.
The lack of focus on general education requirements, also known as core curriculum, has left college students unable to answer simple questions. According to a multiple choice survey conducted by GfK Roper, only 17% of college graduates know that the Emancipation Proclamation feed slaves in the Confederacy, but not in the Union and 20% know James Madison is “the father of the Constitution.”
GfK Roper also found that 70% of Americans believe that colleges should require all students to take core courses and that 57% of those surveyed believe U.S. colleges and universities are doing only a fair or poor job of preparing students for future careers. Nearly half, 46%, surveyed believe that college students are not getting their money’s worth from either public or private colleges.
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