Press Releases | General Education

ACTA Releases National Rating of Over 1,100 Colleges and Universities

Survey Examines Gen Ed Requirements and Finds Alarming Results
October 5, 2015

WASHINGTON, DC—The American Council of Trustees and Alumni (ACTA) today released the 2015–16 edition of What Will They Learn?, a review of more than 1,100 institutions across the country. The results show that most colleges and universities are failing students by allowing them to graduate with vast gaps in their skills and knowledge. 

“It’s no wonder that so many employers cannot find the graduates they need,” said Anne D. Neal, ACTA president. “What Will They Learn? looks at the most important data—the strength of a college’s education—to find out which institutions are providing real value for the vast amounts families must pay. Regrettably, very few are ensuring students have the solid foundation they will need for success after graduation.”

What Will They Learn? finds that the majority of college-educated students graduate without exposure to fundamental courses like American history, basic economics or literature. At many institutions, it is possible for students to graduate with little more knowledge of these basic courses than a high school student, often after paying $200,000 or more for their degree. 

Only 24 institutions receive an “A” grade for requiring at least six of seven subjects that are essential to a liberal arts education: literature, composition, economics, math, intermediate-level foreign language, science and American government/history. 

 “One wonders what tuition and tax dollars are going toward when most colleges don’t require basic economics, foreign language, American history or even literature,” said Dr. Michael Poliakoff, director of the What Will They Learn?™ project. “Are we really preparing our nation’s next generation of leaders when our colleges are failing to ensure that students have the skills and knowledge they need for successful careers?”

* All percentages are rounded to the nearest whole number.

To see the full What Will They Learn? report card, visit


Molly Mitchell
Director of Communications
American Council of Trustees and Alumni 202.467.6787


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 an intellectually rich, high-quality college education at an affordable price.

Discover More