What Will They Learn: A Reputation Tool

Since the inception of American education and well, America in general, Boston has been considered the Mecca for higher education. Home to the preeminent brain tanks, there are approximately 32 colleges in the Boston area and 57 colleges and universities in the surrounding areas of Massachusetts according to the City of Boston College Guide. For centuries, American families considered college educations the pillar of their lives and certainly their savings accounts, but is there a point when the college experience isn’t worth it? Experts would argue we have reached that point and What Will They Learn is the latest study to prove that a $200,000 education leaves much to be desired.

The latest study from the American Council of Trustees and Alumni arrived in the form of an dynamic online platform named What Will They Learn? From the comfort of their home, visitors are able to compare 714 of the major four –year public and private universities in all 50 states to determine which centers provided the greatest amount of tangible knowledge per every dollar spent. Not so coincidently, the launch of this controversial platform arrived at the same time as the U.S. News and World Report‘s annual evaluation of the “best” colleges and universities.

Former Harvard Dean and American Council of Trustees and Alumni chair Harry Lewis believes that too many colleges have decentralized the education it offers with classes such as Natural Disasters or History of Gynecology. Instead, this platform was designed in an effort to give college students an alternative perspective to the education they will receive based on the examination of “core” classes offered. Lewis states, “It’s not about the freedom to combine random ingredients, but about joining an ancient lineage of the learned and wise. And it has a goal, too: producing an enlightened, self-reliant citizenry, pluralistic and diverse but united by democratic values.”

According to its website, the core education curriculum is as follows:

Composition. A college writing class focusing on grammar, style, clarity, and argument. These courses should be taught by instructors trained to evaluate and teach writing. “Across-the-curriculum” and “writing intensive” courses taught in disciplines other than English do not count if they constitute the only component of the writing requirement. Credit is not given for remedial classes, or if students may test out of the requirement via SAT or ACT scores or departmental tests.

Literature. A literature survey course. Narrow, single-author, or esoteric courses do not count for this requirement, but introductions to broad subfields (such as British or Latin American literature) do.

Foreign Language. Competency at the intermediate level, defined as at least three semesters of college-level study in any foreign language, three years of high school work or an appropriate examination score.

U.S. Government or History. A course in either American history or government with enough breadth to give a broad sweep of American history and institutions. Narrow, niche courses do not count for the requirement, nor do courses that only focus on a particular state or region.

Economics. A course covering basic economic principles, preferably an introductory micro- or macroeconomics course taught by faculty from the economics or business departments.

Mathematics. A college-level course in mathematics. Specific topics may vary, but must involve study beyond the level of intermediate algebra. Logic classes may count if they are focused on abstract logic. Computer science courses count if they involve programming or advanced study. Credit is not given for remedial classes, or if students may test out of the requirement via SAT or ACT scores.

Some of the findings are rather shocking, leaving MANY of the Ivy League and New England pillars with their first-ever failing grade. But as I reflect on my own college experience (one that I fondly remember) I was not required to take fundamental classes like economics or accounting, but instead I took frivolous classes that at no point in my life will I be required to recall the information I learned. So did I receive a $200,000 education? No But I try to look at the bright side, I did live here.

Take that Harvard

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