Is the Quality of an American College Education Being Eroded?

US College Standards Are Slowly Eroding Over Time

A college education is supposed to prepare students for a life of hard work, dedication and discipline. But if the quality of this education is constantly being diluted, what does that mean for students and their post-college careers?

Straying From History

An article was published in Forbes on November 7th, 2013 titled "The Terrible Erosion of the College Curriculum". Author George Leef discussed the idea of colleges having had one core curriculum at an earlier point that was designed to challenge students and mold them into the thinkers and leaders of tomorrow.

Except it didn't happen like that.

Instead, what's actually been happening is a slide away from a core curriculum in favor of "distribution requirements", a concept where schools take courses out of their major with the expectation that it'll lead them to be broad-thinking, well-rounded students. This sounds fine in theory, as a math student who can also speak eloquently about the humanities surely must have a place in society. But in practice, a different story emerges.

College Curricula Today

The American Council of Trustees and Alumni (ACTA) has recommended that colleges follow a general format to ensure students are educated in certain areas so they graduate well prepared. For a college or university to merit an "A" grade in fulfilling these requirements, students should take courses from the following areas in their core or general education requirements: English composition, literature, foreign language, economics, college-level mathematics, and natural or physical science. School grades slipped to a "B" if they only covered four or five, a "C" for three, a "D" for two, and an "F" for one or none.

The results, though startling, aren't so surprising: only a handful of colleges (2%) earned an ACTA "A", with 36% earning a "B", 31% a "C", 23% a "D", and almost a tenth failing outright. It's head-scratching to think of how so many colleges can miss the highest bar until the types of courses offered begin to peter out. For example, the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill has the following courses that satisfy general education requirements: The Stage Musicals of Rodgers and Hammerstein, Food in American Culture, The History of Hip-Hop Culture, Sex and Gender in Society, Guerrillas and Revolution in 20th Century Latin America. While courses like these are not only a neat way that professors can indulge in their intellectual hobbies, but also a way that students can learn about topics they wouldn't otherwise, they should be treated as such, and not as core requirements.