Failing our children?, Part 4

compiled & edited by Daniel Hagadorn

So what’s higher about higher education?


Perhaps the statistics cited in Parts 1, 2, and 3 should come as no surprise considering the following institutions of “higher learning” sanction general education standards that DO NOT REQUIRE the study of U.S. History/Government…[1]


  • ( ) = indicates the school’s individual ranking among the “Top 100 Universities in the World (2010)”
  • bold $ = indicates the school is ranked in the “Top 100 Colleges by Highest Tuition (2008-2009).”

From among the schools ranked “Top 100 Universities in the World (2010)”… [2] [3]

(1) Harvard University… (3) Yale University—$35,300… (7) University of Chicago—$36,891… (8) Princeton University—$34,290… (9) Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT)—$36,140… (10) California Institute of Technology (Caltech)… (11) Columbia University—$37,470… (12) University of Pennsylvania—$37,526… (13) Johns Hopkins University—$37,700… (14) Duke University—$37,630… (15) Cornell University—$36,504… (16) Stanford University—$36,030… (19) University of Michigan… (27) Carnegie Mellon University—$39,150… (31) Brown University—$36,928… (32) University of California at Los Angeles… (32) Northwestern University—$36,756… (39) University of California at Berkeley… (52) New York University—$37,372… (54) Boston University—$36,540… (61) University of Wisconsin at Madison… (63) University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign… (73) Washington University at St. Louis—$36,200… (76) University of California at San Diego… (76) University of Texas at Austin… (78) University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill… (80) University of Washington… (85) Dartmouth College—$36,915… (86) Georgia Institute of Technology… (87) Purdue University… (90) Emory University—$35,800.

From among the schools NOT ranked “Top 100 Universities in the World (2010)”…

American University… Amherst College—$36,970… Arizona State University… Auburn University… Barnard College—$35,972Bates College—$43,950… Bluffton University… Boston College—$37,410Bowdoin College—$37,790Brandeis University—$36,122Bryn Mawr College—$35,700Carleton College—$37,845… Catholic University of America… Chicago State University… Claremont McKenna College—$36,825… Clemson University… Colby College—$42,730Colgate University—$39,275College of the Holy Cross—$36,710… College of William & Mary… Colorado College… Colorado State University… Davidson College… Denison University—$34,410… Eastern Illinois University… Florida Atlantic University… Florida Gulf Coast University… Florida International University… Florida State University… George Washington University—$40,392Georgetown University—$37,536… Grambling State University… Grinnell College… Hamilton College—$38,220Haverford College—$37,175… Howard University… Illinois State University… Indiana University at Bloomington… Iowa State University… Kansas State University… Louisiana State University… Macalester College—$36,504… Michigan State University… Middlebury College—$42,910… Mississippi State University… Montana State University… Mount Holyoke College—$37,480… New College of Florida… New Mexico State University… North Carolina State University… North Dakota State University… Northeastern University… Northern Illinois University… Oberlin College—$38,012… Ohio State University… Ohio University… Pennsylvania State University… Pomona College… Rice University… Rollins College… Rutgers University at New Brunswick… Rutgers University at Newark… Scripps College—$37,736Smith College—$35,810… Southern Illinois University at Carbondale… Southern Illinois University at Edwardsville… State University of New York at Buffalo… State University of New York at Stony Brook… Stetson University… Swarthmore College—$36,154Tulane University—$38,664… University of Alabama… University of Alaska at Fairbanks… University of Arizona… University of Central Florida… University of Colorado at Boulder… University of Connecticut… University of Delaware… University of Florida… University of Georgia… University of Hawaii at Manoa… University of Idaho… University of Illinois at Chicago… University of Illinois at Springfield… University of Iowa… University of Kansas… University of Kentucky… University of Louisiana… University of Maine… University of Mary Washington… University of Maryland… University of Massachusetts at Amherst… University of Miami—$34,834… University of Minnesota… University of Mississippi… University of Missouri… University of Montana… University of Nebraska at Lincoln… University of New Hampshire… University of New Mexico… University of North Dakota… University of North Florida… University of Notre Dame—$36,850… University of Oregon… University of Rhode Island… University of Richmond—$38,850… University of South Dakota… University of South Florida… University of Tennessee… University of Vermont… University of Virginia… University of West Florida… Vanderbilt University—$36,100Vassar College—$39,635Villanova University—$36,950… Virginia Tech University… Wake Forest University—$36,975… Washington & Lee University… Washington State University… Wellesley College—$36,404Wesleyan University—$38,364… West Virginia University… Western Illinois University… Williams College$37,400.

["Scary Thought For The Day": How many of our future political leaders are likely to graduate from one of the above institutions, who—bear in mind—DO NOT REQUIRE the study of U.S. History/Government…?]

And from the schools ranked “Top 100 Colleges by Highest Tuition (2008-2009)”[4] whose general education standards STILL REQUIRE the study of U.S. History/Government…

(4) Union College of New York—$40,953… (5) Connecticut College—$40,900… (8) Sarah Lawrence College—$39,450… (9) Bucknell University—$39,434… (12) Kenyon College—$39,080… (13) Skidmore College—$38,888… (14) St. Johns College—$38,854… (17) Wheaton College of Massachusetts—$38,585… (18) Franklin & Marshall College—$38,580… (22) Reed College—$37,960… (23) Tufts University—$37,952… (24) Dickinson College—$37,900… (25) Bard College at Simon’s Rock—$37,860… (27) Hobart & William Smith College—$37,820… (29) Hampshire College—$37,789… (32) St. Lawrence University—$37,675… (34) Gettysburg College—$37,600… (35) Bard College—$37,574… (43) Bennington College—$37,280… (44) Lehigh University—$37,250… (46) University of Southern California—$37,096… (49) Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute—$36,950… (54) Trinity College of Connecticut—$36,864… (58) Ursinus College—$36,750… (60) Pepperdine University—$36,650… (65) Harvey Mudd College—$36,402… (66) Worcester Polytechnic Institute—$36,390… (68) Occidental College—$36,160… (73) Babson College—$36,096… (76) Lafayette College—$35,904… (77) Colorado College—$35,844… (81) Fairfield University—$35,510… (82) Yale University—$35,300… (83) Loyola College of Maryland—$35,140… (84) Muhlenberg College—$35,125… (85) Stevens Institute of Technology—$35,070… (86) Franklin W. Olin College of Engineering—$35,000… (87) Santa Clara University—$34,950… (88) Whitman College—$34,880… (90) Rollins College—$34,520… (91) Pitzer College—$34,500… (92) Case Western Reserve University—$34,450… (94) St. Olaf College—$34,300… (96) Mills College—$34,170… (97) Furman University—$34,048… (98) University of San Diego—$34,000… (99) Loyola Marymount University—$33,901… (100) Clark University—$33,900.

Students and their parents continue to pay exorbitant sums of money to acquire a nominal (at best) education while the knowledge deficit continues to grow at a dizzying pace.[5] [6]

  • At the “Top 100 Colleges by Highest Tuition (2008-2009),” the average tuition was $38,925 per year.
  • At four-year private institutions the average tuition for (2007-2008) was $30,393 per year.
  • At four-year public institutions the average tuition for (2007-2008) was $13,424 per year.

Federal judge José Cabranes observed:

  • “[A coherent core general education requirement should reflect] a series of choices—the choice of the lasting over the ephemeral; the meritorious over the meretricious; the thought-provoking over the merely self-affirming. [An appropriate general education curriculum] ensure[s] that their studies—and their lives—are well-directed.”

Sadly, his sage advice has gone unheeded by the educational elite.

In 2009, the American Council of Trustees and Alumni (ACTA) published a report, “What Will They Learn: A Report on the General Education Requirements at 100 of the Nation’s Leading Colleges and Universities” which sought to determine whether 100 major institutions require seven key subjects in their general education requirements: (1) English Composition, (2) Literature, (3) Foreign Language, (4) U.S. History or Government, (5) Economics, (6) Mathematics, and (7) Science.[7]

The ACTA (2009) findings do not bode well for America’s future…

  • Not one institution required all seven general education subjects.
  • 25 out of 100 institutions received an “F” for requiring one or no general education subjects.
  • 42 out of 100 institutions received a “D” or an “F” for requiring two or fewer general education subjects.
  • 20 out of 100 institutions received a “C” for requiring three general education subjects.
  • 33 out of 100 institutions received a “B” for requiring four or five general education subjects.
  • 5 out of 100 institutions received an “A” for requiring six general education subjects. (Brooklyn College of the City University of New York, Texas A&M University, University of Arkansas at Fayetteville, United States Military Academy at West Point, and University of Texas at Austin.

The ACTA (2009) report went on to state that…

  • “Even as our students need broad-based skills and knowledge to succeed in the global marketplace, our colleges and universities 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.” [8]

In concurrence with the NCES (2009) report, the ACTA (2009) findings confirmed a disturbing correlation: the higher the tuition the lower the general education requirements or to put it bluntly, “paying a lot doesn’t get you a lot…”

  • The average tuition and fees at the 11 schools that require NO subjects is $37,700.
  • While average tuition and fees at the 5 schools that require SIX subjects is $5,400.
  • Overall, average tuition and fees at the top national universities and liberal arts colleges are $35,000 per year yet they earned an average grade of “F.”

Some of the colleges listed in ACTA’s (2009) report permit students to satisfy general education requirements with courses such as “Introduction to Popular TV and Movies” and “Science of Stuff.” Still others sanction the study of “Bob Dylan” to satisfy a literature requirement and “Floral Art” to satisfy a natural science requirement.[9]

These graduates are being turned loose into the “global marketplace” less prepared than ever. Though colleges and universities are hopelessly enamored with the oft-quoted statistic that—over their lifetimes—college graduates earn more than nongraduates, it is also misleading. Even those high school students who are fully qualified to attend college are increasingly unlikely to derive enough benefit to justify the often six-figure cost and four to six years (or more) it requires to graduate. Could these ivory tower elites be seriously suggesting that a bright, motivated “college-bound” student with advantageous family connections owes the income difference to college? It is precisely those characteristics which qualify them to attend college in the first place that improve their employment prospects, NOT THE DEGREE THEY EARN.

Consequently, employers are being forced to select their prospective employees from an increasingly substandard labor pool according to a study funded by the Pew Charitable Trusts (2006)…[10]

  • 50% of college seniors scored below “proficient” levels on a test requiring them to perform basic tasks such as understand the arguments of newspaper editorials or compare credit-card offers.
  • Nearly 20% of college seniors possessed only basic quantitative skills such as estimating whether or not their cars had enough gas to refill their tanks at the gas station.

According to the Spellings Report (2006)—published by a federal commission charged with examining the future of American higher education—things are becoming even worse…[11]

  • “Over the past decade, literacy among college graduates has actually DECLINED.”
  • 77% of the 1.3 million high-school graduates of 2007 who took the ACT examination were NOT PREPARED for college-level work in the core subjects of English, Mathematics, Reading, and Science.[12]
  • 40%+ of college freshmen at four-year institutions DO NOT graduate in six years.[13]

The plot for the “American Success Story” typically unfolded as (1) getting good grades in elementary school to get into the right middle school, (2) getting good grades in middle school to get into the right high school, (3) getting good grades in high school to get into the right college, and (4) getting good grades in college to get a good job.

But now that you have that good job…

  • Employers routinely complain that college graduates lack the requisite writing and analytical skills necessary to succeed in the workplace.
  • The National Center for Education Statistics reports that only 31% of college graduates can read and understand a complex book.[14]
  • According to a 2006 joint survey conducted by the Conference Board, Corporate Voices for Working Families, the Partnership for 21st Century Skills, and the Society for Human Resource Management, only 24% of employers believed graduates of four-year colleges were “excellently prepared” for entry-level positions.[15]
  • In 2009, corporations and government organizations in North America spent approximately $104.3 billion—or between 1.5 to 2% of their operating expenses—on training products and services [read stuff that college graduates failed to learn at their expensive colleges].[16]

Contrary to the conventional wisdom that a college degree is the apex of human achievement, there are strong indications that Americans are beginning to question its value according to a Zogby-Scoop44 Poll (18-20 August 2009) which surveyed 2,530 likely voters nationwide. Among the “highlights” of their findings…[17]

  • 52% of ALL respondents believe higher education today IS worth the price, 33% believe it IS NOT worth the price, and 14% are NOT SURE.
  • 55% of respondents ages 18-29, believe higher education today IS worth the price, 35% believe it IS NOT worth the price, and 10% are NOT SURE.
  • 25% of ALL college graduates believe their college degree WAS NOT worth the cost.
  • 28% of college graduates ages 18-29, believe their college degree WAS NOT worth the cost.
  • 30% of college graduates age 65+, believe their college degree WAS NOT worth the cost.
  • 56% of ALL non-graduates believe earning a college degree WOULD NOT be worth the cost.
  • 41% of non-graduates ages 18-29, believe earning a college degree WOULD NOT be worth the cost.
  • 45% of non-graduates age 65+, believe earning a college degree WOULD NOT be worth the cost.

Increasingly, Americans are beginning to understand that the costs of education far exceed the perceived benefits. Among those who have successfully navigated the road to success WITHOUT a college degree [non-exhaustive abridged version]…

  • Political figures: Founding Father Benjamin Franklin… revolutionary Malcolm X… former Governor [MN] Jesse Ventura… former Israeli president David Ben Gurion… First-lady Eleanor Roosevelt… U.S. Presidents George Washington, Andrew Jackson, Martin Van Buren, William Henry Harrison, Zachary Taylor, Millard Fillmore, Abraham Lincoln, Andrew Johnson, Grover Cleveland, and Harry S. Truman…
  • Journalists & media personalities: PBS NewsHour’s Nina Totenberg… Rush Limbaugh… ABC-TV anchorman Peter Jennings… CBS anchorman Walter Cronkite… satirist H. L. Mencken…
  • Actors, directors, musicians, & sports figures: actress/singer Barbra Streisand… actor Tom Hanks… entertainer Ellen DeGeneres… actor/director Woody Allen… actor Warren Beatty… musician Bob Dylan… actor Leonardo DiCaprio… actress Sally Field… actress Jane Fonda… director Quentin Tarantino… folksinger Joan Baez… actor Dustin Hoffman… actor/director Robert Redford… entertainer Rosie O’Donnell… singer Madonna… tennis legend Martina Navratilova…
  • Inventors & architects: inventor Alexander Graham Bell… inventor Thomas Edison… airplane inventors Wilbur and Orville Wright… architect Frank Lloyd Wright… architect Buckminster Fuller…
  • Business magnates: Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates… Dell founder Michael Dell… Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak… IBM founder Thomas Watson… Domino’s founder Tom Monaghan… Wendy’s founder Dave Thomas… Blockbuster Video founder and owner of the Miami Dolphins Wayne Huizenga… McDonald’s founder Ray Kroc… Oracle founder Larry Ellison… Ford Motor founder Henry Ford… cosmetics pioneer Helena Rubenstein… CNN founder Ted Turner… Disney founder Walt Disney… Mrs. Field’s founder Debbie Fields… DreamWorks co-founder David Geffen… NBC mogul David Sarnoff… Standard Oil founder John D. Rockefeller… U.S. steel co-founder Andrew Carnegie… fashion designer Coco Chanel… Pritikin Diet creator Dr. Nathan Pritikin… celebrity chef Wolfgang Puck…
  • Writers: poet Maya Angelou… author William Faulkner… author Jane Austen… author Alex Haley… author Ernest Hemingway… famed anthropologist Richard Leakey…
  • For More: The College Dropouts Hall of Fame has a rather extensive list of those who have achieved great success apart from an increasingly useless college degree.

If we are to restore the virtues of liberty and self-sufficiency forged in the founding of our great (if flawed) country, our educational system must be completely transformed. The effort to do so will not end with us…but it must start somewhere.

[1] American Council of Trustees & Alumni, “What Will They Learn: A Report on General Education Requirements at 100 of the Nation’s Leading Colleges and Universities” (August 2009).

[2] ( ) indicates the international ranking of the institution. Cf. “World’s Best Universities,” U.S. News & World Report (17 June 2010); QS Quacquarelli Symonds.

[3] NOTE: Some colleges like Bates College, Colby College, Middlebury College, and Union College offer a comprehensive fee (tuition + room/board). Their tuition numbers were determined by taking their total comprehensive fee and subtracting by the rebate amount given by the college(s) to students who choose to live off campus and select their own room and board options.

[4] NOTE: Some colleges like Bates College, Colby College, Middlebury College, and Union College offer a comprehensive fee (tuition + room/board). Their tuition numbers were determined by taking their total comprehensive fee and subtracting by the rebate amount given by the college(s) to students who choose to live off campus and select their own room and board options.


[6] U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics (2009). Digest of Education Statistics, NCES 2009-020, (2008), Table 331. The data evaluates the entire academic year and averages the total charges based upon full-time attendance.




[10] Marty Nemko, “College Degrees A Waste Of Time, Money,” The Tampa Tribune (11 May 2008). Dr. Marty Nemko was named “The Bay Area’s Best Career Coach” by the San Francisco Bay Guardian. He has served as a consultant to 15 college presidents and holds a Ph.D specializing in the evaluation of education from the University of California, Berkeley, and has subsequently taught there. His five published books include, The All-in-One College Guide: A Consumer Activist’s Guide to Choosing, Getting Into, Finding the Money For, and Making the Most of College, and Cool Careers for Dummies (3rd edition), rated the #1 most useful college guide by the Readers Choice poll.

[11] Marty Nemko, “College Degrees A Waste Of Time, Money,” The Tampa Tribune (11 May 2008).

[12] Marty Nemko, “College Degrees A Waste Of Time, Money,” The Tampa Tribune (11 May 2008).

[13] Marty Nemko, “College Degrees A Waste Of Time, Money,” The Tampa Tribune (11 May 2008).

[14] Sam Dillon, “Literacy Falls for Graduates From College, Testing Finds,” New York Times (16 December 2005).

[15] Walter Williams, “What Will They Learn?,” (26 August 2009).

[16] Doug Harward, “How Big is the North America Training Market?,” (29 December 2009).


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