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Wingate receives top honors in Liberal Arts Education

2/25/2011
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RALEIGH, Feb. 21, 2011 – While all North Carolina colleges and universities claim that they require liberal arts students to take courses in such “core” subjects as composition, mathematics and science, some provide exemptions from core requirements or allow a range of options so broad that the “core” is effectively lost, a new survey shows. Indeed, only two schools in the state, UNC Pembroke and Wingate University, require liberal arts students to study economics and only two others, Belmont Abbey College and Chowan University, require courses in U.S. government or history, the survey shows.

Released today by the John William Pope Center for Higher Education Policy, a nonprofit public policy research organization, the survey examines core course requirements at 48 of the 54 accredited baccalaureate colleges and universities in the state. The core subjects are composition, economics, foreign language, literature, mathematics, science and U.S. history or government.

Six colleges were not included in the survey, either because they don’t offer liberal arts degrees, as in the case of Johnson & Wales University, because they are primarily technical schools, such as North Carolina A&T State University, or because insufficient data were available.

The data were compiled and analyzed by the American Council of Trustees and Alumni (ACTA), an independent non-profit organization that works with trustees, alumni, 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 a philosophically rich, high-quality education at an affordable price.” ACTA’s “What Will They Learn?” database currently includes curricula data for more 750 colleges and universities around the country, including the 48 North Carolina schools. The database can be found online at the following web site: www.WhatWillTheyLearn.com.

“We are proud of our national What Will They Learn? database and are very pleased to have North Carolina’s colleges and universities included in it,” said ACTA Policy Director Michael Poliakoff. “We are glad that high school students and their parents and guidance counselors, both in North Carolina and elsewhere, will have access to this helpful resource. What Will They Learn? is the only college rating based not on schools’ reputations but on what students are taught.”

In North Carolina, as elsewhere, what students are required to learn depends on the college.

According to the survey, Guilford College is the only accredited school in North Carolina that doesn’t require liberal arts students to take courses in at least two of the seven core subject areas. Guilford requires just one: composition, or writing. This earned the college a failing grade, an “F.”

While ACTA didn’t find a single North Carolina school that requires students to take courses in all seven core subject areas, it did find one school – Wingate University – that requires students to take courses in six of the seven, earning Wingate top honors in the survey, a grade of “A.” Nationwide, just 17 other schools – including Baylor University, the U.S. Military Academy (West Point), and the University of Texas at Austin – have received grades of “A.”

Jane Shaw, the Pope Center’s president, noted that across the state the commitment to strong core courses is decidedly mixed. She also noted that the requirements at most of North Carolina’s public colleges and universities are at least as rigorous, if not more so, than at the state’s private colleges and universities.

On the positive side, some 22 North Carolina colleges and universities received a grade of “B,” denoting required courses in four or five of the seven core subject areas. The 22 schools included nine of the 16 universities in the University of North Carolina system: UNC-Asheville, UNC-Chapel Hill, UNC-Greensboro, UNC-Pembroke, East Carolina University, Elizabeth City State University, North Carolina Central University, North Carolina State University and Winston-Salem State University.

Three of the 22 schools receiving Bs – Campbell University, Methodist University and N.C. State – require students to take courses in five of the seven core areas. The others have requirements in only four core areas.

While 23 North Carolina schools were credited in the survey for paying more than lip service to liberal-arts education, half of the state’s colleges and universities (24 of 48 schools included in the survey) received grades of “C” or “D,” with 18 schools receiving Cs and six receiving Ds. Three schools in the state university system received Cs (UNC-Charlotte, Fayetteville State University and UNC-Wilmington), just two (Appalachian State University and Western Carolina University) received Ds, and two others (UNC School of the Arts and North Carolina A&T State University) were ungraded. The four private schools receiving Ds included Wake Forest University.

Among the state’s other nationally prominent schools, Duke University received a grade of B and Davidson College a C.

The survey information on core requirements is one of more than two dozen data sets that will be included in a new Pope Center web site, “North Carolina College Finder,” which will be introduced later this year. The web site will provide comparative information on all 54 accredited colleges and universities in the state.

Located in Raleigh, the Pope Center is a nonprofit research and policy organization dedicated to improving higher education in North Carolina and the nation. It is named in honor of the late John William Pope, the founder of Variety Wholesalers, Inc., Henderson, NC, and a former member of the UNC-Chapel Hill Board of Trustees. More information can found online at www.popecenter.org.

The American Council of Trustees and Alumni, located in Washington, DC, promotes academic freedom, academic excellence and accountability in higher education. More information can be found online at www.goacta.org.

CONTACT: Carolyn Zahnow at (919) 828-1400
or Jennifer Berkowitz at (828) 687-2633