ACTA ranks UD ‘A List’ college

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Clare Myers
Contributing Writer

The University of Dallas was recently named one of 19 “A List” colleges and one of 11 “Hidden Gems” to receive an A grade by “What Will They Learn?” a project of the American Council of Trustees and Alumni (ACTA).

The ranking system, which rates undergraduate programs on how well they prepare students for future careers, distinguished UD as “one of only three schools to receive credit for every requirement,” according to the project’s website.

The American Council of Trustees and Alumni is a D.C.-based, independent non-profit organization that works 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 college education,” according to its website.

Each year, the “What Will They Learn?” site releases a list of universities that ensure their students are actually learning valuable skills. The project looks at over 1,000 institutions and rates each according to whether they require seven key subjects: English composition, literature, foreign language, U.S. government or history, economics, mathematics and natural or physical science.

The college or university receives a credit for each subject it requires students to complete and is awarded a letter grade based on how many credits it earns. Credits are only given for required courses, not subjects that are only recommended or offered.

These rankings call attention to rising concerns that colleges allow students to avoid difficult and intellectually stimulating classes that best prepare them for life. Even prestigious institutions are falling short. Brown University, for example, boasts its “open curriculum offers students enormous freedom to shape their course of study.” This openness, however, makes it possible to graduate without ever taking a literature, foreign language, or mathematics course. Brown earned a failing grade in the “What Will They Learn?” rankings.

In contrast, UD was rated an “A List” school for the second year in a row.

“I think [this rating] shows that the rest of the country is starting to realize why so many of us came to UD; [for] a unique, quality education in how to think and engage in the world,” freshman and SG senator Will Chavey said.

Brooke Dailey, Assistant Vice President of Admissions, agrees, adding that “the University of Dallas is very proud of our curriculum. [The ranking] doesn’t necessarily do much for us, but it’s good for us to have the publicity.”

The publicity is especially helpful for admissions, Dailey said, because prospective students see that UD is recognized for its core curriculum. The study ranked the University of Dallas above top-tier universities such as Harvard and Yale, both of which received Ds.

“It’s eye-opening” for prospective students, Dailey explained. “There are certain assumptions that go along with Ivy League schools” and ratings such as these make others “look at us in a different light.”

Despite the criticism that the “What Will They Learn?” project is based on old-fashioned models of education and is too narrow in scope – for instance, it does not include the study of world cultures or global perspectives as a key subject – the ratings have been garnering more attention each year.
The list has been featured in the “Washington Post,” “The Wall Street Journal” online edition, the CBS “Moneywatch” website, and elsewhere.

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