by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
Christian Barnard writes for the Martin Center about problems linked to N.C. colleges’ curricula.
There are a lot of good reasons to question the value of a traditional college degree. Tuition costs have been rising at a rate that’s almost eight times faster than wage growth, and yet survey after survey indicates graduates are still woefully unprepared when entering the workforce.
While it’s tempting to blame poor preparation on liberal arts degrees, it would also be wrong. The labor market isn’t just starved for engineers, computer scientists, and skilled manufacturers—employers also want graduates with a strong arsenal of soft skills. The fact that many graduates still lack these core skills demonstrates how the explosion of degree options and the popularity of easy majors at many universities has actually damaged their core liberal arts programs.
Colleges in North Carolina are no exception.
According to an annual survey by the American Council of Trustees and Alumni (ACTA), which evaluates 1,100 schools based on the strength of their general education requirements, many of North Carolina’s leading institutions fail to ensure that their students take basic courses in literature, American history, economics, composition, foreign language, math, or science.
Of the 49 North Carolina schools ACTA evaluated, only one—Gardner-Webb University—required students to take courses in all of those disciplines. North Carolina State University—one of the lowest-rated schools in the state—only requires math, while the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and UNC-Asheville omit any requirements for American history or economics. Even some of the state’s self-proclaimed liberal arts schools, like William Peace University or Guilford College, earn lackluster ratings for their core curricular requirements—the exact area where they should excel.