Bentley University Business School Puts Money Where Its Mouth Is by Providing First-Year Students with Financial Planning Instruction

Getting into business school doesn’t necessarily mean you automatically will acquire strong personal financial management skills. But by the time you graduate, they would certainly be a valuable asset. Sadly, though, many college students earn a diploma and begin their careers lacking this critical skill set.

But Bentley University in Boston, Mass., is changing that. From the moment students set foot on the classic New England campus just minutes from Boston, they are exposed to the tenets of personal finance – and through the required first-year seminar. This one-credit course for incoming freshmen has been in place for about 12 years and covers a variety of topics related to adjusting to college life such as time management, academic resources available to students, diversity and making healthy choices, but just last fall the university introduced a new component to provide students with both instruction and tools to find effective financial solutions to their individual situations.

As with most interesting stories, a number of interrelated parts came together at the right time to bring this effort to fruition. For some time, Gerry Stenerson, associate dean for first-year programs at Bentley University, had been fielding financial questions from students about how to pay off debt or pay for a study abroad program.

“In the early 2000s, we had included in the first-year seminar a component related to credit cards, during the height of the marketing efforts targeting college students,” said Stenerson. “But with today’s economic climate, coupled with the increasing costs of college, it just made sense for us to offer them a more robust module on money management. Students need to learn how to budget their money and the costs associated with higher education, and they need to start thinking about the topic earlier rather than later as many will be dealing with substantial debt when they graduate. Ultimately, this is about teaching them how to make good financial decisions.”

Another element in play was a strong indication that parents were concerned about their children’s lack of financial literacy. The Merrill Lynch Affluent Insights Quarterly, which in June 2010 surveyed 1,000 Americans with investable assets of at least $250,000, found that 51 percent cited “financial know-how” as the most important life lesson to share with their children.

In addition, alarming statistics from the Department of Education’s National Postsecondary Student Aid Study show that students are graduating from college with significant debt loads. At private four-year colleges, the median loan debt for bachelor’s degree recipients was $22,375 in 2007-8, up 5 percent from $21,238 four years earlier.

Even more alarming, only 34 percent of those who received bachelor’s degrees from any institution graduated with no debt.

A recent survey from Western Union reveals the cumulative effect of debt on people in their 20s and 30s:

• Nearly 30 percent of Gen Y’ers report having difficulty managing their spending, and 35 percent have borrowed money from friends or family members.
• Half of Gen Y respondents reported feeling increased stress about financial obligations in the last six months.
• More than one in three members of Gen Y say that their financial situation has worsened in the last six months.
• About 27 percent of Gen Y survey participants have been turned down for a loan or line of credit.
• Sixty percent of Gen Y’ers have not seen their credit score in the past year, and 44 percent have never seen their credit score.

Keying into these concerns, Bentley partnered with financialfootprint.com, a new Web-based personal finance education and guidance service aimed at connecting young people, ages 18 to 30, with their very own personal finance expert. Financialfootprint features educational content, online tools and one-on-one access to experts in personal finance who educate and provide guidance across a range of topics pertinent to college students – including budgeting, banking, checking/ savings, credit cards, the broader financial aid process, and employee benefits.

And here is where the story gets really interesting: financialfootprint was co-founded by Bentley alumnus Dave Kittredge, who turned to the school when he wanted to test his idea at Bentley’s Center for Marketing Technology (CMT).

To validate the business concept and go-to market strategy, a team of Bentley students, led by CMT Director Ian Cross, conducted market research to understand students’ knowledge of personal finance. They explored the need for advice among students, the type of advice they were looking for, and how they wanted to receive that advice. Students from Bentley and a wide range of business and liberal arts students from colleges throughout the Northeast were among the survey participants.

“Results showed that students are very intimidated by the act of managing their own finances, and they typically only get help from their parents,” noted Cross of the findings. “There is a definite need for this kind of service. If students at Bentley – a school with a strong background in accounting, finance and business – need help, then the need is likely even greater at other colleges.”

In addition to providing an effective handson learning opportunity for students working in the CMT, Cross viewed the relationship with financialfootprint as an extension of Bentley’s commitment to social responsibility – supporting start-up businesses and also helping students and families as they chart a financial course through college and into the work force.

Financial Management Seminar

Kittredge, who has worked in the financial services industry for 25 years – most recently as senior vice president for Lincoln Financial Group in Philadelphia – says that while the industry is familiar with financial planning for baby boomers, it does a poor job of providing help to young adults, particularly students.

“The one-to-one personalized service that we’re delivering is our core-value proposition, and we’ve wrapped our website around that,” he said of financialfootprint. “What we’re offering young adults is access to experts in personal finance who educate and provide guidance across a range of topics pertinent to this age demographic.”

Financialfootprint offers objective personal finance guidance and education and does not sell any products. The company generates revenue via subscriptions at a cost of $120 per year and provides a money-back guarantee. Incoming Bentley freshmen receive a free subscription to the service for one semester. Additional pricing models include institutional subscriptions for the benefit of the student body.

“Our mission is to empower young adults through education to make smart financial decisions,” said Kittredge.

Approximately 950 students entered Bentley this fall and were enrolled in 40 sections of the discussion-based first-year seminar. Led by staff and upper-class students in leadership positions, the money management sessions incorporated information from a curriculum template that included walking students through the process of creating a personal budget as well as introducing them to the financialfootprint product.

After the first semester of the financial management curriculum, the reviews are mixed. According to Stenerson, some students seemed receptive, others did not. Approximately 10 percent of the students accessed the financialfootprint website, and about the same number signed up for a second semester of the subscription. Undeterred, Stenerson likened the situation to getting younger children to eat their vegetables. As with all things that are “good for you,” students eventually come to the realization that it was worth their time. “In my experience, many upper-class students look back on the first-year seminar and reflect on things that resonated with them – maybe not at the time, but later on,” he explained. “I feel good knowing that students have been exposed to a resource and some advice that they can rely on in the future.”

According to Stenerson, most Bentley students are not the first in their families to go to college and receive a good deal of financial support and money management advice from their college-educated parents. But the reality of the $45,000-per-year bill to attend Bentley means that many students will be dealing with student loans. Learning solid personal wealth management techniques will make a big difference in establishing their financial footing after college. Ultimately, the addition of the financial literacy program expands upon the first-year seminar’s goal of helping students cross the bridge into adulthood. “Exposure to all of these topics helps students to grow and mature,” said Stenerson. “After the seminar, they come away with the beginning of an understanding that the decisions they make right now will impact them down the line.”

A similar approach at Texas Tech University called Red to Black provides financial planning education to students through opt-in seminars and presentations, as well as individual financial counseling and planning advice. While the service is not part of a required academic course as at Bentley, access to Red to Black is free to all students. And a new one-credit elective at William Paterson University in Wayne, N.J., called Budget Resources offers students information on budgeting, timing of purchases and how to make the most of coupons and online promotions.

While not many schools are currently incorporating personal finance into required courses, Stenerson believes that the trend will grow. “Considering the number of students who come out of school with significant amounts of debt, I think this will become a growing area of concern.”

Baruch College CUNY, Researchers Look at Ways to Bridge the Gender Gap in STEM Fields

Longstanding stereotypes about women’s inferior ability to succeed in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) fields have been difficult to eradicate. Indeed, much research in the realm of social psychology indicates that stereotypes are nearly impossible for people to relinquish. However, an ongoing study by Catherine Good, Ph.D., of Baruch College looks to circumvent the negative effects of these stereotypes through a construct she conceived called “sense of belonging.”

Supported by a $500,000 grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF), the study builds on previous research, also supported by the NSF, that looked at ways that a learning environment and a student’s perspective can either heighten or ameliorate stereotype threat, which occurs when a person who belongs to a group that has a negative stereotype attached to it – e.g., women are not good in math – subconsciously conforms to the negative stereotype. The study revealed that a sense of belonging, characterized by to what degree a student felt a part of an academic community or how well they fit in or were accepted, or how much they were valued in that academic domain, played an important role in combating stereotype threat.

“A lot of women left STEM fields not because they couldn’t do well but because they didn’t feel like it was a good place for them, that they were not a real member of the community, they were not valued by peers,” explained Good. “Those feelings may be communicated subtly or overtly. And what does it feel like when you are sitting in an academic domain but not feeling like a member of the club? You may fade into background or leave altogether.”

The latter is exactly what happened to Good, who became interested in this topic based on her own personal path in academia.

“I was always good in math,” she said. “I went to graduate school with the intention of getting a Ph.D. in math, but after I completed my master’s degree, I hit a wall. I couldn’t really put my finger on what was happening, but I never felt like it was the place for me. Through a long path through graduate school, I landed in psychology and heard about the concept of stereotype threat. A light bulb went off in my head: That’s what happened to me! I instantly wanted to better understand this idea and focused my research around it.”

In the first NSF-funded study on sense of belonging, Good identified two factors that interacted to reduce a woman’s sense of belonging in a STEM domain and ultimately affected performance, i.e., grades, as well as a woman’s decision to leave the field. Stereotype threat and the degree to which a woman perceived stereotypes about women’s abilities in  TEM fields to be prevalent in an academic domain were shown to erode a sense of belonging. The second factor that impacted a sense of belonging related to perceptions of the nature of intelligence, i.e., is intelligence fixed or does it develop over time. The prevailing belief is that it is fixed and that genetic makeup determines both intelligence and academic range.

“People assume that math is somehow linked to genes: either you are a math person or not,” commented Good. “The reality is that math is an ability and a skill set that can be nurtured and developed over time. In fact, studies have shown that an intervention as simple as leading students in a discussion about neuroscience and illustrating the way that neurons and dendrites and synapses are strengthened the more they are used helps to combat this idea that just because you are female you can’t do math.”

Perhaps the most infamous moment in the history of this topic came when Dr. Lawrence Summers, then president of Harvard University, delivered his damning speech on the inherent abilities of women versus men. Coincidentally, Good was present, scheduled to present her initial findings on stereotype threat and sense of belonging.

Catherine Good Ph.D

“That moment really epitomized the perfect storm of constructs that can undermine sense of belonging in the STEM domain,” remarked Good. In the current study, which she is conducting with a Baruch College colleague, Jennifer Mangels, they are aiming to better understand the foundations of a sense of belonging, how sense of belonging can take root and how it affects not just achievement, but learning.

“As we discussed in our first study, learning leads to achievement. We know learning is disrupted by these stereotypes, so this study looks to see if learning can be fostered by a sense of belonging.”

Good and Mangels are exploring these concepts with two groups of students: seventh- and eighth-graders in Montclair, N.J., and first-year students at Baruch College in New York. They have identified three ways a sense of belonging can be manifested in the classroom.

The first is called “achievement-based sense of belonging.” Students feel as though they belong, are valued and accepted when they get good grades.

But when students falter, for example, when they get a C, or are when they are enrolled in a tough class that pushes their comfort level, and consequently they experience a dip in achievement, it affects their sense of belonging.

According to Good, “Students are now on shaky ground, questioning whether they fit in anymore. In this sense, achievement-based belonging is vulnerable when kids falter. But the reality in learning is that struggles happen to everyone, so an achievement-based sense of belonging may not be bulletproof in keeping women in the STEM domain.”

The second sense of belonging Good identified is social-based.

Students feel a sense of belonging when they have strong connections in the classroom; they feel as though they fit in when their friends are with them, and when they pursue things with people like themselves whom they also like. Again, this type of belonging is compromised if a student’s friends aren’t in the same class or decide to pursue other areas of study. Once the social support system is gone, students don’t feel connected, and they too leave the STEM domain.

The third way a student can feel a sense of belonging is called effortbased belonging, which is based on the level of engagement and effort and striving. Good believes that this sense of belonging can carry students through the storms of struggling academically and can work to negate the impact of stereotypes.

As she puts it, “If a student starts to do poorly, he or she will still feel a sense of belonging through his or her participation, effort and engagement. If teachers instill the notion that struggles are a way to increasing intelligence, effort-based belonging will protect students when stereotypes rear their head or when they are dealing with a hard class or dealing with gender-based perceptions of talent or fixed math ability.”

By looking at longitudinal data as well as results from a series of experiments in which various psychological factors are manipulated to test which type of sense of belonging works best, Good hopes to prove her hypothesis that effort-based belonging is what should be fostered in classrooms. The implications of this work lie in providing teachers with  videncebased research that clearly shows the benefits of promoting effort-based belonging to increase learning and achievement and how teachers should focus students around this sense of belonging.

“Are there star charts for good grades? That clearly says that the kids who matter are the ones who get good grades – which is not the best way to construct a domain. Personally, I prefer students who are really engaged in content, regardless of their grades. I wish I could fill all of my seats with students like that!” 

“The bottom line is that we want to value participation because we know it will lead to achievement. But teachers can’t just say, ‘Ten percent of your grade is based on your level of participation.’ Teachers must actively and publicly show that they value participation and reinforce that in the classroom.”

Hispanic Students: 2010 Statistical Survey

A report from the U.S. Census Bureau, Educational Attainment in the United States: 2009, reveals that just 13 percent of Hispanics over the age of 25 hold a bachelor’s degree or higher, compared with 53 percent of Asian-Americans, 33 percent of Whites and 19 percent of African-Americans. This represents an increase of one-half of a percent in B.A. attainment for Hispanics since 2007.

The good news is that Hispanics are more likely to graduate high school and more likely to attend college than ever before. Between 2007 and 2008, the increase in college-going rates of Hispanic high school graduates aged 18-24 was greater than that of their White, African- American and Asian-American counterparts, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. Gaps still exist, but as the population of Hispanics grows, the gains are promising, considering the impact a college degree has on earning potential.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, those with a bachelor’s degree earned an average of $58,613 in 2008 while those with a high school diploma earned $31,283. This compares with $21,023 for those without a high school diploma. For those who pursued advanced degrees, the average annual 2008 earnings were $83,144.

A few other statistics of note include:
• Hispanics represented 20 percent of elementary and high school students in 2008.
• Sixty-two percent of all Hispanics had at least a high school degree in 2009, compared to 60.6 percent in 2007.
• Hispanics represented 12 percent of the nation’s college and graduate students in 2008.
• 3.7 million Hispanics aged 18 and older had at least a bachelor’s degree in 2009.
• Seventy-nine thousand four hundred forty Hispanics serve as chief executives. 

In addition, there are 50,866 physicians and surgeons; 48,720 postsecondary teachers; 38,532 lawyers; and 2,726 news analysts, reporters and correspondents who were Hispanic in 2010.

Entrance Exams

In order to get into college, two standardized tests serve to assess college readiness: the ACT and the SAT. According to the ACT College and Career Readiness report, about 47 percent of all 2010 high school graduates in the United States took the ACT during high school, or about 1.57 million graduates. This is up considerably in the last four years, with the number of students taking the ACT increasing by approximately 30 percent from 2006 to 2010, representing a seven percentage point increase of all U.S. high school graduates who took the ACT.

Average ACT Composite

In addition, a growing number of Hispanic U.S. high school graduates have taken the ACT college admission and placement exam. While just 10 percent of ACT test takers were Hispanic in 2010, over the last four years the number of Hispanic students taking the test increased 84 percent over the same time period, from 86,000 to 158,000.

ACT scores for Hispanic students remained essentially the same from 2006 to 2010, hovering between 18.6 and 18.7 over the five-year span, but other data points indicate they are making progress in becoming more college and career ready. Despite these gains, there is still plenty of room for improvement.

Only 68 percent of Hispanic high school students completed at least aminimum core high school curriculum to prepare them for college (defined as four years of English and three years each of math, social studies and science). This compares to 74 percent of White students, 81 percent of Asian-American students and 65 percent of African-American students. This is important to note because data indicate that on average, high school graduates who completed at least a core curriculum earned composite test scores 2.2 points to 3.1 points higher than the scores of students who did not take a core curriculum. In addition, students completing at least a core curriculum were approximately twice as likely to meet or surpass the ACT College Readiness Benchmarks in each subject area.

Of all 2010 ACT test takers, just 24 percent met all four College Readiness Benchmarks in English, reading, math and science, which are linked to success in specific first-year college courses, meaning that fewer than one in four were academically ready for college coursework in all four subject areas. For Hispanics, the numbers were even more sobering: just 11 percent of ACT-tested 2010 Hispanic high school graduates met all four of the ACT College Readiness Benchmarks. The good news is that this figure is up from 9 percent in 2006.

Among all ACT test takers in 2010, the largest curriculum-based difference in benchmark attainment rates was in mathematics. Graduates who completed more than three years of mathematics were more likely to meet the mathematics benchmark than those who did not, by at least 42 percentage points. This is important to note for those students interested in pursuing studies and careers in the STEM fields and a strong indicator of the need for careful course planning during high school.

The percent of Hispanic graduates who met or surpassed the ACT College Readiness Benchmarks is the highest in English (46 percent), followed by reading (34 percent), mathematics (27 percent) and science (14 percent). About half of Hispanic high school graduates did not meet any of the four ACT benchmark scores.

Ethnic/racial minority students this year made up 29 percent of all ACTtested graduates, up from 23 percent in 2006. Hispanic test takers represented the largest increase among all high school graduates who have taken the college admission and placement test since 2006, a sign that plans to attend college are a growing trend among Hispanic students. Another promising sign is that Hispanic ACT test takers were about as likely as their White and African-American counterparts to aspire to a graduate or professional degree, with 43 percent of Hispanics planning that route, 45 percent of Whites and 44 percent of African-Americans.

A publication from the College Board, which conducts the SAT, reports similar findings. Nearly 1.6 million high school seniors in the class of 2010 took the SAT, according to SAT Trends: Background on the SAT Takers in the Class of 2010. Hispanics represented 15 percent of all test takers in 2010, up from 13.5 percent last year and just 8 percent in 2000. Whites comprised 54 percent of all SAT test takers, with African-Americans at 13 percent and Asian-Americans at 11 percent.

The three sections of the test include critical reading, math and writing. Over the last 10 years, scores for Whites have remained flat in critical reading and writing, with a six-point gain in math. Scores for Hispanics have also remained essentially flat in critical reading and writing, with modest gains in math. However, the gap in scores between Hispanics and Whites remains considerable, with about a 75-point gap in critical reading, a 70-point gap in math and a 72-point gap in writing.

Enrollment Rates?

The percentage of American college students who are minorities has been increasing. In 1976, 15 percent were minorities, compared with 32 percent in 2007. Much of the change from 1976 to 2007 can be attributed to rising numbers of Hispanic and Asian-American or Pacific Islander students. During that time period, the percentage of Asian-American or Pacific Islander students rose from 2 percent to 7 percent, and the Hispanic percentage rose from 4 percent to 11 percent. The percentage of African-American students was 9 percent at the beginning of the time period, rising to 13 percent in 2007.

Current data on degree completion and faculty ranks is available from the U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics.

College-going rates

Associate Degrees

Between 1997-98 and 2007-08, the number of associate degrees earned by Hispanic students almost doubled, from 45,900 degrees to 91,300; the number earned by African-American students increased by 73 percent, from 55,300 degrees to 95,700; and the number earned by White students increased by 21 percent, from 413,600 degrees to 501,100 degrees. In 2007-08, African-American students earned 13 percent and Hispanics earned 12 percent of all associate degrees awarded, up from the 10 percent and 8 percent that they earned, respectively, in 1997-98.

Bachelor’s Degrees

Between 1997-98 and 2007-08, the number of bachelor’s degrees awarded to White students increased by 25 percent, from 0.9 million degrees to 1.1 million degrees; the number awarded to Hispanic students increased by 86 percent, from 66,000 degrees to 123,000 degrees; and the number awarded to African-American students increased by 55 percent, from 98,300 degrees to 152,500 degrees.

ACT-tested High School

In 2007-08, African-American students earned 10 percent and Hispanic students earned 8 percent of all bachelor’s degrees awarded, up from 10 years earlier when they earned 8 percent and 6 percent, respectively. Approximately 67 percent of Asian-American students, 60 percent of White students, 48 percent of Hispanic students and 42 percent of African-American students graduated with a bachelor’s degree or its equivalent within six years.

Master’s Degrees

In 2009, some 7 percent of 25- to 29-year-olds had completed a master’s degree or higher. The percentage of Asian-American students who had attained a master’s degree in 2009, 21 percent, was higher than that of their peers from all other races/ethnicities: 9 percent of White students, 4 percent of African-American students and 2 percent of Hispanic students had attained a master’s degree in 2009. Between 1995 and 2009, the rate of master’s degree attainment increased for White students, from 5 percent to 9 percent; African-American students, from 2 percent to 4 percent; Hispanic students, from 4 percent to 6 percent; and Asian-American students, from 11 percent to 21 percent.

Doctoral Degrees

Growth in Collge Enrollment

In 2008, 63,712 doctoral degrees were conferred, with 57.1 percent going to White students, 6.1 percent to African-American students, 5.7 percent to Asian-American students and 3.6 percent to Hispanic students. Ten years ago, only 2.8 percent of degrees went to Hispanic students, for a total of 1,275; the most recent figures available indicate 2,279 Hispanic students earned doctoral degrees in 2008. 

Faculty

In fall 2007, some 7 percent of college and university faculty were African-American, 6 percent were Asian-American, and 4 percent were Hispanic.

Looking Ahead

While Hispanics still lag behind Whites and Asian-Americans in test scores and in degree completion, the modest gains noted in average test scores combined with a significant increase in college attendance and number of degrees awarded bode well for future improvements.

Lorelle Espinosa: Helping Hispanic College Students Pursue Degrees in STEM Fields

Imagine a world in which all people can reach their full potential by participating and succeeding in postsecondary education. That is the singular vision of the Institute for Higher Education Policy (IHEP), a nonprofit organization based in Washington, D.C., dedicated to access and success in postsecondary education around the world. It is committed to equality of opportunity for all and helps low-income, minority and other historically underrepresented populations gain access and achieve success in higher education.

One particular focus for the organization has been strengthening pathways for minority students to pursue studies in science, technology, engineering and mathematics, often referred to as STEM fields. Working closely with Minority-Serving Institutions (MSIs) through a variety of national as well as campus-based initiatives, IHEP has helped schools strengthen their STEM offerings. In the process, it has developed a national model that helps major colleges and universities diversify the pool of students pursuing these majors and close the achievement gaps in STEM education for Black, Hispanic and Native American students.

Profiled in a 2007 IHEP publication titled A Model of Success: The Model Institutions for Excellence Program’s Successful Leadership in STEM Education, it consists of a comprehensive set of proven strategies that include: 1) recruitment and pre-college transition initiatives, 2) student support, 3) undergraduate research, 4) faculty development, 5) curriculum development, 6) physical infrastructure and 7) graduate and science career initiatives. 

As IHEP’s director of policy and strategic initiatives, Lorelle Espinosa, Ph.D., has been working hard to increase the number of minority students graduating with degrees in science, technology, engineering and mathematics. In this role, she establishes and manages collaborative external partnerships and initiatives to meet key organizational objectives for advancing college access and success for all students, with particular attention paid to underrepresented groups.

One initiative she oversees is the Pathways to College Network, an alliance of national organizations committed to working collaboratively to advance college access and success for underserved students, including those who are the first in their families to go to college, low-income students, underrepresented minorities and students with disabilities.

According to the IHEP Web site, the program emphasizes connecting policymakers, education leaders and practitioners, and community and philanthropic leaders with research on effective strategies for improving college preparation, enrollment and completion. In its 11th year, the initiative was formalized when 14 national organizations, six funders, and then-U.S. Secretary of Education Richard Riley signed a pledge to greatly increase the nation’s commitment and capacity to give all young people, not just those from advantaged backgrounds, a first-class postsecondary education.

The approach, at the beginning of the program and now, includes a strong emphasis on academic preparation at the secondary school level, college planning that involves parents, and tutoring and counseling once at college. Fast forward to 2009, when President Obama announced his 2020 goals for education, which included a commitment to increase the number of our nation’s students studying STEM fields.

While a specific STEM-focused approach is not formally part of the Pathways to College program, Espinosa believes the same tactics, applied to an additional level of counseling, can help increase the number of minority students embarking upon STEM studies.

Lorelle Espinoza

“Adequate preparation in math is one area which is critical to success in pursuing a STEM major in college because math is so foundational to these majors,” explained Espinosa. “You almost can’t start early enough in math because if a student gets derailed in math courses early on in school, it can be almost impossible to catch up in time to start college math at an appropriate level to pursue a STEM major.”

In addition to keeping up with the front line tactics, Espinosa also works to ensure that the research community and the policymaker community have strong, evidence-based research to support tactics that enhance student preparation. According to Espinosa, much of the data in support of bolstering pathways to STEM majors, and ultimately careers, for minorities and particularly Hispanics, spans two distinct fronts. One argument relates to social justice/equity while the other focuses on an economic and global imperative to keep the United States competitive in the STEM arena.

From Espinosa’s point of view, the social justice/equity argument can be summed up in her idea of how to define success in this initiative to increase minorities in STEM fields. “Students should have the right to choose to enter higher education and choose their field of study,” she said. “That would be an amazing first step, but the reality is that many students don’t get to choose to enter college or choose to major in a STEM field because their academic preparation was lacking, they lacked good role models, and went to schools with high teacher turnover and low resources. And these are barriers that still exist. The good news is that there is a high level of awareness of these barriers and that there is dialogue about how to remove these barriers. Still, there is much work to be done on that front.”

Espinosa believes that increased cross-sector collaboration can help: active communication and partnership between K-12 and higher education, between two-year and four-year schools and between the business sector and higher education. “What is most exciting right now is that there is a national focus on this issue, from the president to the philanthropies like the Gates Foundation and the Lumina Foundation that are supporting the president’s college goals,” said Espinosa.

On the economic front, she says the equation is quite simple: with agrowing number of jobs that require STEM degrees or certificates and a growing population of Hispanics, it makes sense to target this large population segment in order to build the pipeline of students in STEM fields to ultimately fill these jobs. And on a secondary front, college education is seen as a significant economic driver: the more people who are college educated, the more robust the economy will be.

One avenue that remains relatively untapped when it comes to increasing the number of minority and especially Hispanic students in STEM fields is the community college. Unfortunately, according to Espinosa, many underestimate the role community colleges can provide, and this is seen in the low number of community college students accepted at four-year schools, especially in STEM majors. The feeling is that the four-year schools prefer to educate their potential graduates from the beginning. But a look at the data indicates that a shift in mindset is needed. According to the American Association of Community Colleges, more than half of students at two-year schools intend to transfer to four-year institutions. Further, more Hispanics start their college education at twoyear schools, so it makes sense to enhance the pathway to four-year schools by providing appropriate academic support, academic rigor and matriculation agreements.

One very important player in increasing the number of minority students in STEM fields is the National Science Foundation, which provides grants to MSIs for access and retention programs. Espinosa believes the organization has played an important role in setting the direction for grant giving in this area. But a recently proposed change to how the grants are awarded has concerned her.

Previously, separate grants existed for specific minority-focused STEM programs so that like schools competed against each other. The current proposal would combine all STEM grants into a single pool for which all MSIs as well as non-MSIs would compete, promoting a huge outpouring of concern and frustration from MSIs. “The irony here,” explains Espinosa, “is that the NSF is not providing any data in support of this decision. For a scientific enterprise, this is certainly concerning.” While she can appreciate the NSF’s desire to broaden participation in the initiative, she believes a better-articulated plan is needed.

Those sentiments are similar to Espinosa’s views on the issue as a whole. “Long-term investment in students is really important. A lot of short term-ism goes on in the world. In order to be truly successful increasing the number of minority students in STEM fields, we need a long-term strategy.”

And that is precisely what Espinosa and IHEP’s partner organizations are dedicating their efforts toward, ensuring future success for countless students as well as our nation.

Demographics of U.S. Hispanics

A recent report from the Pew Hispanic Center profiles the 10 largest Hispanic populations in the United States by country of origin, drawing on the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2008 American Community Survey. Currently, the nation’s population of 304.1 million includes 46.8 million Hispanics. Respondents to the survey self-identified their country of origin as the country from which they immigrated or the country from which they trace their family ancestry.

The largest Hispanic population, at 30.7 million, is of Mexican origin,accounting for nearly two-thirds of the nation’s Hispanics. The secondlargest Hispanic group, with 4.2 million, hails from Puerto Rico. Hispanics of Cuban origin comprise the third-largest group, at 1.6 million, with Salvadorans a close fourth at just under 1.6 million. Hispanics of Dominican origin comprise 1.3 million of the nation’s population, accounting for the fifth-largest Hispanic population. The sixth- through 10th-largest Hispanic populations, in descending order, are Guatemalans at 986,000, Colombians at 882,000, Hondurans at 608,000, Ecuadorians at 591,000 and Peruvians at 519,000.

The report details various demographic characteristics of each of the 10 groups, providing some interesting similarities as well as points of departure.

Hispanics of Mexican Origin: 30.7 Million

About 40 percent of Mexicans in the United States are foreign-born; of those, almost two-thirds immigrated in 1990 or later. Only 22 percent of immigrants are U.S. citizens. The majority of the country’s Hispanics of Mexican origin live in two states – 37 percent reside in California, and 25 percent live in Texas. More than 60 percent of Hispanics of Mexican origin speak English proficiently, higher than any other Hispanic group. However, Mexicans have lower levels of education than the Hispanic population overall with just 9 percent earning at least a bachelor’s degree, compared with 12.9 percent of all U.S. Hispanics.

Educational attainment hasn’t seemed to affect homeownership of this group: a little more than 50 percent own a home, about the same as the rate for all Hispanics, 49.1 percent. Hispanics of Mexican origin earn slightly less than the median annual salary of all U.S. Hispanics, $20,368 compared to $21,488. Mexicans are also slightly less likely to have health insurance than the Hispanic population as a whole, 34.8 percent compared to 31.7 percent.

Hispanics of Puerto Rican Origin: 4.2 Million

Nearly as many Puerto Ricans live in the United States as live in Puerto Rico itself, which had a population of four million in 2008. Most of the Puerto Ricans living in the U.S. were born here, with 1.3 million identifying as born in Puerto Rico. However, because Puerto Rico is a territory of the U.S., those born in Puerto Rico are considered native born to the United States. More than 80 percent of Hispanics of Puerto Rican origin speak English proficiently, so it is not surprising that they also have higher levels of educational attainment than U.S. Hispanics overall, as well as a higher median income. Interestingly, Puerto Ricans are less likely to own a home compared to all U.S. Hispanics, 40.3 percent compared to 49.1 percent. Slightly more than half, 55 percent, of the country’s Hispanics of Puerto Rican origin live in the Northeast, mostly in New York, 26 percent. A third of Puerto Ricans live in the South, mostly in Florida.

Hispanics of Cuban Origin: 1.6 Million

Six in 10 Cubans are foreign-born, compared with 38 percent of all U.S. Hispanics; 58 percent are U.S. citizens. Most immigrants, 57 percent, arrived in the U.S. before 1990. Cubans are the most geographically concentrated group of all Hispanics, with close to 70 percent residing in Florida. Nearly 60 percent of Hispanics of Cuban origin speak English proficiently. In addition, one-quarter of all Cubans have attained at least a bachelor’s degree, compared with 12.9 percent of the U.S. Hispanic population as a whole. Thanks to the boost in earning power a college degree provides, Cubans have higher-than-average annual incomes compared to U.S. Hispanics as a whole, $26,478 compared to $21,488. They also own homes at a higher rate than all Hispanics with nearly 60 percent of Cubans being homeowners.

Hispanics of Salvadoran Origin: 1.6 Million

Salvadorans represent the fourth-largest population of Hispanics living in the United States; nearly two-thirds are foreign-born, and more than half, 58.4 percent, arrived in this country in 1990 or later. Just under 30 percent of Salvadoran immigrants are U.S. citizens. Only 44 percent speak English proficiently; consequently, Hispanics of Salvadoran origin are less likely to graduate from high school, with just 47 percent earning a diploma. Annual income is lower than the average for all U.S. Hispanics with Salvadorans earning just $20,368 on average, but home-ownership rates are 46 percent, only slightly below the rate for all U.S. Hispanics, which is 49.1 percent. More than half of all Hispanics of Salvadoran origin live in two states: 37.5 percent reside in California, and another 14.3 percent reside in Texas. Four in 10 Salvadorans lack health insurance as compared with 31.7 percent of all U.S. Hispanics and 15.4 percent of the general population.

Hispanics of Dominican Origin: 1.3 Million

Dominicans are more likely to be foreign-born than all U.S. Hispanics: nearly six in 10 are foreign born compared to 38 percent of the entire U.S. Hispanic population. About 57 percent arrived in the U.S. after 1990, and almost half of  Dominican immigrants are U.S. citizens. Slightly more than half, 53 percent, speak English proficiently, and educational attainment among Dominicans is slightly higher than that of all U.S. Hispanics. Sixteen percent of Dominicans have earned at least a four-year degree compared with 12.9 percent of all U.S. Hispanics. However, Dominicans earn slightly less than the average Hispanic salary, $20,571 compared to $21,488. This may explain why Dominican homeownership, 28.3 percent, is lower than that of all U.S. Hispanics, 49.1 percent. Another possible factor – nearly 80 percent of Hispanics of Dominican origin live in more expensive areas of the Northeast, with 50 percent living in New York. Slightly less than one-quarter of Dominicans lack health insurance compared with 31.7 percent of all Hispanics.

Hispanics of Guatemalan Origin: 986,000

Close to one million Hispanics of Guatemalan origin comprise the sixthlargest population of Hispanics living in the U.S. Nearly 70 percent are foreign- born; of these, 70 percent arrived in the country after 1990. About 24 percent are U.S. citizens. Only about 39 percent of Guatemalans speak English proficiently, and more than half, 53.6 percent, have not completed high school. Guatemalans earn significantly less than the median income for all U.S. Hispanics with the annual personal income reported at $19,349; one in two do not have health insurance. The homeownership rate for Hispanics of Guatemalan origin is also much lower than the rate for all U.S. Hispanics, 35.6 percent compared to 49.1 percent. A large portion of Guatemalans, 40 percent, lives in the West, with 34 percent concentrated mostly in California and another third of their U.S.-based population residing in the South. Hispanics of Colombian Origin: 882,000

Two-thirds of Colombians living in the United States are foreign-born, and close to 50 percent are U.S. citizens. About 60 percent arrived in the country in 1990 or later. Close to 58 percent speak English proficiently, and Colombians have higher levels of educational attainment than U.S Hispanics as a whole, with 30 percent earning a bachelor’s degree or higher. Income levels are also higher than the average for all U.S. Hispanics, with the median annual personal income reported at $25,460. Homeownership levels are higher as well, at 53 percent. Nearly half of all Colombians in this country are concentrated in the South, with almost onethird living in Florida. Another large portion, 37 percent, lives in the Northeast, mostly in New York, 16 percent, and New Jersey, 13 percent. About 25 percent of all Colombians are without health insurance. Hispanics of Honduran Origin: 608,000

Close to 70 percent of Hondurans are foreign-born, with nearly threefourths immigrating in 1990 or later. Just 22 percent of Honduran immigrants are U.S. citizens. Only 40 percent of Hispanics of Honduran origin speak English proficiently, and only half have earned a high school diploma. Consequently, income for Hondurans is less than the average for all U.S. Hispanics at $19,349, and close to half of the Hondurans living in this country do not have health insurance. Homeownership rates among Hondurans are around 34 percent; the population is concentrated in the South, with 55 percent living in either Florida or Texas. Other pockets of Hondurans are found in California and New York.

Hispanics of Peruvian Origin: 519,000

Foreign-born Peruvians comprise 70 percent of all the Hispanics of Peruvian origin, with two-thirds arriving in the country in 1990 or later. About 42 percent of Peruvian immigrants have U.S. citizenship, and 54 percent speak English proficiently. Close to 30 percent of Peruvians living in the U.S. have obtained at least a bachelor’s degree, and average income levels for this group reflect that: the annual salary averages $24,441. However, about 30 percent of Peruvians do not have health insurance. Peruvians own homes at about the same rate for all Hispanics, 50.1 percent compared to 49.1 percent. The Peruvian population is more geographically dispersed than the other Hispanic groups, with 20 percent living in Florida, 17 percent in California and another 25 percent of the population evenly distributed between New York and New Jersey.

Points of Analysis

Hispanics, poits of analysis

Excluding Mexicans and Puerto Ricans, the majority of each Hispanic group by country of origin is foreign-born, ranging between 60 percent and 70 percent. However, three groups are more likely to be U.S citizens: Cubans, 58 percent; Colombians, 49 percent; and Dominicans, 47 percent. Cubans and Puerto Ricans have the highest annual income of all U.S. Hispanics at $26,478, followed by Colombians at $25,460 and Peruvians at $24,441.

Guatemalans and Hondurans have the lowest annual income at $19,300 and $19,400, respectively, as well as the highest likelihood of being uninsured, 48 percent and 49 percent, respectively. Peruvians and Colombians are most likely to have graduated from a four-year college, 30 percent, followed by Cubans at 25 percent. Ecuadorans, 18 percent; Dominicans, 16 percent; and Puerto Ricans, 13 percent, round out the top six groups for college-degree attainment. Within each of the four remaining groups, less than 10 percent earn a bachelor’s degree: Mexicans, 9 percent; Hondurans, 8 percent; Salvadorans, 5 percent; and Guatemalans, 3 percent.

Cubans, Colombians, Mexicans and Peruvians have the highest homeownership rates, 60 percent, 53 percent, 50.5 percent and 50 percent, respectively. Interestingly, despite the fact that in the U.S., the majority of Mexicans, 63 percent, are born here, and that 62 percent speak English proficiently, their earnings are less than the average for all U.S. Hispanics, $20,400, and more than one-third do not have health insurance. However, they are more likely to own a home than six of the 10 groups.

Georgetown University’s McDonough School of Business Deputy Dean Prepares Students for Global Leadership

Born in Venezuela to a Polish mother and Austrian father, Ricardo Ernst says he is living proof of the power of environment. “Genetically, I am European, but in my heart, I am Latin,” he says. Ernst, who was drawn to math at a young age, completed his undergraduate degree in civil engineering and his M.B.A. in Venezuela before coming to the United States in 1984 to further his education. Despite not being able to speak English, he was accepted at the Wharton School of Business in Philadelphia based on his math abilities, but with the condition that he learn English. While learning a new language can certainly be daunting, consider that the English Ernst needed to learn also included highly technical terms related to his area of study within operations management: global logistics.

In 1986, he was almost finished with his dissertation and thinking about returning home, where he had a job lined up in Caracas, when his advisor planted an entirely new seed in Ernst’s head: Why not apply for a teaching position here in America? Ernst had not even considered staying in the U.S.; he just always assumed he would return to Venezuela. But he began to consider the possibility. If he did stay, what city would he like best? He decided upon Washington, D.C., and began inquiring about good universities there. Someone suggested Georgetown University, so he applied for a position as a professor of operations at the business school, was accepted and has been there since 1987.

Founded in 1957 as an outgrowth of Georgetown’s Foreign Service School, Georgetown University’s McDonough School of Business prepares undergraduate and graduate students for global leadership by combining a critical study of core business disciplines with practical application and international experience. It is known for its interdisciplinary focus on finance, international business and public policy. Highly regarded, the school regularly receives good marks: U.S. News & World Report ranked McDonough’s M.B.A. program No. 19 in the country on its “America’s Best Graduate Schools 2010” list; Business Week ranked Georgetown’s undergraduate business programs No. 24 and the executive M.B.A. program No. 12 in 2009; Fortune magazine ranked McDonough No. 16 on its list of “50 Best Business Schools for Getting Hired 2007”; and in 2009, the Financial Times ranked McDonough’s full-time program No. 18 in the United States.

During his tenure, Ernst has taught undergraduate and graduate students in the full-time, part-time and executive M.B.A. programs. Over the years, he has witnessed the school’s growth and evolution, particularly vis-à-vis the impact of globalization on the business sector.

“We have grown in many ways in the past two decades: we have increased our corps of faculty, as well as our program offerings, and added more staff positions to support the school’s expansion,” he explained. And it appears that the school’s growth has allowed for the professional growth of its faculty: Ernst reports that very few faculty leave the school, citing the supportive environment offered by the Jesuits as another reason faculty turnover is so low and student satisfaction is so high.

Perhaps the most visible sign of the school’s success is a brand new building, officially opened only a year ago, that now houses the entire business school. Previously, classrooms and faculty offices were scattered across the campus, but the new building – funded entirely by alumni donations – gathers all aspects of the business school under one roof.

According to Ernst, this has been an amazing development and transformation because “It concentrates the energy by combining undergraduate and graduate programs all together.” With about 1,200 students and approximately 150 faculty members, the tight-knit community of the business school has been able to become even closer both in proximity and in spirit.

Widely published, Ernst speaks frequently at international conferences and executive seminars and has served as a consultant to many national and international firms, including General Motors, Michelin, Wal-Mart, Pan American Health Organization and the World Bank. He has also been involved in developing metrics and performance evaluations for the logistics requirements and challenges of coordinating complex supply chain projects, including not-for-profit organizations such as the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO), and EX-IM Bank.

Ernst spent his 1993-94 sabbatical year in France as a visiting professor in the Department of Logistics and Production at the École Supérieure des Sciences Économiques et Commerciales (ESSEC) and as a visiting professor in the Department of Industrial Management and Logistics at the Institute de Haute Études Commerciales (Groupe HEC).

The idea of how to best move products around the world is fascinating to him, Ernst says. His Ph.D. dissertation presented a new way of coordinating inventory models for companies with many parts, such as General Motors, which has an inventory of more than 369,000 different parts for its fleet of cars. During his time in Paris, he had the opportunity to evaluate the logistics effect of the Channel Tunnel or “Chunnel” on Europe.

Ernst explained the impact of this new transportation channel. “Before, in order to move products from the South of Italy to the north of England required trucks, boats, planes and ferries. With the chunnel – and the resulting infrastructure additions countries built to maximize the advantages of the chunnel – it is now possible to transport goods on this route nonstop by train.”

The creation of the European Union also enhanced logistics for the region by eliminating each country’s tariffs and taxes, resulting in a more efficient and direct transit route, as well as creating a more concentrated center of commerce.

Ernst also encountered interesting geopolitical differences that affected the chunnel. For instance, in France, companies could request that that the government build new train lines to their factories and the government was happy to oblige because it encouraged the use of the train system by enhancing the infrastructure. Conversely, in Great Britain, companies had to build and pay for railway enhancements themselves. Other aspects of the chunnel outcomes involved the negative impact on previously used modes of transportation, which stood to lose business once the chunnel was operational. “The entire project,” said Ernst, “opened many dimensions for me.”

About three years ago, Ernst was tapped for another dimension of his career when he took on his current administrative post as deputy dean of the school. In this role, he is responsible for school’s faculty – approximately 100 full-time and 50 adjunct professors – allocating them to classes and ensuring they are happy and productive in a manner that uses this valuable resource in the most efficient way – a task right up his logistical alley.

“Our faculty members have the knowledge,” he notes, “of which the students are the recipients. The administration’s job is to serve as a bridge between the faculty and students to facilitate the learning process.”

In addition to his administrative role, Ernst is busy with three other projects that combine his academic research interests and passion for his home country and continent. As co-director of the business school’s Global Logistics Research Program, he aligns companies, field studies and academic research to study issues in global logistics. As managing director of Georgetown University’s Latin American Board, he seeks to promote competitiveness in Latin America by generating value in the social, political and business sectors through the exchange of ideas and development of new leaders.

And as editor in chief of a new online journal called Globalization, Competitiveness and Governability, published by Georgetown University and Universia, Ernst fosters the editorial mission of becoming a new source of ideas about the effects of globalization.

But he does miss life as a faculty member, particularly teaching, he says. After five minutes of talking with him about global logistics, it is clear why he has won a number of teaching awards, including the Outstanding Teacher Award from the International Executive M.B.A. program, the Joseph F. Le Moine Award for Graduate and Undergraduate Teaching Excellence at Georgetown University, and the M.B.A. Core Curriculum Award of the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania. He has also
been listed as one of the Best Professors by Business Week magazine.

His enthusiasm for his chosen areas of expertise is contagious, and his ability to explain highly technical concepts in a simple way makes learning easy and fun.

But he says teaching is a two-way street. “The intellectual exchange with students is very rewarding in that it allows you to validate ideas. Watching the transformation of knowledge acquisition is also very rewarding. Clearly, these are very smart people, and when explaining new concepts to them, you often tap into their naive intelligence, which is thrilling,” he said.

Hispanic Outlook in Higher Education Magazine
“The world is changing, and we need to educate people – our future leaders – on the ways of the global world.”
Ricardo Ernst, Deputy Dean and Professor of Operations, McDonough School of Business, Georgetown University

But students aren’t just learning at the McDonough School of Business, they are also being prepared for global leadership, a main focus of the school.

“We strongly believe in globalization,” explained Ernst. “The world is changing, and we need to educate people – our future leaders – on the ways of the global world.” A number of signature programs support that commitment, including global residencies in the M.B.A. program that for the past 15 years have been bringing students to China, India and Latin America to conduct three-month consulting projects for companies. In addition, the Global Executive M.B.A. program, operated in conjunction with the Georgetown University School of Foreign Service and a university in Barcelona, gives students from all over the world the opportunity to spend two weeks in each of six different cities across the globe, learning from experts in each location and creating a global space for exchanging ideas.

For these and all his efforts, Ernst received the “Outstanding American by Choice” award from the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services, an honor that recognizes the outstanding achievements of naturalized U.S. citizens.

Asked how he manages the logistics of his own schedule, he cheerfully replies that he can’t plan anything himself. “There are three people who manage my calendar!” he admitted.  But one thing he does manage himself is his passion for running. He has competed in number of marathons and recently started training for triathlons. An early riser, he attributes his ability to get a jumpstart on the day to the city’s tendency to close up early. “If I lived in New York City – the city that never sleeps – I would never be able to keep up this schedule,” he said.

But whether he is running key programs for the business school, running a faculty meeting, running through the airport to catch a plane or running along the scenic Mall in Washington, D.C., one thing is certain: Ernst is a dynamic educator, insatiable researcher and respected leader with incredible stamina whose efforts are clearly having a positive impact on the world.

College Ranking Focuses on What Students Learn

Parents and their high school children have long revered the various college ranking authorities such as U.S. News & World Report, Princeton Review and Fiske Guide to Colleges. But a new approach to ranking colleges called What Will They Learn? provides collegebound students with a new way of evaluating the myriad colleges from which to choose.

What Will They Learn? is a project of the American Council of Trustees and Alumni (ACTA), an independent, nonprofit organization committed to academic freedom, excellence and accountability at America’s colleges and universities. Launched in 1995, ACTA works with alumni, donors, trustees and education leaders across the country 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 at an affordable price.”

The premise of ACTA’s alternate ranking system is that the best judge of a college’s value lies in the schooling its students receive, specifically in seven key areas: English composition, literature, foreign language, U.S. government or history, economics, mathematics and science. Study of these areas is believed to provide the broadbased skills and knowledge students need to succeed in the global marketplace. ACTA warns that students are falling behind their global counterparts when they graduate with significant gaps in their knowledge, which stands to affect our country’s future competitiveness and innovation.

Harry R. Lewis, former dean of Harvard College who penned the Dean’s Letter on the What Will They Learn? website, offered this insight. “At its best, general education is about the unity of knowledge, not about distributed knowledge. Not about spreading courses around, but about making connections between different ideas. Not about the freedom to combine random ingredients, but about joining an ancient lineage of the learned and wise. And it has a goal, too: producing an enlightened, selfreliant citizenry, pluralistic and diverse but united by democratic values.”

“The crisis in higher education is about more than money – it’s about what we are paying for. And when it comes to ensuring graduates possess the basic skills and knowledge they need to succeed, universities are shortchanging students,” said ACTA President Anne D. Neal, speaking at the National Press Club. “Since when is do-it-yourself an educational philosophy?”

Mel Elfin, founding editor of U.S. News & World Report’s college rankings, praised the website as “an invaluable and unique additional resource for parents,” and The Wall Street Journal called its focus on education “admirable.”

What Will They Learn? ranks colleges on how they educate students in the seven key areas:

English Composition – Considered a “fundamental requirement for effective participation in the workplace and civic society,” clear and grammatically accurate written communication is a must for today’s college graduates. Therefore, schools receiving high marks require students to take a writing class focusing on grammar, style, clarity and argument, one taught by instructors trained to evaluate and teach writing.

Literature – Exposure to a variety of literary styles and forms reveals a diversity of human thought and experience that is important in a global society. Careful study of texts also trains students to read attentively as well as analyze and reflect on what they have read, skills that teach students how to think critically. Schools receive credit for literature if they require a literature survey course such as British or Latin American literature.

Foreign Language – Operating under the premise that if one can speak another’s language, insight and understanding will be heightened as a result of an awareness of different cultural perspectives. In an increasingly interconnected
world, competency in a foreign language is also highly prized by employers. Schools receive credit for foreign language if they require competency at the intermediate level, defined as at least three semesters of college-level study in any foreign language, three years of high school work or an appropriate examination score.

U.S. Government or History – There is no doubt that an understanding of American history and government is critical to the development of active and informed citizens, and ACTA believes that colleges and universities must ensure that students have a working knowledge of the history and governing institutions of their country. Schools receive credit for U.S. government or history if they require a course in either American history or government with enough breadth to give a broad sweep of American history and institutions.

Economics – While economics is not generally considered part of a liberal arts core curriculum, understanding the principles that govern the allocation of goods and services and the fundamentals of the marketplace are essential in an increasingly connected global economy. Schools receive credit for economics if they require a course covering basic economic principles, preferably an introductory micro- or macroeconomics course taught by faculty from the economics or business departments.

Mathematics – Mastery of language allows one to experience the world through words and  image; math provides a fundamentally different way of apprehending the world and is imperative for studying the natural world and the social sciences. Practical applications abound as well, from evaluating contracts in the workplace and managing personal finances to evaluating statistics read in the newspaper. Schools receive credit for mathematics if they require a college-level course in mathematics beyond the level of intermediate algebra. Logic classes may count if they are focused on abstract logic. Computer science courses count if they involve programming or advanced study.

Science – Quantitative reasoning is a skill that comes through the study of science and
helps students master the basic principles of scientific experimentation and observation. In addition, science courses build the analytical and critical thinking skills that today’s employers and the world at large demand. Schools receive credit for natural or physical science if they require a course in biology, geology, chemistry, physics, or environmental science, preferably with a laboratory component.

Currently, the site ranks more than 700 schools, which collectively teach approximately six million undergraduates, or about 55 percent of all four-year undergraduate students in America. To assign a grade, researchers conducted an analysis of each school’s general education requirements listed in online course catalogs as well as the school’s six-year graduation rates. What Will They Learn? then provided grades based on how many of each course students were required to take: A – six-seven core subjects required; B – four-five core subjects required; C – three core subjects required; D – two core subjects required; F – zero-one core subjects required.

Of all the schools reviewed, the distribution of grades was alarming in that very few schools received top marks. About two-thirds of all institutions received a C or worse for requiring three or fewer subjects, and only 16 schools made the A-list: A – 16 (2 percent); B – 251 (35 percent); C – 209 (29 percent); D – 135 (19 percent); F – 103 (14 percent).

The A-ranked schools include: Baylor University, City University of New York-Brooklyn College, East Tennessee State University, Kennesaw State University, Lamar University, Midwestern State University, St. John’s College (Md.), St. John’s College (N.M.), Tennessee State University, Texas A&M University-College Station, Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi, Thomas Aquinas College, United States Air Force Academy, United States Military Academy, University of Arkansas-Fayetteville, University of Dallas, and University of Texas-Austin.

The majority of schools did well in requiring courses in three of the seven knowledge areas: science, English composition and math. The majority of schools did not do well in requiring courses in foreign language, literature, U.S. government or history and economics: science – 605 (85 percent); composition – 553 (77 percent); math – 436 (61 percent); foreign language – 236 (33 percent); literature – 157 (22 percent); U.S. government/history – 139 (19 percent); economics – 25 (4 percent). Other findings include:

Paying a lot doesn’t necessarily get you a lot: Average tuition at the more than 100 F-schools is $28,200 (2009 figures). At the 16 A-schools, it’s $13,200. A total of 178 institutions have the dubious honor of being in ACTA’s “$30,000-plus club,” which lists schools that charged more than $30,000 in tuition and fees for the 2009-10 school year.

Public institutions are doing a relatively better job than private institutions of ensuring students graduate with some of the basic skills and knowledge they need than private institutions: More than half (52 percent) of all privates receive a D or an F for requiring two or fewer subjects, while a little under half (44 percent) of all publics receive a B or better for requiring four or more subjects.

When comparing top schools within the U.S. News & World Report rankings, more than half of the top 20 national universities and liberal arts colleges received an F, yet students at these schools typically pay almost $40,000 in tuition. And private institutions, which are generally more expensive, had poor showings. Fifty-two percent received a D or an F for requiring two or fewer courses – only 55 percent require English composition, and only 46 percent require college-level math.

It is important to note that this alternate ranking system is not intended to offer a comprehensive assessment of all aspects of a university, nor does it place any value on prestige or reputation. Instead, it is placing an emphasis on how committed a school is to a broad-based general education curriculum. Unique among the major college guides, What Will They Learn? rankings were developed based on applying objective criteria to institutions’ curricula. The desire is that, armed with this knowledge, students can identify schools that are committed to these core subjects. The grading system also serves to encourage institutions to implement changes to core curriculum standards

With a new way to evaluate colleges at their disposal, ACTA believes students and parents will “vote with their wallets” for those institutions that provide a sound foundation at a good value. While the short-term impact of What Will They Learn? is yet to be measured, the economic premise of supply and demand could very well change the face of higher education for the long term.