A guide to what college rankings don't tell you.

Numbers Tell the Story

Grade Breakdown by Region





The good news is that there are "A"-rated schools in every region of the country. So it’s definitely possible to find a school with a rigorous general education program close to home. The South has the strongest performing institutions in general, with more than half of the colleges and universities surveyed receiving an "A" or a "B" grade. Families in the rest of the country, where almost half of schools receive a "D" or "F," are particularly well-served by reviewing curricula carefully at the institutions they’re considering.

Grade Breakdown

The search for the right college can be overwhelming. There is one thing other rankings won't tell you: which universities are making sure their students learn what they need to know. This free resource grades colleges and universities across the country on their requirements in seven core areas of knowledge. 24 schools earned an "A" this year--compared to 423 that earned a "D" or an "F".

Subject Breakdown

At most universities, general education takes up one-quarter to one-third of a student’s program of study. So it’s not hard for students in most programs to complete courses in the seven priority content areas WWTL® recommends. While most universities require students to take courses in composition and the natural sciences, curricular gaps are common everywhere else. 58% of the schools surveyed require students to take a mathematics course requiring college-level algebra or above. But only 11% require intermediate-level foreign language, and only 3% require economics. Particularly alarming, given our deteriorating public discourse, only 18% of schools require a foundational course in U.S. government or history. While under one-third (31%) require students to study literature, the figure has been on the decline in recent years.

Public vs. Private Grade Breakdown

Expensive private institutions are just as likely to receive failing grades in our assessment as public institutions. Similarly, one finds a similar proportion of "A" and "B"–rated schools in both worlds: 3.0% of privates score a WWTL® "A," compared to 1.0% of publics. (In the B-range, one finds a slightly higher proportion of publics, with 34.4% of state schools earning a "B" compared to 27.9% of privates.) We observe the most significant curricular differences in literature and civics requirements: privates are about twice as likely to require a text-based literature course and publics are more than twice as likely to require students to study U.S. government or history.