One of the loudest arguments we’re hearing in favor of Proposition 4 is that if the state of Texas has more Tier One research universities, the quality of higher education will improve. The American Council of Trustees and Alumni has been working on a project, the results of which appear to contradict the idea that research universities provide an inherently superior education to students.

The John William Pope Center for Higher Education Policy is a fantastic resource for those interested in following trends in higher education in the U.S. This latest information comes via director of research George Leef, reporting on the American Council of Trustees and Alumni project “What Will They Learn?“.

Yale University and the University of California-Berkeley, top research universities that Texas’ Prop 4 proponents no doubt wish to emulate, are among the schools that have flunked an important test ACTA has applied to major universities. ACTA took a look at several major universities across the nation to determine the value of their core curriculum, those courses that every student who passes through the school have to study. These include literature, foreign languages, U.S. government/history, economics, mathematics, and natural/physical science. ACTA evaluated several universities based on these courses: to get an “A” a school had to meet at least six of the seven core subjects; to get a “B,” four or five; to get a “C,” three; a “D,” two; schools with only one or none flunked.

Via Leef, emphasis mine:

Of the 100 schools ACTA examined, only five got an A: the University of Arkansas, the University of Texas, Texas A&M, the U.S. Military Academy (i.e., West Point) and Brooklyn College. Each had six of the seven.

Thirty-three schools received B grades, including the University of Chicago, Duke, Columbia, Notre Dame, the University of North Carolina, and Ohio State.

Twenty schools received C grades, including Princeton, Stanford, and UCLA.

Seventeen schools received D grades, including Harvard, and the University of Virginia.

Finally, pulling the average way down, were twenty-five Fs, including Yale, Berkeley, Brown, Amherst, Rice, Johns Hopkins, and Northwestern.

Clearly, so-called “elite” or Tier One schools are no better at educating students thoroughly than lesser schools. Look at that list of the schools that failed ACTA’s litmus test – several of them are well-known research universities.

Bringing this home: for Texans, who are listening to a pitch for the state to spend money specifically on more research univerisites that includes a plea that such spending will improve higher education, ACTA’s findings are damning. Texas students need the opportunity to get well-rounded, thorough education at the university level, and our schools should aim to get an “A” on the ACTA test. There is no evidence that spending money to create more Tier One schools will help any school achieve this goal, and ACTA’s findings demonstrate that there is no connection between research prowess and high education standards.

Once again, I ask you to please vote NO on Proposition 4.


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