Association of American Colleges and Universities Report Calls for Giving All Students a Practical and Engaged Liberal Education as Key To Improving Learning Outcomes

October 3, 2002

The report from AAC&U’s Greater Expectations initiative recommends sweeping reforms affecting nearly all aspects of the higher education experience, including how colleges and universities organize, teach, and interact with K-12 educators.

Read the Report


A New Vision for Higher Education in the U.S.

Giving All Students a Practical, Engaged Liberal Education is Key to Improving Learning and Making College More Relevant for Today’s World, National Panel Concludes

Concluding two years of intensive work, a panel comprised of some of the nation’s top education, business, government and community action leaders today called for a dramatic reorganization of higher education in America to give all students – regardless of institution or major – a practical and engaged liberal education. Released today by the Association of American Colleges and Universities (AAC&U), Greater Expectations: A New Vision for Learning as a Nation Goes to College, is a ground-breaking, widely anticipated report that takes a close look at how the student body, college experience, workforce and society have changed. The panel, which was chaired by Judith Ramaley, former president of the University of Vermont, recommends a series of major reforms affecting nearly all aspects of the higher education experience, including how colleges and universities organize, teach and interact with K-12 educators.

The panel’s recommendations include:

Refocusing higher education on essential liberal education outcomes to better serve the growing number of students who attend multiple institutions, attain their education over longer periods of time, and work while learning;

Adopting new ways of teaching that help students become intentional, lifelong learners capable of responding to unanticipated and complex challenges;

Integrating separate elements of the curriculum-general education, the major and electives-into purposeful plans of study for every student;

Creating new teaching, learning and assessment practices that require students to apply their learning to the real world and demonstrate their achievement as the basis for the degree;

Eliminating the artificial division between liberal arts and pre-professional education, to provide every student with an engaged and practical liberal education; and

Creating a closer alignment between colleges and K-12 educators.

“We are calling for nothing less than radical and comprehensive change in the way our institutions of higher education carry out their missions,” said Carol Geary Schneider, President of the Association of American Colleges and Universities. “Our nation should be proud of achieving nearly universal access to higher education, but we are not doing a good enough job of educating students for the challenges they will face at work, in a diverse democracy, and in a turbulent global community. In this era of greater expectations, we need a New Academy that gives all students the kind of practical and engaged liberal education they will need to succeed. It’s time for a new vision of learning that focuses on liberal education outcomes for every student.” “We have opened the doors to college to many more students, but have not explained to them what a college education is really all about, what it will require of them, and how they can get the most out of it,” added Judith Ramaley, former president of the University of Vermont. The Greater Expectations National Panel found that:

Three in four high school graduates get some postsecondary education within two years of receiving their diplomas, but more than half of all college students (53 percent) must take remedial courses.

Fifty-eight percent of bachelor’s degree recipients attend two or more colleges.

More than one-third of all undergraduate college students are older adults, 28 percent are minorities, and 28 percent are part-time students.

Forty-two percent of students working more than 25 hours per week report that working hurts their grades; 53 percent say it limits their class schedules; and 38 percent say it interferes with their choice of courses.

Newly created jobs tend to require a college degree. Experts project that, between 1998 and 2008, 14.1 million new jobs will require a bachelor’s degree or at least some college – more than double the number that require high school skills or less.

“The world has changed dramatically and, in many ways, colleges and universities have failed to keep up,” said Andrea Leskes, AAC&U Vice President and Director of the Greater Expectations Initiative. “Most educational institutions were set up to serve fewer, less diverse, more privileged students. As a result, we are not successfully educating all the students who come to college today – and business leaders are understandably dissatisfied with how colleges are preparing the next generation of workers. We need an education of lasting value, and a practical and engaged liberal education is the most empowering form of learning for today’s world.”

The report concludes that a practical, liberal education for all students should be built on:

The belief that all students are capable of higher level learning;

A commitment to inclusiveness and equal access to high quality college education for all individuals and groups;

Clear and coherent expectations of achievement, aligned throughout education levels;

Solid preparation for challenging college work achieved through excellent K-12 teaching and curricula;

A focus on learning and the quality of student accomplishment;

A culture of intentionality at all educational levels: explicit goals achieved through appropriate practices and strategic allocation of resources;

A culture of evidence based on assessment and accountability;

Public support for universal higher achievement; and

Joint responsibility and concerted action by all stakeholders in higher education.

The report was released on September 30, 2002 at the “Forum on the Quality of College Learning” featuring: Anthony Carnevale, Vice President for Education and Careers, Educational Testing Service; Richard Hersh, President, Trinity College; Katharine Oliver, Assistant Superintendent, Maryland State Department of Education; Eduardo J. Padrón, President, Miami-Dade Community College; and Geary Schneider, Leskes and Ramaley.Greater Expectations: A New Vision for Learning as a Nation Goes to College will be the focus of more than 20 campus/community dialogues in communities around the nation beginning this fall. For information, see Greater Expectations National Panel Report was published with support from The Pew Charitable Trusts. The full report, with additional links and information, is available online at

AAC&U is the leading national association devoted to advancing and strengthening liberal learning for all students, regardless of academic specialization or intended career. Since its founding in 1915, AAC&U’s membership has grown to nearly 800 accredited public and private colleges and universities of every type and size.AAC&U functions as a catalyst and facilitator, forging links among presidents, administrators, and faculty members who are engaged in institutional and curricular planning. Its mission is to reinforce the collective commitment to liberal education at both the national and local levels and to help individual institutions keep the quality of student learning at the core of their work as they evolve to meet new economic and social challenges.For information about AAC&U, see


Lisa Lederer

(202) 371-1999

Debra Humphreys

(202) 387-3760(ext. 422)