SANTA PAULA, CA—September 2, 2011— The American Council of College Trustees and Alumni  has released its second annual report on the curricular strength of American colleges and universities, and once again, Thomas Aquinas College is at the very top of the list.
On its What Will They Learn  website, ACTA has posted evaluations of the major public and private colleges and universities in all 50 states —1,007 four-year institutions in all, with more than 7 million undergraduate students among them. Thomas Aquinas College  is one of only 19 institutions in the country to receive an “A” grade, and one of only three to receive a perfect score.
“Hundreds of schools across the country are abandoning the core curriculum, but Thomas Aquinas College is not one of them,” says ACTA’s press secretary, Daniel Burnett. “That’s exactly what the American people want,” he adds, citing an ACTA-commissioned Roper study , which found that 70 percent of American adults believe that colleges should require classes in core disciplines.
While numerous guides rank colleges and universities based on popularity or reputation, ACTA’s annual rating is unique inasmuch as it evaluates schools solely on the basis of their curricula. Rather than comparing colleges against one another, it measures them by objective criteria to determine what students are learning.
The ACTA evaluation focuses on the substance of schools’ mandatory courses and texts, or core curriculum. The association has identified seven essential areas of study for undergraduates — composition, literature, American history, foreign language, mathematics, science, and economics. The more of these areas of study required by a college or university, and the more substantive the readings, the higher the school’s overall ACTA rating. Less than 2 percent of colleges nationwide received an “A,” and only 0.3 percent, including Thomas Aquinas College, achieved a perfect score.
“We aim not at vocational training but at the education of the whole person, an education that will serve as an intellectual and moral foundation throughout our students’ lives,” says Dean of the College Brian T. Kelly. “As a result, our ‘core’ is our curriculum — an integrated, comprehensive, and Catholic education based entirely on the great books.”
The college’s unique academic program not only covers the seven key disciplines ACTA has identified, but orders them toward a rigorous study of philosophy and theology, culminating in the works of the Catholic Church’s Universal Doctor, St. Thomas Aquinas. “Ironically,” Dr. Kelly adds, “even though our classical education is not vocational in nature, it prepares our alumni to enter the best graduate schools in the country and to excel at a wide variety of professions, from law and medicine to journalism, public policy, architecture, and military service.”
Celebrating its 40th anniversary this year, Thomas Aquinas College is a four-year, Catholic liberal arts college with a fully-integrated curriculum composed of the Great Books, the seminal works in the major disciplines by the great thinkers who have helped shape Western civilization. There are no textbooks, no lectures and no electives. Instead, under the guidance of faculty members and using only the Discussion Method in classes of no more than 20, students read and discuss the original works of authors such as Euclid, Dante, Galileo, Descartes, the American Founding Fathers, Adam Smith, Shakespeare, Copernicus, Kepler, Newton, Einstein, Aristotle, Plato, St. Augustine, and of course, St. Thomas Aquinas. Graduates consistently excel in the many world-class institutions at which they pursue graduate degrees in fields such as law, medicine, business, theology and education. They have distinguished themselves serving as lawyers, doctors, business owners, priests, military service men and women, educators, journalists and college presidents.
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