Skip to Content

College Gets High Marks for Catholic Identity, Academics, and Financial Aid

From the Fall 2010 edition of the Thomas Aquinas College Newsletter:


When the Association of College Trustees and Alumni graded 714 of the country’s major colleges and universities on the strength of their curricula, the organization gave its highest rating  an “A”  to only 2 percent of the schools surveyed.

That is just 16 campuses in the entire United States, and of those, only one received a perfect score: Thomas Aquinas College.

Unique among college-ranking organizations, ACTA focuses its evaluation on the substance of a school’s mandatory courses and texts  the core curriculum. The association, founded by former chairwoman of the National Endowment for the Humanities Lynne Cheney, 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.


“Education of the Whole Person”
While 60 percent of the surveyed colleges and universities  including many of the nation’s most prominent public, private, and Catholic schools  earned grades of “C” or lower, Thomas Aquinas College was alone in ensuring that its students study all seven areas. The results of ACTA’s investigation can be found on the organization’s website, which allows for comparisons by name, region, or state.

“It did come as a bit of a surprise to find that we alone in the country are fulfilling ACTA’s paradigm core curriculum,” says Dean of the College Brian T. Kelly. “On the other hand, 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. 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 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.”

The release of the ACTA study, set to coincide with the annual publication of the traditional college guides, drew widespread media attention. “At a time when the cost of higher education is increasingly prohibitive,” commented Washington Post columnist Kathleen Parker, “students and parents can find solace in the possibility that a better education can be found,” citing Thomas Aquinas College by name. Likewise, the Christian Science Monitor reported that Thomas Aquinas College is “the only school in the study that requires all seven subjects.”


U.S. News, Princeton Review, National Catholic Register
This year, Thomas Aquinas College has also once again earned high marks from the more conventional college guides. U.S. News & World Report placed it in the top tier (number 71 overall) among liberal arts colleges in the magazine’s America’s Best Colleges 2010. The Princeton Review, meanwhile, has listed Thomas Aquinas College among The Best 373 Colleges (top 15 percent nationwide), in a complex ranking system based primarily on academic excellence. Finally, the College was one of only 32 colleges highlighted in the National Catholic Register’s Catholic Identity College Guide ’10, scoring favorable marks in all of the publication’s measures of campuses’ fidelity and moral climates.

Notably, both U.S. News and The Princeton Review commended the College’s generous financial aid program. U.S. News ranked Thomas Aquinas College as #18 for the “Least Debt” among its graduates and in the Top 40 of its “Great Schools, Great Prices” list. The Princeton Review, in conjunction with USA Today, listed the College among the Top 50 “Best Values” in private education and named it to the 11-member “Financial Aid Honor Roll” for earning a top score of 99 for affordability.

“We are pleased, as always, with the College’s placement in these guides, and we consider it a good sign for the cause of Catholic liberal education,” says President Michael F. McLean. “Our students and faculty continue to demonstrate that a classical education, taught in the light of faith, can yield outstanding results by any reasonable measure.”

Graduates (for ACTA story)
Thomas Esser (’18)

“It’s wonderful how, in the integrated curriculum, everything matches up. You’ll be reading one thing in language class, and then it will come up again in philosophy, and goes on to affect everything you read from then on. You get a deeper understanding of each discipline by seeing how they connect with the others.”

– Thomas Esser (’18)

Chino Hills, California

“I admire this college and your faithfulness to the Church’s mission for higher education and the New Evangelization.”

– The Most Rev. José H. Gomez

Archbishop of Los Angeles