What Shapes A College Education?

By Tyler Bonin

Upholding the pillars of a liberal arts education is increasingly important

The college application season is an exciting (albeit overwhelming) time for many students. The anxiety that emerges during the college search often comes from confusion in answering the question, “what do I do with a college education?” In recent years, the discussion surrounding higher education has run the gamut of purpose. Is it simply vocational training? Is it an opportunity to network for future opportunities? Is it a place meant to devote more time to political and social activism? The college search has thus become the product of the fray of ill-defined conceptions concerning what a college education is meant to be. At the same time, much attention has been focused on academic freedom and the question of whether the exchange of ideas—tenets central to scholarly inquiry—have truly departed campuses today.


The American Council of Trustees & Alumni (ACTA)  has sought to support liberal arts education in America through advocacy of the traditional pillars of higher education: a rigorous set of academic standards, a commitment to civic education and engagement, and the promotion of reasoned debate via intellectual diversity. Together, these pillars and more make up the basis of What Will They Learn?, a guide which ranks schools based on these outlined principles of a robust college education. The guide’s unique quality arrives from its focus not on metrics related to facilities or perceived prestige, but rather on an institution’s efforts to create a harmony of knowledge which inspires and drives intellectual development instead of focusing on a set of disjointed requirements. 

Dr. Michael Poliakoff, President of ACTA, spoke with Jeremy Tate on the Anchored podcast. He discussed his motivation for signing the Philadelphia Statement on Civil Discourse and why the upsurge of speech regulations and self-censorship on college campuses are proving detrimental to American democracy. Dr. Poliakoff also describes why the need exists for What Will They Learn?, as well as its promise for re-centering the college search on the elements of an enduring education. Make sure to tune in, especially if you have a son or daughter in the college search process!


Anchored podcast with Dr. Michael Poliakoff releases Thursday, October 8th. 


Listen on our Anchored podcast website. Also available on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, or wherever you listen to podcasts.

Published on 6th October, 2020.

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