The American Council of Trustees and Alumni released a report yesterday giving UNM a C grade for general education requirements – along with New Mexico State University and nearly a third of the colleges reviewed. With more than 60 percent of colleges in the report receiving a C or less, the criteria used warrant a closer look.

The grades are based on how well a college's core curriculum aligns with the seven areas selected for the report: composition, literature, foreign language, U.S. government or history, economics, mathematics and science. The report gives UNM credit for only three – math, science and foreign language.

UNM does include a fourth requirement from ACTA's list – two semesters of composition. The report states: "No credit given for Composition because students may test out of the University Writing requirement and fulfill the Writing and Speaking core requirement with a course in public speaking."

Testing out of English 101 and 102 at UNM requires nothing less than near perfect scores on the ACT or SAT or a perfect score on AP exams – 29 or higher for ACT English, 650 or higher for SAT Critical Reading, or 5 for the English Language or English Literature AP. Surely students with those scores may be safely assumed to have mastered basic composition?

In addition to public speaking, advanced students can fulfill this core requirement with expository writing (a.k.a. advanced composition), technical and professional writing, or reason and critical thinking (a philosophy course). The common thread in these courses – including public speaking – is that all teach students to communicate effectively and ethically and to critically analyze the messages they read, hear and see.

UNM doesn't expressly require the remaining three areas – literature, economics and U.S. government or history – though introductory courses in those areas are options among humanities and social sciences requirements.

Of course, most people would probably agree that UNM's core curriculum could be improved. A task force of faculty, staff and students has worked over the past year to develop recommendations for a revised core focused on learning outcomes and to identify a structure to ensure continual review of the core. Look for more details on UNM Today later this semester.