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Press Release

Contact: Debra Humphreys
Vice President for Communications and Public Affairs
202-387-3760 ext. 422

Are All College Students Getting the Education They Need? Is the Public Getting from Higher Education What It Needs? Are Today's Graduates Ready for 21st-Century Challenges?

90-Year-Old Organization of Colleges and Universities Launches National Campaign to Focus Public Attention on What Really Matters in College Today

San Francisco, CA—January 27, 2005—At a celebration of its 90th anniversary, the Association of American Colleges and Universities (AAC&U) announced today the launch of Liberal Education and America's Promise: Excellence for Everyone as a Nation Goes to College, a national advocacy and campus action initiative. Conceived as a decade-long campaign, the initiative is designed to champion the value of an engaged liberal education--for individual students and for a nation dependent on economic creativity and democratic vitality. The campaign will expand public and student understanding of what really matters in college--the kinds of learning that will truly empower individuals to succeed and make a difference in the 21st century. The design and launch of this campaign are being made possible by a significant grant from the Christian A. Johnson Endeavor Foundation. Additional support is being provided by the AT&T Foundation and AAC&U's members and board of directors.

"While issues of access and affordability in higher education remain important, there is also a compelling need to focus on what all students should achieve once they enroll in college," said AAC&U Board Chair Ronald Crutcher, president of Wheaton College in Massachusetts. "Behind the scenes, a consensus is emerging among business, civic, educational, and some public policy leaders about the kinds of learning that Americans need to thrive in a knowledge-intensive economy and a globally engaged democracy. This consensus about key outcomes underlines the value of a liberal education for all college students, regardless of their background or choice of field. Unfortunately, students and their parents remain largely unaware of this consensus or how colleges are responding to it. As educators and leaders, it is our role to identify ways to communicate this perspective more effectively."

Liberal Education and America's Promise responds to this gap in the national discussion about higher education and will be organized in concert with policy and business leaders, the media, campuses, and prospective students and their parents. It will be designed to

  • spark public debate about the education needed to prepare college students for an era of greater expectations;
  • change the widespread belief that students must choose either a practical or a liberal education;
  • make visible the inherent inequities in current practices that steer low-income students to college programs that teach narrow job skills, while more advantaged students reap the full benefits of a first-rate liberal education;
  • document progress in providing every student with a high quality education that--beginning in school and culminating in college--develops intellectual and ethical judgment; cultivates key skills and capacities for our knowledge-based economy; expands cultural and scientific horizons; and cultivates democratic and global knowledge and engagement;
  • advance campus action plans to help more college and college-bound students understand, prepare for, and achieve the key outcomes of a practical and engaged liberal education.

"Today's students and their parents have heard the message that college is essential to success in today's world," said Lee Shulman, president of the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching. "But no one has told them what they really need to gain from college or how to prepare for it. This campaign is long overdue and will help today's students receive the kind of education that will ensure their own success and the continued success of our diverse democracy."

In its initial stages, the campaign will form a National Leadership Council of prominent public advocates for this kind of education, a public outreach effort with activities coordinated initially in a few pilot states, and a campus action agenda. See below for a list of organizations and campuses that have already signed on to participate in the initiative.

"With so many Americans flocking to college, the nation has a unique opportunity to provide an empowering and horizon-expanding education to an entire generation of students, whatever their background or intended career," said AAC&U President Carol Geary Schneider. "Taking advantage of this opportunity depends on a much more robust public debate about what really matters in college for all students and for our society's shared future. As it celebrates its 90th anniversary and looks toward its centennial, AAC&U is proud to take the lead in launching this much-needed discussion about liberal education and its importance both to students and to our society."

For information about the campaign, see

Liberal Education and America's Promise

Charter Partner Campuses

  • • Alverno College
    • Babson College
    • Bard College
    • Butler University
    • Chatham College
    • Colgate University
    • Drake University
    • Duke University
    • Eastern New Mexico University
    • Indiana University-Purdue University at Indianapolis
    • Ithaca College
    • James Madison University
    • Kalamazoo College
    • Kent State University
    • King’s College
    • Metropolitan College of New York
    • Miami University
    • Miami-Dade College
    • Mount St. Mary’s College
    • Mount Holyoke College
    • Northern Arizona University
    • Pacific Lutheran University
    • Philadelphia University
    • Pomona College
    • Portland State University
    • Prince George’s Community College
    • Richland College
    • Saint Lawrence University
    • Salve Regina University
    • San Francisco State University
    • Santa Clara University
    • Southern Oregon University
    • State University of New York at Stonybrook
    • State University of New York College at Geneseo
    • State University of New York College at Oswego
    • Syracuse University
    • The College of Wooster
    • University of Alaska-Anchorage
    • University of Hawai’i-Kapi’olani Community College
    • University of Michigan at Ann Arbor
    • University of Missouri-Columbia
    • University of Nebraska at Lincoln
    • University of North Carolina at Wilmington
    • University of Wisconsin System
    • Wabash College
    • Wagner College
    • Wesleyan University
    • Western Nevada Community College
    • Wheaton College
    • Worcester Polytechnic Institute

Partner Organizations

• American Academy for Liberal Education
• Associated New American Colleges
• Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching
• Project Kaleidoscope

For more information on the LEAP Campaign, please visit or contact Debra Humphreys, vice president for communications and public affairs, at 202-387-3760 ext. 422 or

AAC&U is the leading national association concerned with the quality, vitality, and public standing of undergraduate liberal education. Its members are committed to extending the advantages of a liberal education to all students, regardless of academic specialization or intended career. Since its founding in 1915, AAC&U's membership has grown to 1,000 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.

Information about AAC&U membership, programs, and publications can be found at

The Christian A. Johnson Endeavor Foundation has been devoted to the strengthening and development of the core mission of liberal arts colleges for fifty years. This focus has been primarily in the form of faculty and curricular development with an emphasis on interdisciplinary studies, international education, and engaged learning.