Letter to the Editor of the New York Times

Tuesday, August 1, 2006

The following letter was sent in response to the July 30, 2006 New York Times piece, Off the Beaten Path: Twenty Lesser-Known Colleges on Insiders’ Short Lists

To the Editor:

Many thanks to Randal C. Archibold and the New York Times Education Life editors for the article, Unsung Gems: Twenty Lesser-Known Colleges on Insiders’ Short Lists.  The article gives your readers a nuanced view of what is happening on college campuses beyond the hype and simplistic college rankings. 

You and your readers may also be interested to know that these twenty colleges and universities are part of a larger educational change movement that the Association of American Colleges and Universities (AAC&U) is advancing through a national initiative, Liberal Education and America’s Promise (LEAP): Excellence for Everyone as a Nation Goes to College. All twenty of the schools profiled are active members of AAC&U and several are playing leading roles in the LEAP initiative. LEAP highlights the many innovative educational practices—from interdisciplinary first-year programs to experiential learning opportunities to senior capstone projects—that are described in your article and that are being developed at all kinds of colleges across the country.

Taken together, these innovations are part of a contemporary vision for “liberal education” intended to help all college students prepare for the challenges of a volatile and interdependent world.  Your readers may be more familiar with the term “liberal arts” which commonly refers to study in arts and sciences disciplines or a particular kind of smaller residential college or to general education programs.  Through LEAP, AAC&U is working to ensure that the aims of liberal education are addressed in all disciplines, including professional fields such as education or engineering, and in all colleges and universities, large and small, two-year and four-year.  The innovative practices featured in your story are proven ways to help today’s diverse students achieve these essential outcomes of an excellent liberal education.

I sincerely hope that, when your readers visit any college or university, they will pointedly ask whether that institution ensures an engaged and rigorous liberal education for all its students.  And if not, why not?  


Carol Geary Schneider
Association of American Colleges and Universities