Beazley Foundation Suspends Grants to Liberal Arts Colleges in Virginia

In response to a study which suggested that liberal arts colleges and universities in Virginia are not offering a comprehensive core curriculum to students, the Portsmouth-based Beazley Foundation, which has invested millions of dollars in higher education over the last fifty years, has temporarily suspended grants to schools in the state, the Virginian-Pilot reports.

Commissioned by the Beazley Foundation and conducted by the American Council of Trustees and Alumni, the study examined all fifteen public four-year colleges and universities in Virginia and twenty-four private institutions and found that only about half required at least four of the seven subjects that historically have been required of undergraduate liberal arts students: composition, literature, foreign language, U.S. government or history, economics, math, and natural or physical science. The study also found that economics is not required at any of the schools; U.S. government or history is mandatory only at James Madison and Regent universities; and a foreign language is required at fewer than half the colleges included in the study.

In addition, the study found that the cost of getting a degree at nearly half the schools has increased so much that it now represents more than 40 percent of the median household income in the state. "To pay for this increase, students and families borrow more and more money," the authors of the study wrote, and some full-time students work twenty or more hours a week, which may be contributing to declining graduation rates.

In response, the Beazley Foundation has decided to suspend its grants to undergraduate liberal arts colleges until it develops a plan to ensure that the funding goes to the best-performing institutions. "I don't suggest that this is some sort of landmark study," said Beazley Foundation president Richard S. Bray, "but it certainly is a guide — a good starting point to indicate there are some issues of concern."

Janie Bryant. "Grant-Giving Group Finds Virginia Colleges Lacking." Virginian-Pilot 02/17/2012.