- The Washington Times - Monday, June 25, 2001

A Georgetown degree can open doors for a graduate, but a new guide warns parents looking to provide their child with a solid Catholic education: You wont find it at the vaunted D.C. university.
"The school has lost most of its original Jesuit character and, if present trends continue, will be almost as secular as any state school within a generation," report the editors of "Choosing the Right College: The Whole Truth About Americas Top Schools," released last week by the Intercollegiate Studies Institute (ISI).
Students, however, can find a "vibrant intellectual life" at Washingtons Catholic University of America, which remains true to its Catholic educational mission, the guidebook says. But CUAs librarys holdings are too small and patronage is a perennial problem at the school, the book says.
Researchers at ISI — a conservative think tank in Wilmington, Del. — have taken a rankings-free approach to reviewing the best and worst that higher education has to offer. In "Choosing the Right College," they provide details about what goes on in the classrooms, and offer a behind-the-scenes view on a schools political climate, naming the best and worst departments and faculty.
"ISI believes that a broad, rigorous liberal arts education best prepares students for life, regardless of their career choice," said the books editor in chief, Winfield J.C. Myers. "When schools meet those demands, we applaud them; when they do not, we take note."
The ISI guide joins a crowded field of books that aim to help parents navigate the often daunting task of helping their child choose an appropriate college.
Tim McDonough, spokesman for the American Council on Education in Washington, says he has watched over the years as such guides have become increasingly specialized.
"The process of planning, choosing and paying for college is very complicated," Mr. McDonough said. "It involves significant investment and savings by students and their families. Theres a real hunger for information about the process because its such a significant investment, and frankly, colleges havent done a very good job of explaining the process, so theres a real market for these college guides."
Mr. Myers says his guide is unique because researchers contact both students and professors and ask them to talk candidly to get the most accurate information about a college or university.
"We dont mail out questionnaires to be passed out to teachers pets by front-office administrators, nor do we accept or solicit any money from the schools reviewed two techniques used by some other guides to make their job easier and more lucrative," Mr. Myers said.
A first edition, published in 1998, went through four printings and sold 20,000 copies, surprising ISI officials at its success. The latest edition, available online at ISIs Web site ( www.isi.org ) and at most major bookstores, reviews happenings at 110 public and private institutions, including St. Johns College, George Mason University, the College of William & Mary, and Washington and Lee University.
George Mason, in Fairfax County, was lauded for its new course requirements on American history and Western civilizations. St. Johns, with campuses in Annapolis and Santa Fe, N.M., received plaudits for its rigorous Great Books curriculum and small class sizes.
While the books editors decline to rate schools, Mr. Myers, when prompted, suggested some educational bargains, including Grove City College in Pennsylvania, which "offers a superb education for a very good price," and Houstons Rice University.

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