Anne Neal's recent commentary about St. Mary's College of Maryland misrepresents our curriculum ("Cautionary campus tale," May 30). Far from "anything goes," our Core Curriculum is anchored in four fundamental skills: critical thinking, information literacy, written expression and oral expression — skills that employers regularly implore us to build in our students. We are well aware that current economic conditions require colleges and universities to prepare our students for a competitive and dynamic work environment. Accordingly, these basic skills are introduced in the First Year Seminar and reinforced and refined in subsequent courses. Students are required to take courses in international languages, arts, cultural perspectives, humanities, mathematics, natural sciences and social sciences. These are essential elements of every St. Mary's student's education.
The core curriculum provides a solid foundation for every St. Mary's student's education and we build from there. Challenging and meaningful academic majors in concert with outstanding student research opportunities and a vibrant co-curriculum result in SMCM alumni who excel in their careers, thrive in world-class graduate and professional programs and contribute in significant ways to the communities in which they live and work.
Ms. Neal is correct on one point — tuition at St. Mary's College of Maryland is more expensive than that of other Maryland four-year institutions. However, we provide a very good value. We pride ourselves on the highest graduation rate and the lowest average student debt in the state system. Ms. Neal also fails to note that we have been working to minimize tuition increases in recent years. Tuition will not increase at all in 2013 or 2014, thanks to state legislation that will augment our state funding. In addition, we have increased our endowment in the past three years to better support students with financial need. We take very seriously our public mission to be accessible and affordable and will continue to find ways to meet that goal while providing rigorous and relevant educational opportunities.
Beth Rushing, St. Mary's City
The writer is vice president for academic affairs and dean of faculty at St. Mary's College of Maryland.