A young lady at the Pope Center academic think tank compares the books which incoming first-year students at North Carolina's universities will be required to read this summer with those that high school students taking AP English are required to read during the same period. The college selections are orders of magnitude less challenging and, in the case of those on the list which I've read, orders of magnitude inferior in most other ways as well. My only guess for the reason is that the high school teachers can actually grade their students while, as noted above, the college program administrators are basically left with not much more than "Pretty please?"
I think the book selection committees are more aware of the emperor's new clothing qualities of their programs than they let on -- they only way they can hope to have any significant portion of their students actually participate in this program is to be certain the books are as lightweight as possible. Build the program on anything with any real heft or that presents any actual intellectual challenge and students will opt out in numbers that make the its uselessness too obvious to ignore.
Like, say, a cushy job dreamed up for the governor's wife.