ASU’s Barrett Honors College: Best Value-Added Impact in the Nation

The Barrett Honors College at Arizona State University not only provides the highest level of honors education to more than 3,500 students but also enhances the value of its home university to a greater extent than any other major honors program in the country.

Many people fault the annual U.S. News college rankings because of at least a perceived bias in favor of private universities, especially the elite private schools of the Ivy League. ASU is hit hard by the U.S. News rankings, harder by far than it deserves. Among national universities, ASU as a whole comes in at number 139. The main reasons appear to be related to the very large size of the university: more than 56,000 students. Even though ASU does an excellent job of minimizing the number of classes that have over 50 students, and does well in providing classes with fewer than 20 students, the school’s high acceptance rate and relatively low graduation rate probably hurt it most of all.

But a closer look at ASU and, especially at its Barrett Honors College, reveals a high level of excellence that the national rankings do not reflect. In our recent book, A Review of Fifty Public University Honors Programs, Barrett is ranked number 5 in the Overall Excellence Category, keeping close company with the honors programs at pubic elites such as North Carolina at Chapel Hill, the University of Washington, and the University of Texas at Austin. The number 5 ranking in Overall Excellence, set against the low national rankings of the university as a whole, make ASU Barrett, of all 50 of the honors programs, the one that shows the greatest impact–and adds the greatest value–to its university.

ASU Barrett achieves this impact by offering a leading honors curriculum, both in substance and extent; by strong advising; by outstanding honors residence communities; and by winning prestigious undergraduate and postgraduate scholarships that indicate as much as any other evidence that Barrett students can compete with the best.

ASU ranks eighth among the 50 universities reviewed in the attainment of prestigious scholarships, first in Udall Scholarships, and third in Marshall Scholars for the last 10 years. The university also ranks very highly in the number of Goldwater and Truman Scholarships. Along with 17 other universities in our review, ASU is a Truman Scholarship Honor Institution.

In 2012, ASU students ranked fifth among all public universities in National Science Foundation grants for graduate study and 11th among all universities, including the Ivy institutions. Among other things, the high achievement in this area of excellence points to consistently strong advising and support, a logical outcome of Barrett’s investing more in honors staff than another other honors program we reviewed.

In the most recent list of Fulbright awardees, Arizona State came in seventh in the nation, and was the third leading public university, behind only Michigan and UC Berkeley.

Honors housing at Barrett scores a perfect 10 out of 10 in our evaluation, based on location, room styles, and dining convenience and quality.

But the honors curricular requirement of at least 36 hours is surely the most important feature at Barrett, although some might argue that the outstanding financial assistance and scholarships available to Barrett students is as important.

All in all, if you’re looking for an honors program that stands out on its home campus and stands out in the nation, Barrett is a great choice.

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