Honors Programs Plus Strong Merit Aid: ASU Barrett Honors College

Almost certainly the best-known honors college (or program) in the nation, the Barrett Honors College at Arizona State is also among the most effective at achieving “honors completion,” which means that a very high percentage of its students not only graduate but also finish all of their honors requirements, including a thesis, before doing so.

Unfortunately, it has been the case with many honors programs that not even a majority of first-year enrollees complete all honors requirements. (Even so, honors students who leave their programs still graduate from their universities at a very high rate.)

The other strengths of Barrett are a fully committed Dean who has a genuine passion for public honors education, plus some of the best honors residence halls in the nation. Notably, the residence halls can also accommodate virtually every first- and second-year honors student, rare for any honors program. The Dean also has a very large staff of more than 60 along with additional support from more than 40 faculty members, a good thing considering that Barrett, with almost 7,000 students, is probably the second largest honors college in the nation. (We estimate that the University of Alabama Honors College is probably the largest.)

This is an extremely important but sometimes overlooked factor in selecting an honors college. The Barrett support is evident in the very high number of its students who win prestigious national awards, especially Fulbright Student Scholarships, Goldwater Scholarships for undergrads in STEM disciplines, Udall Scholarships, and Truman Scholarships.

Almost 60 percent of Barrett graduates go to top graduate or professional schools, while 30 percent choose immediate employment; the remainder choose travel or volunteer work.

Many of the honors credit classes at ASU are large, but the honors-only classes offered by the honors college average 15.9 students. Barrett also makes very extensive use of honors “contracts” that allow honors credit for additional work in regular class sections, some of which are very large.

National Scholar Merit Aid

Sorting out the merit aid options at Barrett is a bit difficult, but at the outset we estimate that more than 80 percent of Barrett students who have no demonstrated need receive an average of more than $8,000 in merit aid. With an average ACT of 29, new SAT of 1340-1350,  and a core HSGPA of 3.79, Barrett students receive generous support. All told, some 95 percent of Barrett students receive merit aid, and more than 40% receive need-based aid on top of their merit aid.

But…the term “full ride” is not used by ASU or Barrett in describing the aid. In a very few cases, the combination of university aid, Barrett aid, and need-based aid may come close, but such is not the norm even for national scholars.

The Dean told us last year that “The university also has uncapped national scholar awards that are the same amount for National Merit, Hispanic and Achievement Scholars. These are full out of state tuition for all OOS national scholars, even if it increases as they are at ASU, and $16,000 per year for in-state national scholars. Both in-state and out-of-state national scholars also receive $1,500 towards research costs for research they do, and $1,000 for any honors travel they carry out while at ASU.” (Note: these “extras” more than offset the Barrett charge to each student of $750 per semester.)

So what the school lacks in providing full rides it makes up for in funding “uncapped” merit aid for national scholars that is still quite generous. If you qualify, you should get it= uncapped, or no limits on number of awards.

The university has a link to a calculator that allows prospective award recipients to enter test scores, GPA, class standing, in-state or OOS residency, and national merit scholar status to determine the amount of aid and the resulting net cost of attending. Our “tests” of the calculator yielded aid totals somewhat less than reported above but approximate. It appears that much higher test scores might not affect award amounts nearly as much as NMS status.

The proof is in the pudding: More than 750 national scholars are now enrolled in Barrett. In a recent year, 117 National Merit Finalists and 105 National Hispanic Scholars enrolled as first-year students.

Of particular interest is that “National Merit Semi-Finalists who are admitted to ASU with an official SAT or ACT score on file with the university will receive a placeholder New American University Scholar award (such as a President’s, Provost’s, or Dean’s scholarship).” This placeholder award will be upgraded to the New American University Scholarship when

– The student has moved from National Merit Semi-Finalist status to National Merit Finalist status with the NMSC.

– The student lists Arizona State University as his or her first choice school with the NMSC by the NMSC’s posted deadline.

– The student has been admitted to Arizona State University.

The aforementioned President, Provost, and Dean’s Scholarships vary according to OOS status and test scores.

Other Merit Aid

For this category, variations in test scores, GPA, and class rank definitely make a difference. We found no evidence that these awards are uncapped, so even though the value of scholarships might not change much depending on your stats, the prospects of your receiving the award at all probably do depend on higher test scores, etc.

First, consider an OOS applicant with stats higher than the Barrett mean: ACT 32, GPA 3.9, top 5%). The calculator yields a President’s Scholarship valued at $14,000, leaving a net remaining cost of $26,170, about the same as the total cost for an in-state student. Using the same stats for an in-state student yields a President’s Scholarship valued at $10,000, leaving a net remaining cost of $14, 340.

Entering mean scores and GPAs for Barrett students (ACT 29, 3.79, top 12%) yields an OOS award of a Provost’s Scholarship valued at $13,000, with a net remaining cost of $27,170, about the same as the total cost for an in-state student. Entering the same scores for an in-state student yields a Provost’s Scholarship valued at $8,000, leaving a net remaining cost of $16,340.

Entering an ACT of 24, GPA of 3.50, class standing top 25% yields an in-state Dean’s Scholarship valued at $6,000. The same scores for OOS yield a Dean’s Scholarship of $12,500, and a remaining net cost of $27,670.

For purposes of comparison, we estimate that in-state National Merit Scholars who receive no non-merit aid or additional merit aid, end up with a net in-state cost of about $12,000. OOS National Merit Scholars with no aid outside the NMS award have a net remaining cost of about $14,400 a year. The OOS NMS award leaves a net cost roughly equivalent to that of the President’s Scholarship for in-state students.

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