Honors Completion Rates: Leading Honors Colleges and Programs

In previous posts, one extremely lengthy and detailed and the other explaining our formula for setting target completion rates, we have tried to explain the differences between university grad rates, honors program grad rates, and honors program completion rates.

The first two are straightforward: The university rate will always be lower than the honors program rate because of the greater selectivity and mentoring associated with honors programs. The university grad rate for honors students averages 86-88 percent, and is sometimes as high as 97 percent.

An honors completion rate goes a step beyond the honors graduation rate. The grad rate is for honors entrants, whether or not they completed all honors requirements by the time of graduation. The completion rate is the percentage of honors program entrants who not only graduated from the university but also completed all honors program requirements for at least one option. Some programs have multiple options, with the requirements for first-year entrants averaging about 30 honors credits and a threshold for transfer students of 15-18 hours or so.

In our study for 2020, we have obtained honors graduation and completion rates from 31 honors colleges and programs. Below, in Table 1, we list the programs with the highest completion rates, all above the mean of 57.2 percent. In this table we also list the honors graduation rate, the highest credit-hour completion requirement for each program, and the average 2020 SAT scores for first-year entrants.

The top six programs all had honors completion rates of 70 percent or higher. This is a remarkably high number when one considers that many of these programs require an honors thesis. Many elite private colleges no longer require a thesis for graduation or for honors recognition. The top six programs, in terms of raw ordinal completion rates, are CUNY Macaulay Honors College; UIUC’s CHP Honors Program; the UT Austin Plan II Honors Program; Penn State’s Schreyer Honors College; the South Carolina Honors College; and Arizona State’s Barrett Honors College.

TABLE 1    
HONORS PROGRAMS, STRONGHon ProgramHon ProgramMax HonorsAverage SAT
COMPLETION RATESCompletion RateGrad RateCompletion Req2020 1st Yr
CUNY Macaulay81.586.8361410
Illinois CHP80.394.7181500
UT Austin Plan II79.797.2421466
Penn State Schreyer HC78.097.3351410
South Carolina HC77.094.3501475
Arizona St Barrett HC72.088.0361370
UAB HC69.683.6301400
Kansas UHP69.095.0311420
College of Charleston HC67.989.3341370
Oklahoma HC67.788231426
Washington St HC67.677.1251313
Clemson HC67.097.0291483
Delaware HC63.093.0301426
Houston61.077.0361380
AVERAGES71.589.932.51417.8

 

In Table 2, below, we show adjusted honors completion rates for programs after the impact of university graduation and freshman retention rates are taken into account. In contrast to Table 1, the table shows the extent to which programs have exceeded expectations in light of these two factors.

We find that seven programs achieved an adjusted completion rate that exceeded the target rate by 10 or more percentage points: CUNY Macaulay Honors College; the UAB Honors College; the Kansas University Honors Program; the College of Charleston Honors College; the South Carolina Honors College; Arizona State’s Barrett Honors College; and the Washington State Honors College.

Table 2     
PROGRAMS W/ COMPLETION RATESHonors ProgramUniversityUniversity FreshTARGET
> TARGET COMPLETION RATECompletion RateGrad RateRetention RateRATEDIFF +/-
CUNY Macaulay HC81.5548454.7226.78
UAB HC69.6558254.5615.04
College of Charleston HC67.9567954.0713.83
Kansas UHP69.0638057.9011.1
South Carolina HC77.0748866.0410.96
Arizona St Barrett HC72.0668761.7110.29
Washington St HC67.6637957.5710.03
UT Austin Plan II Honors79.7829572.357.3
Illinois CHP80.3859373.197.11
Houston HC61.0548555.055.95
Oklahoma HC67.7679063.204.50
Penn State Schreyer HC78.0869373.694.31
Oklahoma St HC58.6628157.730.87
Nevada Reno HC55.5578155.230.23
AVERAGES70.46685.561.209.2