UT Austin President Gregory Fenves notified alumni and contributors on April 20 that new, four-year financial aid awards will begin in the fall of 2018 and be distributed to new UT students to help them graduate on time and with less debt. The need-based funds are for in-state students and will benefit almost 3,000 additional UT students per year.
“The Texas Advance Commitment (TAC)ensures that Texas students with family incomes of up to $100,000 (Adjusted Gross Income), who have financial need, will receive guaranteed gift aid,” Fenves said. “Eligible students with family incomes up to $30,000 will receive, at a minimum, enough aid to completely cover their full tuition costs.”
In 2016, UT Austin implemented a $15 million increase in financial aid that benefited thousands of current UT students. “This year, we will make that funding permanent,” Fenves said.
According to the TAC website, the amount of funding a student will receive will depend on how much their family AGI is, as well as how much financial aid they have already received through grants and other scholarships.
“For Texas families with an AGI up to $30,000, awards range from $300 to more than $11,000 per year to ensure that tuition is completely covered.
“For Texas families with an AGI between $30,000 and $100,000, award amounts will range from $300 to $2,000 per year depending on the student’s financial need to cover tuition.”
These are four-year renewable awards. To renew the award and remain eligible, a student must:
Submit a FAFSA or TASFA every year
Continue to have a family adjusted gross income of up to $100,000
Continue to have financial need, as demonstrated on the FAFSA or TASFA
Maintain a 2.0 GPA and remain in good standing
The most prestigious merit award at UT Austin is the full-ride Forty Acres Scholarship, provided to 14-18 outstanding applicants each year from a list of more than 50 finalists. About 90 percent of the finalists are from the state of Texas. Students in the UT Plan II Honors Program are well-represented.
The extremely competitive Business Honors Program and the Engineering Honors Program also have Forty Acres Scholars, and Engineering Honors also awards more than $5 million in merit scholarships on its own each year. Most of the honors programs at UT can grant a very limited number of OOS tuition waivers.
Other recent aid initiatives include Completion Grants in varying amounts, awarded to students who are close to graduating but have unmet financial need that would keep them from finishing their degrees.
Impact Scholarships “recognize high potential students from across the state who are making an impact in their local community, who will make an impact on the Forty Acres, and who will make an impact in their communities when they graduate. More than 30 incoming 2018 freshmen were surprised with a $48,000 scholarship ($12,000 per year) to cover the cost of their tuition for the students’ four years at UT Austin.”
“UT Austin has collaborated with RaiseMe to encourage students to consider the university when they begin their college search. The RaiseMe UT Austin collaboration encourages students early in their high school careers to engage in activities to encourage college-going behaviors, while earning micro scholarships for college. This platform enables students to earn up to $2,000 ($500 per year) in scholarship dollars when they attend UT Austin.”
There is a special pleasure associated with writing about honors colleges and programs in the state of Florida, especially when the spring weather in the northwest still feels a lot like November. But if you were a student at Florida Atlantic University’s Wilkes Honors College, you could have walked out of your honors dorm in early spring, strolled across the street, and taken in a spring training game at the Roger Dean Stadium in Jupiter, Florida, home of both the St. Louis Cardinals and the Florida Marlins.
And if you happened to be a National Merit Finalist, you would be enjoying a full ride scholarship.
And if you wanted to take only honors classes, with honors students, and faculty dedicated to honors education, you could.
And if you wanted to go to the beach, well, darn, you’d have to drive 10 minutes or ride your bike almost a whole half hour to get to Juno Beach.
And if you wanted a private bedroom in a suite-style dorm, you would have one.
Or you could just head over to the shops and restaurants at Abacoa Village, less than a 10-minute walk away.
More than 50 years ago, colleges began offering honors “programs” and many of these offered a relatively small number of honors seminars and departmental honors courses, with the bulk of honors coursework required in the first two “gen-ed” years.
But in the last three decades honors programs have expanded, and now many universities have established honors colleges that offer special housing, advising, and an expanding array of courses. Even so, only a relatively small number offer their own honors degree or require more than 30 semester credits (or equivalent) in honors courses.
Of the honors programs and colleges that offer their own degrees, four are well-known: the Pitt Honors College, the South Carolina Honors College, the Virginia Echols Scholars Program, and the UT Austin Plan II Honors Program. Yet none of these require a student to take only honors courses to earn the honors degree, even though about a third of the total credits to graduate do come from honors courses.
Now, the Wilkes Honors Collegeat Florida Atlantic University (or, to be precise, near FAU), not only offers its own degrees in a broad range of special majors but also provides honors-only courses to meet the full graduation requirements.
The WHC has its own faculty as well, and the college is actually located in Jupiter, Florida, about 40 miles north of the main FAU campus in Boca Raton.
Note: The WHC will receive a full rated review in the 2018 edition of our book, INSIDE HONORS, due out in the Fall.
“It is important to note that the Wilkes Honors College (WHC) of Florida Atlantic University (FAU) is a free-standing, liberal arts and sciences college” says WHC Dean Dr. Ellen Goldey, whose field is biology. “WHC offers a four-year, all-honors curriculum, taught by its own faculty of thirty-seven full-time members, all of whom hold the highest degree in their field and represent the full range of liberal arts and sciences disciplines.
“Twenty-two other scholars and scientists hold affiliate faculty status in the College. Requirements for the baccalaureate degree include three team-taught interdisciplinary courses, an internship or study abroad experience, and completion of a mentored senior thesis. With a student to faculty ration of 12:1, the WHC [with 424 students] offers the intimacy and close faculty attention of a private college, with access to all of the benefits and opportunities of a large public research university.”
Full completion of an “honors concentration” requires 111 credit hours of honors courses across four years, plus a 6-credit thesis. AP credits can count for up to 45 credit hours.
Students do not have traditional majors but choose pursue a major concentration: American Studies; Anthropology; Art; Biological Anthropology; Biological Chemistry; Biology; Business; Chemistry; Economics; English Literature; Environmental Studies; History; Interdisciplinary Critical Theory; International Studies; Latin American Studies; Law and Society; Marine Biology; Mathematics; Mathematical Science; Medical Humanities; Medical Science; Philosophy; Physics; Political Science; Pre-Med; Psychology; Spanish; Women’s Studies; or Writing.
Engineering and computer science are not offered at WHC, but students who spend the first two years at WHC can follow a pathway to engineering at the Boca Raton campus. Science and research are central to the mission of the college.
“The Senior Honors Thesis is required, so all students conduct original, mentored research, and many of our students conduct research for multiple semesters/years leading up to their thesis,” according to Dean Goldey. “Multi-year research is especially common for our science students (who make up about 70% of our student population). This is possible for a number of reasons unique to our campus: two world-renowned research institutes exist on our campus: the Scripps Research Institute – Florida, the only Scripps Institute outside of California, and the Max Planck Florida Institute for Neuroscience, the only Max Planck Institute outside of Europe.
“In addition, our campus houses FAU’s Brain Institute and Jupiter Life Science Initiative, each of which host top NIH-funded scientists. Nearby is FAU’s Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institute, providing students interested in marine biology with remarkable research opportunities. Therefore, our undergraduates have unprecedented access to working with scientists in all STEM fields. As a result, since 2002, sixty-six publications, most of them in top-tier, peer-reviewed journals, have included a Wilkes Honors College student as a co-author.” [Emphasis added.]
The mean SAT score for current WHC students is 1280; the mean ACT is 29. The college has a very high honors completion rate (students who complete all honors requirements and graduate) of 82 percent. The four-year grad rate is 70%, far higher than most public universities.
“The Jupiter and Boca Raton campuses are linked by a shuttle service that operates throughout the day. The total undergraduate enrollment of FAU is 25,500 and the main campus also hosts a small Honors Program and some departments offer students the opportunity to earn honors I the major, but these programs are run separately from the Wilkes Honors College.”
The University of Wisconsin-Madison has a long and proud history as a leader in public higher education. On the website of the Letters and Sciences (L&S) Honors Program at UW-Madison, Professor William Cronon, history professor, former Director of the L&S Program, and winner of the MacArthur Fellowship and the Bancroft Prize, describes the 10 qualities of a liberal education. He could as well have been describing the highest purpose of all honors colleges and programs. We repeat his words below:
1. They listen and they hear.
This is so simple that perhaps it doesn’t seem worth saying, but in our distracted and over-busy age I think it’s worth declaring that an educated person knows how to pay attention–to people and to the world around them. They work hard to hear what other people are saying. They can follow an argument, track logical reasoning, detect illogic, hear the emotions that lie behind both the logic and the illogic, and ultimately empathize with the person who is feeling those emotions.
2. They read and they understand.
This too is utterly simple to say, but very difficult to achieve, since there are so many many ways of reading in this world. An educated person is literate across a wide range of genres and media. They’re able to read and absorb the New York Times, including the front page, the arts section, the sports section, the business section, the Tuesday science section, and the editorials; they can read not just Time magazine but Scientific American, the New York Review of Books, Better Homes and Gardens, The National Enquirer, and the Reader’s Digest, they can enjoy reading popular fiction ranging from the latest bestseller or detective novel or comic book to a work of classic literature; and they’re engaged by works of nonfiction ranging from biographies to debates about current public policy to the latest discoveries of science. But skilled readers know how to read far more than just words. They know how to enjoy wandering through a great art museum, and are moved by what they hear in a concert hall; they recognize the extraordinary human achievements represented by contemporary athletes working in fields as diverse as tennis and gymnastics and football; they are engaged by classic and contemporary works of theater and cinema, and they find in television a valuable window on popular culture; they can wander through a prairie or woodland and recognize the creatures they encounter there, the meaning of the rocks, and the lay of the land; they can look out across a farmer’s field and know the crops they see there; they can appreciate good food whether they encounter it in a four-star French restaurant or the Pardeeville Watermelon Festival; they recognize fine craftsmanship whether in carpentry or plumbing or auto mechanics; and they can surf the World Wide Web. For an educated person, all of these are special forms of “reading,” profound ways in which the eyes and the ears and the other senses become attuned to the infinite wonders and talents that make up the human and the natural worlds. As with the other items on my list, none of us can possibly attain full competence in all these ways of “reading,” but the mark of an educated person is to be competent in many of them, and curious about all of them. Encountering the world as a fascinating and extraordinarily intricate set of texts to be read and understood: surely this is one of the most important marks of an educated person.
3. They can talk with anyone.
An educated person knows how to talk: they can give a speech, they can make people laugh, they can ask thoughtful questions, and they can hold a conversation with anyone they meet, whether that person is a high school dropout or a Nobel laureate, a child or a patient dying in a hospital, a factory worker or a farmer or a corporate CEO. Moreover, an educated person participates in such conversation not because they like to talk about themselves but because they’re genuinely interested in the other person. A friend of mine says that one of the most important things his father ever told him was that in having a conversation, his job was “to figure out what’s so neat about what the other person does.” It would be hard to imagine a more succinct description of this key quality of an educated person.
4. They can write clearly and persuasively and movingly.
What goes for talking goes for writing as well: an educated person knows the fine craft of putting words on paper.
I’m not talking about the ability to parse a sentence or compose a paragraph or write an essay. I’m talking about the ability to express what is in your mind and in your heart so as to get it across to the person who reads your words so as to teach, persuade, and move that person. I’m talking about writing as a form of touching akin to the touching that happens in a wonderfully exhilarating conversation.
5. They can solve a wide variety of puzzles and problems.
This ability to solve puzzles and problems bespeaks many skills. These include basic numeracy, an ability to handle numbers and to see that many problems which appear to turn on questions of quality can in fact be reinterpreted as subtle problems of quantity. These days a comparable skill involves the ability to run a computer, whether for word processing or doing taxes or playing games. I could go on, but the broader and more practical skills I’m describing here are those of the analyst, the manager, the engineer, the critic: the ability to look at a complicated reality, break it into pieces, and figure out how it works, with the end result of being able to do practical things in the real world. Part of the challenge in this, of course, is the ability to put reality back together again after having broken it down into pieces–for only by so doing can we accomplish practical goals without violating the integrity of the world we’re trying to change.
6. They respect rigor, not so much for its own sake but as a way of seeking truth.
This is to say, truly educated people love learning, but they love wisdom more. They can appreciate a closely reasoned argument without being unduly impressed by mere logic. They understand that knowledge serves values, and they strive to put these two–knowledge and values–into constant dialogue with each other. The ability to recognize true rigor is one of the most important achievements in any education; but it is worthless, even dangerous, if it is not placed in the service of some larger vision that renders it also humane.
7. They practice respect and humility, tolerance and self-criticism.
This is another way of saying that they can feel and understand the power of other people’s dreams and nightmares as well as their own. They have the intellectual range and emotional generosity to step outside their own experience and prejudices to recognize the parochialism of their own viewpoints, thereby opening themselves to perspectives different from their own. This quality of intellectual openness and tolerance is among the most important values we associate with liberal education. From this commitment to tolerance flow all those aspects of a liberal education that celebrate the value of learning foreign languages, exposing oneself to the cultures of distant peoples, learning the history of long-ago times, and encountering the many ways in which men and women have known the sacred and have given names to their gods. From a deep encounter with history and geography and culture comes a rich sense of how very different people are from each other and how much they share in common.
8. They understand how to get things done in the world.
In describing the goal of his Rhodes Scholarships, Cecil Rhodes spoke of trying to identify young people who would spend their lives engaged in what he called “the world’s fight,” by which he meant the struggle to leave the world a better place than one finds it. Learning how to get things done in the world in an effort to leave it a better place is surely one of the most practical and important lessons we can take from our education. It is fraught with peril because the power to act in the world can so easily be abused?but we fool ourselves if we think we can avoid acting, avoid exercising power, avoid joining the world’s fight. Not to act is to abandon to others our own responsibility for trying to make the world a better place, even in the face of what we know to be injustice. And so we study power and ask ourselves what it means to act rightly and wrongly in our use of power. We struggle to try to know how we can do good and avoid doing wrong.
9. They nurture and empower the people around them.
One of the most important things that tempers the exercise of power and shapes right action is surely the recognition that no one ever acts alone. A liberally educated person understands that they belong to a community whose prosperity and well-being is crucial to their own, and they help that community flourish by giving of themselves to make the success of others possible. If we speak of education for freedom, then one of the crucial insights of a liberal education must be that the freedom of the individual is only possible in a free community, and vice versa as well. It is the community that empowers the free individual, just as it is free individuals who lead and empower the community. The fulfillment of high talent, the just exercise of power, the celebration of human diversity: nothing so redeems these things as the recognition that what seem like personal triumphs are in fact the achievements of our common humanity.
10. They follow E. M. Forster’s injunction in the novel Howard’s End: “ONLY CONNECT.”
More than anything else, being an educated person means being able to see connections so as to be able to make sense of the world and act within it in creative ways. All the other qualities I’ve described here–listening, reading, writing, talking, puzzle-solving, seeing through other people’s eyes, empowering others, leading–every last one of them is finally about connecting. A liberal education is about gaining the power and insight and the generosity and finally the freedom and the wisdom to connect. If one could pick just one phrase that would answer the question of what it means to be a liberally educated person, surely this would be it: “Only connect.”
In other posts and pages we compare the public and private university academic departmental rankings and list those along with U.S. News overall rankings for the universities. It is often the case that a university’s overall ranking is sharply at odds with its departmental rankings.
In this post we will list the changes in the aggregate academic department rankings for 61 public and private universities during the 2014–2018 time frame. In doing so we hope to give readers some idea whether a given university is trending up or down in the reputation of its academic offerings. A high aggregate ranking indicates that a student could have more options for a major or have the ability to change from one highly-ranked major to another that is also strong. Strong departments in public universities are especially important to honors students because they can take better advantage of the strong department via mentoring and smaller classes.
Academic departments are ranking by university academicians and administrators across the nation. Like any other rankings based on reputation, these are inherently subjective. On the other hand, few individuals are more keenly aware of the personnel changes in their professions or disciplines than members of the academy, whose careers often rely on their own recognized accomplishments, usually by means of publishing or patenting their work.
Our own approach is subjective in that we have chosen to rank only 15 academic disciplines, and most are ranked only at the graduate level. These are biology; business (undergrad); chemistry; computer science; earth sciences; economics; education; engineering (undergrad); English; history; mathematics; physics; political science; psychology; and sociology.
Not every university has ranked programs in all 15 disciplines. In such cases, we only count the ranked disciplines, and the average is based only on those; in other words, their is no penalty if a university does not offer, say, engineering.
In rare cases, a university did not have a ranked department in 2014 but did in 2018. In the list below, the rankings for Emory and Georgia Tech only include departments that were ranked in both years. For example, the history department at Georgia Tech broke into the rankings in 2018 at number 114; this was good in a sense, but the ranking, not present in 2014, had a negative impact.
There are four other special cases. We did not begin tracking Boston College and the University of Rochester until recently, so we do not have a 2014 aggregate ranking for their departments. But because their current aggregate ranking is among the top 60, we included them in the 2018 column. NYU, Carnegie Mellon, and Boston University have been tracked since 2016, so their rankings cover only a two-year period.
Although many universities below had meaningful changes in the aggregate departmental rankings (+2.0/-2.0) during the period, the mean change was only .414. Example: University A had an aggregate departmental ranking of 24.62 in 2018 (very high) but increased only .22 over the 2014 ranking of 24.40.
But University B had an aggregate ranking of 53.65 in 2014 but improved to 49.86 in 2018, a significant change.
The universities below are listed in order of their 2018 aggregate department ranking. Those with an improvement of 2.0 or greater are in bold; those with a decline of 2.0 or greater are in italics.
A few flagship universities–Oklahoma and Alabama, for example– are well-known for the generous merit scholarships, most of which provide the largest awards to national merit scholars or students with very similar qualifications. Now there are several other major players in this game, and all are in the state of Florida, home to several colleges on the rise in national rankings.
In March, Gov. Rick Scott, who is often at odds with higher ed professionals, signed Senate Bill 4. The bill passed the senate with unanimous support in mid-January.
Florida State has risen from 101st in U.S. News rankings for 2011 to 81st in the 2018 rankings.
The bill expands the full-ride Benacquisto Scholarship to include not only in-state National Merit and National Achievement Scholars but also out-of-state winners of these awards.
For out-of-state National Merit Scholars, the award is “equal to the institutional cost of attendance for a resident of this state minus the student’s National Merit Scholarship. Such student is exempt from the payment of out-of-state fees.”
The value of the award for in-state students at the University of Florida is $21,210 per year. For out-of-state students, it is $43,448 per year.
The bill provides $124 million to fund these and other merit awards in 2018-2019 alone. Here is a summary:
Expands merit-based state gift aid for high-performing students:
Reinstates full funding of the Bright Futures Florida Academic Scholar award at 100 percent of tuition and fees, plus $300 in fall and spring semesters to cover instructional materials and other costs, beginning in this 2017-2018 academic year and guarantees funding for 2018 summer term tuition and fees for Bright Futures Florida Academic Scholar awards.
New provisions of the legislation this year reinstate funding for the Bright Futures Florida Medallion Scholar award at 75 percent of tuition and fees for fall and spring semesters, beginning in fall semester of the 2018-2019 academic year and guarantee funding for 2019 summer term tuition and fees for Bright Futures Florida Medallion Scholar awards.
Expands Benacquisto Scholarship awards (full cost of attendance) to recruit out-of-state National Merit Scholar award winners.
“Senate Bill 4 ensures universities remain accountable to Florida taxpayers by refining university performance expectations to incentivize and reward state university performance excellence and recognition in academics, instruction, research, and community accomplishments and achievements,” according to a press release from the Florida senate.
Florida lawmakers have also designated “preeminent” and “emerging preeminent” universities. These universities must meet targets for graduation, retention, and post-graduation employment. Florida and Florida State were the first preeminent universities, and the University of South Florida has now moved from emerging preeminent to preeminent. The University of Central Florida will be next.
According to USF, “The designation will bring not only more prestige but more funding for the university. UF and FSU each received $17.3 million as pre-eminent universities this year, while USF and the University of Central Florida each received $8.7 million as ’emerging’ pre-eminent schools.”
The extra funds are used to elevate the quality and recognition of the universities by hiring eminent faculty members, improving grad and retention rates, and funding STEM programs. The University of Florida, for example, has risen from 58th in the 2011 U.S. News rankings to 42nd in the 2018 rankings. Florida State, meanwhile, has moved from 101st to 81st in the same time frame.
How would you like to spend four years in sunny Tampa, Florida, with beaches nearby, a major airport for travel, a new honors residence hall to live in–and extremely generous merit scholarships?
The Honors College courtyard at USF
By extremely generous, we mean a full ride for National Merit Scholars. As for the housing, Summit Hall just opened in Fall 2017; directly across the street is a new fitness center (The Fit) and pool, and a short walk down the block is The Hub, a new dining facility (seating 400) that allows advance food orders online. And in 2018, students will have no more than a three-minute walk to a new Publix market.
Summit also offers dedicated classroom and study spaces, social areas, resident counselors responsible for programming, and an Honors faculty member in residence.
Students cycling around Tampa Bay
“The Fit is located within The Village on the North side of the USF Tampa campus. A state of the art recreation facility and wellness center, The Fit serves all USF students’ recreational needs.
USF’s “Village” from the air, showing Summit Hall, The Hub, and The Fit.
“This new satellite facility is approximately 19,280 square feet and features a zero entry outdoor pool. Recreation center equipment includes indoor rowing machines, stair climbers, treadmills, elliptical cross trainers, upright and recline exercise bikes, strength machines, and free weights. The wellness center upstairs includes massage chairs and nap pods.”
According to USF, “Summit is part of The Village complex, the largest Public-Private Partnership in Florida higher education to date, featuring state-of-the- art dining and recreational facilities alongside residential halls.” Summit is home to about 500 students who live in traditional double rooms or suite-style rooms with private baths and in-room sinks.
Honors students have student mentors when they arrive.
On the ground floor is a full kitchen, gaming area, media lounge, TV lounge, multipurpose room, conference room, and large laundry room. Each floor also has an activity lounge and study lounge.
Florida students with a 4.0 weighted grade point average, and either a 1400 or higher on the SAT or 30 or higher on the ACT, will be automatically admitted into the Honors College once they are admitted to USF. Out-of-state students who win the Green and Gold Presidential Award (up to $12,000 per year) also earn automatic admission.
“All Honors College students receive $2,000 in academic scholarships. This award is paid in three installments during the students’ academic career:
$600 during the first year after completing the college’s community engagement requirement;
$600 during the second year after completing the college’s global experience requirement;
$800 during the third or fourth year after completing the college’s academic requirements.
“Most Honors College students also qualify for very generous travel scholarships to fund study abroad opportunities.
“In addition, thanks to the generosity of many donors, there are more than 30 competitive scholarships available exclusively to Honors College students.”
Students may apply for these Honors-specific awards as well as National Merit and other awards. These applications typically open in November and are due in January for new students and April for continuing students.
Honors students register for classes with the first group the entire time they are members of the college. The college has an interesting and varied curriculum, including core honors courses, 50 hours of community service, global experiences (extra foreign language credits, study abroad, or certain courses), and a capstone or thesis requirement.
Honors Dean Charles Adams describes the honors college as a “kind of mosaic. Our students come from every academic college on campus, and nearly every major. Our faculty is drawn from a wide variety of disciplines – art history, physics, anthropology, sociology, philosophy, literature, urban planning, architecture, and environmental sciences. And our interdisciplinary curriculum spans the natural sciences, the humanities, the social sciences, and the arts.
“Like a mosaic, the total Honors College experience is greater than the sum of all these disciplinary parts.”
We are pleased to announce that the USF Honors College will be included in the upcoming 2018 edition of Inside Honors, to be published this fall.
Attacks on the humanities and social sciences have increased since the Great Recession, even at a time when the critical thinking skills associated with these disciplines are urgently needed to navigate the sometimes bizarre world of facts, alternative facts, distortions, and outright lies.
Indeed, with the decline of humanities departments, we might be nearing the time when honors colleges and programs will be the focal point of liberal arts education in many public universities. (Below is a discussion of what the nation’s largest honors college is doing to promote the humanities and “civic education.”)
The economic downturn along with rising college tuition costs forced many parents and prospective college students to zero in on courses of study that provide near-term financial results and security. The trend is so strong that, recently, the University of Wisconsin at Stevens Point announced a plan to eliminate 13 humanities and social science majors.
These include English (excluding English for teacher certification); French; geography and geosciences; German; history (excluding social science for teacher certification); philosophy; political science; sociology; and Spanish.
Studies consistently show that voters with college degrees turn out in greater numbers than those with lower levels of education, but among college-educated voters it is likely that the type of coursework taken in college is an additional contributing factor to greater and more perceptive participation in civic life.
In the higher ed world, this link between education and civic engagement is known as the “civic education hypothesis.” A recent paper by Jacob Andrew Hester of the University of Alabama and Kari Lynn Besing of Indiana University argues persuasively that honors seminars, notably in the humanities and social sciences, “can and often do impart the civic skills that, the civic education hypothesis posits, enable political participation and lead to increased involvement in politics and civic life.”
Many public universities are unable to offer small, discussion-focused classes in these disciplines. The authors contend that larger lecture sections do not develop “the classic skills associated with politics: language, rhetoric, public speaking, debate, and critical thinking.” Students can, however, develop these skills in an honors college or program that offers small seminar sections in Gen Ed courses.
Humanities and social science departments have for centuries sought to inculcate these “classic skills.” For years they have been losing faculty; now, with the elimination of majors, more faculty will be cut and course sections will be reduced, probably leading to larger classes with no opportunity for discussion. Where will these disciplines, with their manifold intersections, survive in a format conducive to civic education? Honors colleges and programs–and the mission is critical.
“Honors education and the humanities share core values, including the importance of deep, sustained reading. Students of history, literature, and philosophy confront complex and demanding texts and develop sophisticated methods of analyzing these texts….Both humanities and honors value not only high levels of reading skill but thoughtful responses to texts and an ability to integrate them into broader knowledge, reaching toward not just learning but wisdom. Such habits run counter to the mindless consumption of infobits.”
Some of the brightest students are math, science, and engineering majors, and their numbers are on the rise. Their analytical skills are seldom in question–indeed, they are often amazing. But the classes in their majors offer little discussion and, as Hester points out, “Math courses [for example] rarely involve discussion or conceptualizing social issues, and very rarely if ever do math instructors connect the development of mathematical skills to political discourse.”
On the other hand, Hester and Besing write, the “University of Alabama (UA) Honors College has an explicit goal of developing ‘agents of social change.’ At the heart of the honors experience are three-hour, interdisciplinary, honors seminars for no more than fifteen students. To graduate with honors, UA students must complete no fewer than six hours of seminar credit, but often students complete more.
“In contrast to the traditional academic lecture, the skills developed in a seminar are uniquely suited for the development and application of citizenship behaviors. In particular, UA honors seminars stress discussion, reflection, writing, and debate, providing students the opportunity to practice each behavior in a controlled environment. Through the seminar experience, honors students are expected to engage the skill sets that produce interest and competence in public affairs more frequently than non-honors students.”
To test their hypothesis that honors programs can promote civic education, Hester and Besing surveyed University of Alabama Honors College students to answer the following question: “To what extent has your experience at this institution contributed to your knowledge, skills, and personal development in the following areas: Voting in local, state, or national elections?”
The conclusion: “Students who engage in a curriculum with more opportunities to develop civic skills are more likely to respond that their institution has contributed to their interest in voting. This finding lends support for the civic engagement hypothesis within the context of an honors education. Specifically, it suggests that students in the UA Honors College are more likely to respond that their education has contributed to their interest in voting. Similarly, our findings suggest that the amount of reading and writing in their curriculum positively correlates with students’ perception that their education has had an impact on their interest in voting.”
“Our argument is that seminar courses are likely to contribute to an honors student’s interest in participating in politics, but we do not believe that honors electives have the same effect. For example, an elective honors lecture course in accounting is likely to be more enriching than a non-honors version of the course but is not likely to build political skills in the same way that a seminar does.”
“On one side of the debate, policymakers, employers, and administrators extol the benefits of a STEM education, e .g ., technological innovation, expansion of research, and the financial payoffs of a labor force with robust science and mathematics skills. On the other side, classical theories of higher education argue that a college degree is about more than the development of a professional skill set on the way to a career; it is about the development of each individual’s ability to function as a citizen in a democratic society. An honors education provides a unique opportunity for higher education institutions to satisfy both sides of the debate, proving sufficient rigor for STEM students while also grounding students in the classical purposes of higher education.”
Heralded as the biggest international award since the Rhodes Scholarship, the Schwarzman Scholars program “is the first scholarship created to respond to the geopolitical landscape of the 21st Century. Whether in politics, business or science, the success of future leaders around the world will depend upon an understanding of China’s role in global trends.”
The program gives scholars the opportunity “to develop their leadership skills and professional networks through a one-year Master’s Degree at Tsinghua University in Beijing – one of China’s most prestigious universities.”
Outside view Schwarzman College, Tsingua University, Beijing, China
The 142 Schwarzman Scholars in the class of 2019 were selected from over 4,000 applicants. The class includes students from 39 countries and 97 universities with 41% from the United States, 20% from China, and 39% from the rest of the world.
The percentage of students from U.S. universities is much greater than the percentage of students who are from the U.S., however. For example, of the 25 students from Harvard who have won the award during the first three years, ten are from other nations. Of the five scholars from UNC Chapel Hill, four are foreign students, three of whom are from China. Half of the winners from NYU are foreign students.
With 25 scholars thus far, Harvard is by far the cumulative leader. Like the Rhodes Scholarship, the Schwarzman program, at least at this early stage, shares the Rhodes preference for graduates of elite private universities (and the service academies). After Harvard, the schools with the highest totals across three years are Yale (16), Princeton (15), West Point (11), MIT (10), NYU (9), Oxford and Stanford (8), Cambridge, Cornell, and Duke (7), and Penn and Annapolis (5). UNC Chapel Hill, the leader among public universities, is tied with Penn and Annapolis, with five scholars.
Schwarzman Residence, Tsingua University
Public universities with three scholars are Tennessee, UC Berkeley, Virginia, and Georgia. Georgia had two scholars in 2019 alone. Publics with two scholars are Cincinnati, Delaware, Missouri, UCLA, UT Austin, and UW Madison.
Scholars have their own residence at Tsinghua University, on the campus of Schwarzman College, a newly-built, state-of-the-art facility, where all classes are taught in English. Students pursue a Masters in Global Affairs, with concentrations in one of the disciplines:
Economics and Business=
The official statement on admissions states that the “selection process prioritizes academic excellence and leadership potential without regard for the university or college where the candidate studied, assuming the institution was properly accredited. Outstanding scholars and leaders may come from a wide variety of institutions.”
There are no set GPA standards for selection, though academic excellence is definitely required. Applicants can be graduate students and must be between 18 and 28 years of age, as of August 1, 2018. Important application materials include:
2 letters from professors who have taught them in the classroom and can speak to their academic abilities
1 letter addressing their leadership abilities (this can be from an employer, supervisor, mentor, faculty member, or other)
“Students spend a year immersed in an international community of thinkers, innovators and senior leaders in business, politics and society. In an environment of intellectual engagement, professional development and cultural exchange, they learn from one another and pursue their academic disciplines while building their leadership capacities. This experience will expand students’ understanding of the world and create a growing network of global leaders for the future.”
Known for its dominant NCCA football teams, the Southeastern Conference (SEC) is also home to several prominent public university honors colleges and programs, and the Shackouls Honors College (SHC) at Mississippi State is certainly among them.
Presidential Scholars, Mississippi State
The SHC has all of the features that mark a strong honors college: solid curriculum and completion requirements; in-house coordination of undergraduate research and prestigious scholarship preparation; co-location of honors administrative offices and residence halls; exciting study-abroad programs; and–last but far from least–some of the best scholarships in the nation, offered specifically to SHC students.
Let’s start with the scholarships. Here’s what the university says about the extremely prestigious Presidential Scholarship:
“Selected from more than 500 qualified applicants, the 2017-18 group of 14 joins 39 others already participating in the program, which is part of MSU’s Judy and Bobby Shackouls Honors College. Recipients are expected to maintain an overall 3.4 GPA while in their respective academic majors.
“Presidential Scholars have opportunities to interact with members of the land-grant institution’s extensive research faculty and be part of the college’s Oxford University summer-study program in England, among other enhanced learning experiences.”
The essentially full-ride scholarship covers tuition, fees, room and board, research fellowships, and books for four years of undergraduate study. Non-resident students may also receive a scholarship to cover up to 100% of the out-of-state portion of tuition. While the minimum requirements are a 3.75 high school GPA and ACT of 30 (or SAT equivalent), many if not most successful applicants will have higher scores.
“We are a community of scholars who value the life of the mind and the pursuit of knowledge, but what makes our scholarship program special is the emphasis we place on effecting positive social change through research and social engagement,” said Dr. Donald Shaffer, associate professor of English and African American Studies. “We don’t just hope that our Presidential Scholars will change the world; we expect it.”
Almost as many students are awarded the Provost Scholarship each year, which includes four years of in-state tuition (and most or all of out-of-state tuition); a $4,000 scholarship for study abroad; a one-summer optional tuition credit of $1,000 ($2,400 for non-resident) and one summer of free housing in Griffis Hall, an honors residence; and an optional $750 travel grant to participate in one or more academic conferences.
The SHC also has rigorous honors graduation requirements.
“To be recognized as an Honors College Scholar at graduation, and to receive the Honors designation (Collegium Honorum) on transcripts, a student must complete at least 27 Honors credits with a 3.4 average in Honors courses and
complete the English composition requirement during the first year of full-time Honors coursework;
complete the transdisciplinary Honors sequence (6 credits);
complete two interdisciplinary Honors courses (6 credits);
complete three discipline-specific Honors courses or tutorials (9 credits);
complete a for-credit Study Abroad; and
successfully write and defend an Honors thesis (3-6 credits).”
The SHC not only coordinates preparation for prestigious scholarships (Rhodes, Marshall, Gates Cambridge, Truman, Goldwater) but also houses the Office of Undergraduate Research for the entire university.
The coordination of these functions is often critical to the success of talented students who hope to win a major scholarship or be accepted to outstanding graduate and professional schools.
The university reports that “over the last five years, Mississippi State has had a Rhodes Scholar, a Gates Cambridge Scholar, two Truman Scholars, two Fulbright Fellows, and three Goldwater Scholars. The University has been recognized by the Washington, D.C.-based Truman Scholarship Foundation for “sustained success” in helping students both to win the $30,000 competitive awards and to prepare for public service careers.
“And most recently, the Goldwater Foundation, which recognizes the most promising undergraduate researchers across the nation in science, math, or engineering, awarded the Goldwater Scholarship to a Shackouls Honors student in the Bagley College of Engineering.”
As for studying abroad, SHC students can currently participate in faculty-led trips to Belize, Columbia, Guatemala, Austria, Czech Republic, Chile, Germany, Ireland, the United Kingdom, Spain, Iceland and Scandinavia, Italy, Russia, Thailand, and Uganda.
Perhaps best of all is the Shackouls Summer Study at the University of Oxford in England.
“Most study abroad programs emphasize the broadening of cultural horizons for American undergraduates, but often this comes more from the social than the academic. Furthermore, the academic curriculum is often simply American style courses offered in an international setting. The Shackouls Summer Study at the University of Oxford is a highly selective program that affords the most academically qualified students with a true Oxford experience and scholarship support. The program runs each year for six weeks, from mid-May to late June, and is limited to fifteen MSU honors students.”
The SHC has two honors residence halls, Griffis and Nunnelee.
“Griffis is home to the Honors College offices. Both halls are located in the Zacharias Village, convenient to…Mitchell Memorial Library, Colvard Student Union, dining and academic buildings. Rooms in both halls are modular (each has private baths). Special programming at both halls helps you to get to know your fellow students easily. Griffis and Nunnelee are both home to state-of-the-art classrooms.” Griffis is also a regular stop for the university’s S.M.A.R.T. Bus service.
The Village convenience cafe is located on the bottom floor of Griffis Hall. Students can grab a smoothie from Freshens or browse a Grab N’ Go selection food to go. Village Pizza at Griffis Hall has more recently added online ordering at least five days a week.
Editor’s note: This list is from US News (2017) and we post it here for convenience and for comparison with the list of best overall business programs here.
1. UT Austin
3. Brigham Young
6. Notre Dame
10. Ohio State
13. UC Berkeley, Washington
15. Wake Forest
16. St. Joseph’s
18. UW Madison
19. Santa Clara, Seattle, UNC Chapel Hill
22. Fairfield, Loyola Marymount, Michigan State
25. Penn State, Texas A&M, Virginia
28. MIT, Alabama
30. Boston College, Canisius, Gonzaga
3. Indiana, UC Berkeley
7. UT Austin
8. UNC Chapel Hill
9. St. Louis
13. Loyola Marymount, Syracuse
15. Fordham, Xavier (OH)
17. NYU, Virginia
19. Santa Clara, Maryland, San Francisco
22. Carnegie Mellon, Georgetown, Ohio State, Oklahoma, Scranton
27. Utah, Washington
29. Brigham Young, Florida, Minnesota, WUSTL
5. UT Austin
6. UC Berkeley
7. UNC Chapel Hill
10. Carnegie Mellon
11. Boston College
12. Ohio State
13. Fordham, Xavier (OH)
15. Fairfield, Seattle
18. Canisius, Creighton, Florida
21. Illinois, UW Madison, WUSTL
24. Cornell, Georgetown, Marquette, Notre Dame, Washington
30. Penn State
3. UW Madison
4. St. Joseph’s
5. Georgia State
6. Florida State, UT Austin
10. Penn State
1. South Carolina
5. UC Berkeley
7. Florida International
9. George Washington, Northeastern
12. St. Louis, San Diego State
14. Temple, Washington St
16. Brigham Young, Hawaii
18. UNC Chapel Hill
19. Oklahoma, UT Austin, Virginia
22. Arizona State, Indiana
24. MIT, Michigan State, Missouri St. Louis
3. UC Berkeley
4. UNC Chapel Hill
7. UT Austin
11. Rockhurst, Notre Dame
13. Detroit Mercy
14. Cornell, Ohio State, Penn State
17. Arizona State, Texas A&M
19. Maryland, Minnesota, Washington
22. Michigan State
23. Boston College, Case Western
25. Gonzaga, Illinois, WUSTL
Management Information Systems
2. Carnegie Mellon
5. UT Austin
6. Georgia Tech, Indiana
10. Georgia State
13. Loyola Chicago
14. Temple, Georgia
16. Santa Clara
18. Arizona State, LeMoyne, UC Berkeley
21. St. Joseph’s
22. Bentley, Virginia
4. UT Austin
5. UC Berkeley
7. North Carolina Chapel Hill
9. St. Joseph’s
10. UW Madison
12. Florida, Notre Dame
16. Loyola Marymount, Penn State
19. Fairfield, Santa Clara
21. Ohio State, Maryland, Illinois, Minnesota
25. Arizona State, WUSTL
27. San Francisco
3. Carnegie Mellon
6. UC Berkeley, North Carolina Chapel Hill
8. Michigan State
9. UT Austin
10. Ohio State
11. Georgia Tech
12. Penn State
15. Illinois, Santa Clara, Minnesota, WUSTL
2. Carnegie Mellon
4. UC Berkeley
6. Georgia Tech, Purdue, Michigan
9. Rockhurst, UT Austin
12. Ohio State
13. Loyola Chicago, North Carolina Chapel Hill
2. UC Berkeley
3. UW Madison
6. UT Austin
11. Florida State
12. North Carolina Chapel Hill
13. Georgia State, Penn State
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1. Michigan State
4. Arizona State, Penn State
6. Ohio State
8. Carnegie Mellon
9. UT Austin
13. Georgia Tech
15. Arkansas, UC Berkeley
17. Clemson, Illinois
19. Iowa State, UW Madison