Will Honors Colleges Be the Last, Best Hope for Humanities and ‘Civic Education’?

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.

A paper by Larry Andrews of Kent State University speaks eloquently to the point:

“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.”

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Schwarzman Scholars: A Masters Program to Understand China and the ‘Geopolitical Landscape’

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:

  • Public Policy
  • Economics and Business=
  • International Studies

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)

Recent course listings

“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.”

 

Mississippi State Shackouls Honors College: A Major Presence in the Southeast

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.

Griffis Hall

“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

  1. complete the English composition requirement during the first year of full-time Honors coursework;
  2. complete the transdisciplinary Honors sequence (6 credits);
  3. complete two interdisciplinary Honors courses (6 credits);
  4. complete three discipline-specific Honors courses or tutorials (9 credits);
  5. complete a for-credit Study Abroad; and
  6. 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.

 

Best Undergrad Business Programs, by Specialty, Public and Private

Editor’s note: Updated September 26, 2019. This list is from US News (2019) and we post it here for convenience and for comparison with the list of best overall business programs here.

Accounting

1. UT Austin
2. Illinois, Brigham Young
4. Michigan
5. Penn
6. Indiana
7. Notre Dame, USC
9. NYU
10. Ohio State
11. Florida
12. Texas A&M
13. Georgia
14. UC Berkeley
15. Creighton
16. UNC-Chapel Hill
17. St. Joseph’s
18. Loyola Marymount
19. Michigan State, Penn State, Washington, Wake Forest
23. Arizona State, Gonzaga, Seattle, Virginia, UW Madison
28. Bentley, Miami Oh, Saint Louis
31. Boston College, MIT

Entrepreneurship

1. Boston College
2. MIT
3. Indiana
4. UC Berkeley, Michigan, UNC-Chapel Hill
7. Penn
8. UT Austin
9. USC
10. Arizona
11. Loyola Marymount, Xavier
13. Boston College, Houston
15. Baylor, Syracuse, Utah
18. Brigham Young, Saint Louis
20. Carnegie Mellon, Florida, Maryland
23. Arizona State, Santa Clara, NYU, San Francisco
27. Fordham
28. Georgetown, Northeastern
30. Georgia Tech

Finance

1. Penn
2. NYU
3. MIT
4. Michigan
5. UT Austin
6. UC Berkeley
7. Indiana
8. Carnegie Mellon
9. Boston College
10. Virginia
11. UNC-Chapel Hill
12. Ohio State
13. Cornell, Georgetown
15. Fordham, Notre Dame
17. Creighton
18. USC, WUSTL
20. Loyola Chicago, Seattle, St.Joseph’s, Xavier
24. Loyola Maryland, Marquette, UW Madison
27. Arizona State, Fairfield
29. Babson, Emory
31. Florida, Illinois, Washington

Insurance

1. Georgia
2. UW Madison
3. Georgia State
4. Temple
5. Florida State, Penn
7. Penn State, UT Austin
9. Illinois State
10. Penn State, Illinois
12. St. John’s

International Business

1. South Carolina
2. NYU
3. Georgetown
4. UC Berkeley
5. Penn
6. Florida International, George Washington
8. Fordham, Northeastern, Michigan
11. Saint Louis
12. USC
13. San Diego State
14. American
15. Arizona State, Temple, Washington State
18. Hawaii Manoa
19. UT Austin
20. Brigham Young, Missouri St. Louis
22. Indiana, Miami Fl, Virginia
25. Bryant, UNC-Chapel Hill, Oklahoma
28. Michigan State

Management

1. Michigan
2. Penn
3. UC Berkeley
4. UNC Chapel Hill
5. Virginia
6. Indiana, MIT, NYU
9. UT Austin
10. Arizona State
11. Babson, USC
13. Texas A&M
14. Michigan State
15. Maryland
16. Illinois
17. Ohio State
18. Emory, Notre Dame
20. Cornell, Penn State, Detroit Mercy
23. Minnesota
24. Rockhurst, Washington
26. Babson, Georgetown
28. Carnegie Mellon
29. WUSTL
30. UW Madison

Management Information Systems

1. MIT
2. Carnegie Mellon
3. Arizona
4. UT Austin
5. Minnesota
6. Georgia Tech, Indiana
8. Maryland
9. Georgia State
10. NYU
11. Arizona State
12. Penn
13. Temple
14. Michigan
15. UT Dallas
16. Loyola Chicago, Georgia
18. LeMoyne, Santa Clara
20. Michigan State, St. Joseph’s, UNC-Chapel Hill
23. Creighton, Fairfield
25. Clemson, Ohio State, Arkansas
28. Cornell, Purdue, Illinois, Xavier Oh

Marketing

1. Michigan
2. Penn
3. NYU
4. UT Austin
5. UNC-Chapel Hill
6. UC Berkeley
7. Indiana
8. Virginia
9. UW Madison
10. St. Joseph’s
11. USC
12. Notre Dame
13. Loyola Marymount
14. Florida
15. Fordham
16. Penn State
17. Arizona State, Ohio State, Illinois
20. Cornell, Fairfield
22. MIT
23. Emory, Maryland
25. Texas A&M, Washington
27. Boston College, San Francisco
29. Babson, LeMoyne, Minnesota

Production/Operation Management

1. MIT
2. Penn
3. Carnegie Mellon
4. Michigan
5. Purdue
6. UC Berkeley, North Carolina Chapel Hill
8. Michigan State
9. UT Austin
10. Ohio State
11. Georgia Tech
12. Penn State
13. Indiana
14. NYU
15. Illinois, Santa Clara, Minnesota, WUSTL

Quantitative Analysis

1. MIT
2. Carnegie Mellon
3. Penn
4. UC Berkeley
5. NYU
6. Georgia Tech, Purdue, Michigan
9. Rockhurst, UT Austin
11. Cornell
12. Ohio State
13. Loyola Chicago, North Carolina Chapel Hill

Real Estate

1. Penn
2. UC Berkeley
3. UW Madison
4. NYU
5. Georgia
6. UT Austin
7. USC
8. Florida
9. Marquette
10. Cornell
11. Florida State
12. North Carolina Chapel Hill
13. Georgia State, Penn State
15. Michigan

Supply Chain Management/Logistics

1. Michigan State
2. MIT
3. Tennessee
4. Arizona State, Penn State
6. Ohio State
7. Michigan
8. Carnegie Mellon
9. UT Austin
10. Purdue
11. Penn
12. Maryland
13. Georgia Tech
14. Marquette
15. Arkansas, UC Berkeley
17. Clemson, Illinois
19. Iowa State, UW Madison

Best Undergrad Engineering Programs, by Specialty, Public and Private

Editor’s note:  Update September 26, 2018. This listing is from the most recent U.S. News rankings. We list them here on one page for convenience and for easy comparison with the overall engineering rankings here

Aerospace

1. MIT
2. Georgia Tech
3. Caltech
4. Michigan
5. Purdue
6. Stanford
7. Illinois
8. UT Austin
9. Texas A&M, Colorado
11. Embry-Riddle
12. Maryland
13. Virginia Tech
14. Princeton
15. Ohio State
16. Penn State, UCLA
18. UC Berkeley, Washington

Biological/Agricultural

1. Purdue
2. Texas A&M
3. Iowa State
4. UC Davis
5. Cornell, Illinois
7. Michigan State, Ohio State
9. Virginia Tech
10. NC State, Penn State
12. Florida

Biomedical

1. Johns Hopkins
2. MIT
3. Georgia Tech
4. Duke
5. Stanford
6. UC San Diego
7. UC Berkeley
8. Rice
9. Michigan
10. Penn
11. Washington
12. Boston University, Northwestern
14. Case Western, UT Austin
16. Columbia, Cornell
18. Pitt, WUSTL
18. Vanderbilt, WUSTL
20. Caltech, Harvard
22. Purdue, UCLA
24. Virginia

Chemical

1. MIT
2. Georgia Tech
3. UC Berkeley
4. UT Austin
5. Caltech
6. Stanford
7. Michigan
8. Minnesota
9. Delaware, UW Madison
11. Princeton
12. Illinois
13. Cornell
14. Carnegie Mellon, Purdue
16. Northwestern
17. UC Santa Barbara
18. NC State
19. Penn State, Penn

Civil

1. UC Berkeley
2. Georgia Tech
3. Illinois
4. UT Austin
5. Purdue
6. Michigan
7. MIT, Stanford
9. Virginia Tech
10. Cornell, Texas A&M
12. Carnegie Mellon
13. UC Davis
14. Penn State
15. UW Madison
16. Caltech
17. Columbia, Lehigh
19. NC State
20. Northwestern, UCLA, Florida, Minnesota

Computer

1. Carnegie Mellon
2. MIT
3. Stanford
4. UC Berkeley
5. Georgia Tech
6. Michigan
7. Illinois
8. Cornell
9. UT Austin
10. Purdue, Washington
12. Princeton
13. UCLA
14. UC San Diego
15. UW Madison
16. Columbia, Ohio State
18. Texas A&M
19. Virginia Tech
20. Arizona State, Duke, Harvard
23. Penn State, Rice, Maryland, Penn

Electrical

1. MIT
2. UC Berkeley
3. Stanford
4. Georgia Tech
5. Illinois
6. Caltech
7. Michigan
8. Cornell
9. Carnegie Mellon
10. Purdue, UT Austin
12. Princeton, UCLA
14. UC San Diego
15. UW Madison
16. Columbia, Virginia Tech
18. Rice
19. UC Santa Barbara
20. Texas A&M

Environmental

1. Stanford
2. UC Berkeley
3. Illinois
4. Georgia Tech
5. UT Austin
6. MIT
7. Carnegie Mellon, Michigan
9. Cornell, Virginia Tech
11. Johns Hopkins
12. Purdue, Colorado
14. Duke
15. Princeton
16. UC Davis
17. Penn State, UW Madison
19. Caltech
20. Minnesota, Washington

Industrial, Manufacturing

1. Georgia Tech
2. Michigan
3. Purdue
4. UC Berkeley
5. Stanford
6. Virginia Tech
7. Northwestern
8. Cornell
9. Penn State, UW Madison
11. Texas A&M
12. NC State
13. Columbia
14. Ohio State, Illinois
16. USC

Materials

1. MIT
2. Michigan
3. Georgia Tech
4. Stanford
5. Northwestern, Illinois
7. UC Berkeley
8. Cornell, Caltech
10. UC Santa Barbara
11. Carnegie Mellon, Penn State
13. Purdue
14. Ohio State
15. UW Madison
16. Penn
17. Florida
18. Rice
19. NC State
20. Harvard, UT Austin
22. Minnesota

Mechanical

1. MIT
2. Georgia Tech
3. Stanford
4. UC Berkeley
5. Michigan
6. Caltech
7. Illinois
8. Purdue
9. Cornell
10. Carnegie Mellon
11. UT Austin
12. Northwestern
13. Princeton, Texas A&M
15. Virginia Tech
16. UCLA
17. Columbia, Penn State
19. UW Madison
20. Ohio State
21. Johns Hopkins
22. Penn
23. Duke, Rice
25. Brown, UC San Diego, Maryland

Petroleum

1. UT Austin
2. Texas A&M
3. Penn State

Kiplinger Best Value Publics 2018

One thing the annual Kiplinger Best College Values report tells us with regularity is that UNC Chapel Hill, Florida, and Virginia are wonderful values for both in-state and out-of-state (OOS) students. The three schools rank 1,2, and 3 in both categories for 2018 and are no strangers to lofty value rankings.

Rounding out the top 10 for in-state value are Michigan, UC Berkeley, UCLA, Washington, UT Austin, NC State, and Maryland.

The top 10 for OOS students are the aforementioned UNC Chapel Hill, Florida, and Virginia, followed by Florida State, UC Berkeley, Binghamton, NC State, Truman State, William and Mary, and Minnesota.

Below is a list of the top 25 best value public universities for in-state students:

UNC Chapel Hill
Florida
Virginia
Michigan
UC Berkeley
UCLA
Washington
UT Austin
NC State
Maryland
William and Mary
Georgia
UW Madison
Florida State
Purdue
New College Florida
Georgia Tech
Binghamton
Truman State
UC San Diego
New Mexico Inst Mining and Tech
UC Santa Barbara
Minnesota
Texas A&M
Ohio State

The SAT “Confirming” Test for National Merit Semifinalists: What Is It?

Of the 16,000 students (~top 1%) who become National Merit semifinalists, about 15,000 become finalists, most often because some semifinalists have a few low grades, a poor essay, or do not have sufficient SAT confirming scores (see below). And only about 7,500 actually become National Merit Scholars. One reason: many National Merit Scholars choose to attend one of the many prestigious colleges that do not offer any merit scholarships. For example, Harvard might have 250 National Merit Scholars in a given freshman class, but none will receive a merit scholarship of any kind.

(Please see this post for a discussion of PSAT scores and SAT confirming scores.)

The SAT “confirming” score: In order to become a finalist, a student must take the SAT no later than December of the senior year, but taking it no later than early November is recommended. Earlier tests taken as a sophomore or later may also be used. Superscores are not allowed. The National Merit Scholarship Corporation must receive your SAT scores by December 31. This only leaves about a week after receiving December test scores to make sure of the notification. 

According to the NMSC, the “SAT Program will not report your scores to NMSC unless you request it, and you cannot substitute a photocopy of the score report sent to you or your school for the official report. Send all testing and score reporting fees directly to the SAT Program.”

The ACT does not count for confirming purposes. And, you guessed it, the SAT for purposes of NMS eligibility also has a selection index. 

The SAT selection index differs from the PSAT selection index. Because the SAT has a maximum score of 1600 versus 1520 for the PSAT, the maximum section scores for the SAT selection index are higher. The maximum scaled section score for the SAT is 40 (versus 38) and the maximum selection index score is 240 (versus 228). (But below is the recommended “simple” way to calculate the SAT selection index (SSI).

Another difference is that, for the SAT, the confirming score is national, one SAT selection index total for everyone, regardless of state or location of residence. In the past, an SSI score that equals the PSAT selection index score for commended students has been the minimum acceptable SSI. The good news is that very high scorers on the PSAT should be very likely to meet the “commendable” threshold of the confirming SAT.

Students in states where the commendable PSAT score is the same as the seminfinalist qualify score, and who just did make the commendable score, may have to take the SAT more than once to confirm. Taking the SAT multiple times to reach a confirming score is well worth the effort given the many advantages that come with NMS status.

Example: PSAT selection index score is 2011 = commended student.

Student A has an overall SAT score of 1430, with an evidence-based reading and writing (EBRW) score of 710 and a math score of 720. (These SAT percentiles are 96 for EBRW and 95 for math.)

The simple formula for the SSI is to drop the zeros from the scores, thus making the above scores 71 and 72, respectively. Then multiply the EBRW score by 2, and add the math score.

Example: 71 x 2 = 142; 142 + 72 = 214. An SSI of 214 exceeds the PSAT SI score of 211 and should be sufficient for confirming purposes.

You can also calculate the SSI by doubling the total EBRW score (710 x 2), adding the total math score (720), and dividing the total sum by 10.

Example: 710 x 2 = 1420; 1420 + 720 = 2140; 2140 / 10 = 214.

Rhodes Scholars 2018: More Breadth, Less Ivy Dominance

The Rhodes Scholarships continue to be awarded mainly to students from private colleges and universities, but the latest group of 32 students includes “only” 8 from Ivy League universities, down from ten in 2017.

The ten public universities with 2018 scholars are CUNY (Hunter College); Temple; Maryland-Baltimore County; Georgia Tech; Auburn; Illinois; Michigan; Michigan State; South Dakota; and Alaska-Anchorage. At least nine of these scholars are present or former honors program students.

Rhodes Scholars from Hunter College (CUNY), Temple, UMBC, and Alaska-Anchorage are the first from their colleges to earn the prestigious award. The selection of a record number of black Rhodes Scholars is further evidence that the Rhodes Trust is taking a broader approach.

The total value of the scholarship averages approximately $68,000 per year, and up to as much as approximately $250,000 for scholars who remain at Oxford for four years in certain departments.

The new list of Rhodes Scholars (awarded in November 2017 for the year 2018) includes four from Harvard, as in the previous class, far and away the cumulative leader among all schools; one from Princeton, two from Yale, and one from Penn. In 2015 and 2016, the Ivy League recorded 14 of the 32 awards won by American students. In 2013 there were 16 winners from the Ivies, twice the number in the current class.

The University of Virginia and North Carolina at Chapel Hill are the leaders among all state universities in the number of Rhodes Scholars earned by their graduates. UVA has 53 Rhodes Scholars, and UNC Chapel Hill has 49.

Once again, the service academies are well-represented. The U.S. Naval Academy at Annapolis, the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, and the Air Force Academy at Colorado Springs each had Rhodes winners.

Udall Scholars 2017: Colorado State, Georgia, and William and Mary have Two Each

The 2017 class of Udall Scholars was selected from 494 candidates nominated by 224 colleges and universities. Thirty-four Scholars intend to pursue careers related to the environment. Eleven Native American/Alaska Native Scholars intend to pursue careers related to Tribal public policy; five Native American/Alaska Native Scholars intend to pursue careers related to Native health care. Thanks to strong recruiting efforts from faculty advisors, professors, alumni, and partners, nominations in the Native Health Care and Tribal Public Policy categories increased 23.8% from 2016.

The list of recipients from public universities is below.

Each scholarship provides up to $7,000 for the Scholar’s junior or senior year. Since the first awards in 1996, the Udall Foundation has awarded 1,574 scholarships totaling $8,090,000.

William and Mary, Georgia, and Colorado State each had two winners in 2017.

Scholar Statistics

  • 50 Scholars and 50 Honorable Mentions were selected
  • 34 Scholarships were awarded in the Environment category; five in Native Health Care; and 11 in Tribal Public Policy
  • 11 Sophomores; 39 Juniors
  • 54% self-identify as non-white
  • Three Scholars were also Scholars in 2016; five Scholars were Honorable Mentions in 2016; 11 Scholars were nominated in 2016 (but were neither Scholars nor Honorable Mentions then)
  • 42 institutions have Scholars; one of those has a Scholar for the first time; 18 have Scholars for the first time in three or more years
  • Tribal Public Policy and Native Health Care scholars are enrolled in 16 different Tribes; 11 additional Tribes have Honorable Mentions
  • Scholars come from 35 states; 35 states have Honorable Mentions

Udall Scholars 2017, with name of public college or university:

Mathew T. Bain
Montana State University

Augustine J. Beard
University of Oregon

Amber H. Berg
Kansas State University

Casey E. Brayton
University of South Carolina-Columbia

Chad J. Brown
Northern Arizona University

Rachel G. Dickson
University of Montana

Grace F. Fuchs
Ohio University

Shreya Ganeshan
University of Georgia

Tomas W. Green
University of Kansas

Katelynne N Johnson
Colorado State University

Kiloaulani E. Kaawa-Gonzales
Colorado State University

Emma Kincade
Oklahoma State University

Ashley N. Lewis
Highline Community Tribe of the Pine Ridge College

Tamee E. Livermont
University of South Dakota

Sabrina R. Myoda
Purdue University

Mackenzie L. Neal
College of William and Mary

David Perez
Florida State University

Emily Plumage
University of Utah

Matthew A. Salm
University of Texas-Dallas

Talia J. Schmitt
College of William and Mary

Tal Y. Shutkin
Ohio State University

Cheyenne M. Siverly
University of Hawaii-Manoa

Madelyn M. Smith
Louisiana State University

Krti Tallam
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

Megan J. Tom
Arizona State University

Tarlynn N. Tone-Pah-Hote
University of Minnesota-Morris

Megan R. Tyminski
University of Missouri-Columbia

Aaron F. Weckstein
Temple University

Elizabeth F. Wilkes
University of Georgia

Daniel K. Wu
University of Michigan-Ann Arbor

Should Honors Colleges Charge Extra? If So, How Much?

A recent, excellent piece in Inside Higher Edby Rick Seltzer, explores the pros and cons of public honors colleges’ charging extra fees (or differential tuition) in order to enroll and serve increasing numbers of honors students.

(Here we can pretty much confine the discussion to honors colleges because honors programs rarely charge significant fees for attendance.)

At the end of this post is a list of honors colleges that have significant honors fees, and the fee amounts.

Much of the piece involves Barrett Honors College at Arizona State, and Barrett Dean Mark Jacobs is a proselytizer for charging the extra fees and is proud that Barrett has been successful, telling Inside Higher Ed that “when you’re an educational institution, the best you can talk about in terms of the effect outside your own institution is hoping that good ideas you have might be copied and used by other people, or translated to fit their context.”

Ten years ago, Barrett enrollment cost each student $250 a semester. Now, the fee is $750 a semester, or $1,500 per academic year. With the cost of in-state attendance at ASU now at $28,491, the honors fee adds about 5% to the total cost.

One of Jacobs’ arguments mirrors those of almost all public university honors deans and directors: The “liberal arts college within a major research university” model is a bargain for students who would pay much more to attend a good liberal arts college or a strong private elite research university. So, even with the extra charge, public honors remains “a smoking deal” and “an absolute steal.”

Jacobs is in a position to know whereof he speaks; he has bachelors with high honors from Harvard, a Ph.D. from Stanford, and he had an endowed chair in biology at Swarthmore.

Another argument is that state funding cuts have put public universities in a bind, and the extra fees for honors help expand those and other programs at the universities. In addition, public honors colleges (and programs) give highly-talented students in-state options that are in great need given the increased selectivity and arbitrary admission standards of elite universities.

One thing not in doubt is whether the practice at Barrett has helped financially. “In 2017,” Seltzer writes, “the college draws 36 percent of its budget from general operations and 4 percent from endowment income. A whopping 60 percent of the budget comes from the fee.”

On the other hand, Bette Bottoms, dean emerita at the University of Illinois Honors College and a longtime leader in honors education, maintains that universities should value their honors colleges enough to put institutional money into them and not ask students to pay the costs.

“Now, if you tell me that Arizona [State] has some way of waiving the fee for lower-income students, that makes the model more palatable, but I still don’t agree with it,” she told Seltzer. “Do incoming students know this? We never charged a fee, and I found that prospective students and their families often expected it anyway — I’m sure this kept some students from even considering applying.”

“Arizona State must set aside 17 percent of its honors college fees for financial aid,” Seltzer writes, and, according to Jacobs, “Barrett students can receive need-based and non-need-based aid from the university’s central financial aid office. Students can also receive aid from the honors college in the event their financial aid packages are not enough to allow them to pay the fee for being honors students.”

The Barrett model has influenced at least a few other honors colleges. The new Lewis Honors College at the University of Kentucky will charge a $500 annual fee. The namesake of the LHC, Tom Lewis, donated $23 million to his alma mater to create the new honors college. He is also an Arizona resident and longtime supporter of Barrett, who likely believes the Barrett model is a good one to follow.

But not entirely. Dean Christian Brady, formerly dean of the well-known Schreyer Honors College at Penn State, recognizes the good work of Dean Jacobs at Barrett, but believes honors colleges should not be so physically separated as Barrett is on the ASU campus. He wrote at length about his philosophy on this site two years ago.

The issue of elitism at honors colleges (and programs) is also a factor. Even though Barrett goes out of its way to connect hundreds of ASU faculty, honors students, and non-honors students through the extensive use of honors contract courses, the physical separation of the honors campus can be a negative for some while it is a positive for others.

Our own view is that the extra fees can have an overall positive impact if they do not exceed, say, 5% of the in-state cost of university attendance and if the honors colleges have resources to assist students for whom the fee is a burden.

Another way to measure the impact of the extra fees is to analyze the extent to which they might discourage students from completing the full honors curriculum.

The honors college that charges the most in extra fees (actually differential tuition) is the Clark Honors College at the University of Oregon. There, students face an extra charge of $4,192 per year, which amounts to a 15.8% increase in tuition. Some scholarships to offset the very considerable charge are available after the first year.

It may be noteworthy that Barrett and Clark have similar student profile stats, though Clark students have somewhat higher test scores (new SAT 1410 to new SAT 1350). The six-year grad rate for Barrett honors entrants was 89% and for Clark entrants, 82%.

Oregon State Honors College has a differential charge of $1,353, not too much below the fee at Barrett. Oregon State honors entrants had a six-year grad rate of 87.6%, with a sizable portion of engineering students. The average (new) SAT at the OSU Honors College is about 1430.

While this is not definitive data, it only makes sense that the greater the differential cost, the more honors students will be forced to balance the value of their honors education against the cost or simply conclude that they cannot afford honors at all.

University Annual Fee
Oregon 4192.00
Arizona St 1500.00
Oregon St 1353.00
South Carolina 1150.00
Colorado St 1000.00
Massachusetts 600.00
Kentucky 500.00
Arizona 500.00
Houston 500.00
Auburn 437.50
Clemson 437.50
Purdue 200.00
Utah 150.00
Virginia Commonwealth 100.00
Penn St 50.00