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
William and Mary
New College Florida
UC San Diego
New Mexico Inst Mining and Tech
UC Santa Barbara
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.
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.
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.
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
University of Georgia
Tomas W. Green
University of Kansas
Katelynne N Johnson
Colorado State University
Kiloaulani E. Kaawa-Gonzales
Colorado State University
Oklahoma State University
Ashley N. Lewis
Highline Community Tribe of the Pine Ridge College
Tamee E. Livermont
University of South Dakota
Sabrina R. Myoda
Mackenzie L. Neal
College of William and Mary
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
A recent, excellent piece inInside Higher Ed, by 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.
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.
Except for the nuts and bolts metrics used by U.S. News in its annual college rankings (grad and retention rates, class sizes) all of the other ranking categories receive strong criticism from education writers and the academic community. A category since 2009, the high school counselor rankings of colleges’ reputations fly a bit under the radar. But the fact is, they do appear to have a curious impact on the rankings.
A recent, excellent article about the rankings on the websitePolitico argues that the counselor rankings rely heavily on “guidance counselors from highly ranked high schools, while many high schools in less affluent areas have few or no counselors.”
According the the Washington Post, the rankings do include “surveys of 2,200 counselors at public high schools, each of which was a gold, silver or bronze medal winner in the 2016 edition of the U.S. News Best High Schools rankings.” U.S. News also surveys “the largest private independent schools nationwide.”
This already elite group of respondents is even more restrictive than it seems: “The counselors’ one-year response rate was 7 percent for the spring 2017 surveys,” according to U.S News.
Using the nuts and bolts categories and reputation rankings alone, as in this recent post, and separating out the peer reputation rankings from the high school counselor rankings, we can see the impact the counselor rankings have.
Using a sample of 60 national universities that are either in the top 50 nationally or have at least 7 nationally rated academic departments, we found that the high school counselor rankings of private colleges were about 11% higher than those of university peer rankings of the same colleges. (Twenty-five of the schools are public, while 35 are private.)
The fact is, high school counselor rankings on the whole run higher than those of peer reviewers. But counselor rankings of public colleges were only 6.5% higher than peer rankings.
The main question at hand is, do these (few) counselors have more useful knowledge about national universities that peer reviewers have? Peer reviewers have a response rate of more than 40%; this much broader response rate (in absolute percentages and, almost certainly, demographically) should yield a more accurate assessment from peers. (Even more accurate would be the academic departmental rankings, but those are not included.)
Related questions are, how much marketing information do counselors receive, and do they receive a disproportionate share from private colleges? Do they tour private colleges more frequently? Peer reviewers are not without biases, either, but they are not recipients of marketing information from other colleges. Finally, do counselors rely more on…U.S. News rankings?
Again using the same data set we cite above, a side by side comparison of peer and counselor assessments reveals the following:
–Of the 14 universities that rose in rankings at least two places, three were public universities (21.4%) while 11 (78.6%) were private universities. (The percentage of universities in the sample is 41.7% public and 58.3% private.)
–Of the 17 universities that fell in rankings at least two places, 14 (82.4%) were public while three (17.6%) were private.
Below is a table showing the side-by-side comparison. Please bear in mind that the rankings are our adjusted rankings, not the actual U.S. News rankings.
The critics of the annual–and hugely popular–U.S. News Best Colleges rankings are vocal, large in number, well-armed with data, and mostly unavailing. Here is another attempt, based on the idea that the “financial” metrics used in the rankings distort the results. If Harvard has a zillion dollars, Harvard will have smaller classes than Mammoth State University with its meager funding per student. But why give Harvard credit for the zillion dollars and the smaller classes, when the smaller classes are the “output” that really matters?
So…the adjusted rankings below use the major non-financial metrics only: Peer assessment of academic reputation; high school counselor recommendations; graduation rates; retention rates; and class sizes. No acceptance rates or test score-related metrics are used. The impact of both are reflected in the output metric of graduation rates. (A separate post will discuss the curious disparities in high school counselor recommendations.)
Each of the universities on the list is in the top 50 in the 2018 U.S. News rankings with at least 7 ranked departments or has an aggregate academic department ranking of 50 or better across a minimum of 7 departments. The departments ranked are business and engineering (undergrad); biology, chemistry, computer science, earth sciences, economics, education, English, history, math, physics, political science, psychology, and sociology (graduate level).
Therefore, even though department ranking data are not included in the adjusted rankings below, they are used as part of the eligibility requirements for inclusion.
Below are the adjusted rankings of 60 national universities, in the order of the adjusted ranking. Also shown are the U.S. News rankings for 2018 and the difference between the adjusted rankings and those of the magazine. We used data from U.S News for the categories listed above, with the same weight assigned to each category. All categories were then standardized and aggregated. After the first fifteen or so schools, some of the disparities are striking, especially for the last half.
Especially notable in the list below are the changes in major public universities.
Included here are institutions that were, at some point, ranked in the top 50 in those two categories. Some values are blank because in those years the magazine did not give individual rankings to every institution, instead listing them in large groups described as “quartiles” or “tiers.” The rankings shown for 1983 and 1985 are the ones that U.S. News published in its magazine in those same years. For all subsequent years, the rankings come from U.S. News’s separate annual publication “America’s Best Colleges”, which applies rankings for the upcoming year.
Editor’s Note: The following information is from the University of Arkansas Honors College. The college dean has designed the Honors Passport experiences, a capstone course abroad. “Honors Passport courses send honors students and top faculty scholars to historically and culturally significant sites around the globe. During these two-week intersession courses, each student much research and present on a historic site, monument or notable individual, taking an active role in teaching the course.”
Sixteen Honors College students recently spent a full semester preparing for study abroad in Peru, and landed in Lima well-versed on the Incan Empire, the Andean Hybrid Baroque and indigenismo.
Arkansas Honors Dean Lynda Coon and Prof. Kim Sexton, Fay Jones School of Architecture and Design
“The idea is to create an international capstone experience where students and professors together explore the interaction of contemporary and historical sites, texts, and artifacts,” said Honors College Dean Lynda Coon.
Honors College Dean Lynda Coon has launched a series of innovative honors courses since joining the history faculty in the J. William Fulbright College of Arts and Sciences in 1990. She helped to create the Honors Humanities Project (H2P) and as dean she has developed Signature Seminars, Forums, Retro Readings courses and this Honors Passport study abroad experience. Coon’s research focuses on the history of Christianity from circa 300-900.
Kim Sexton, an associate professor of architecture at Fay Jones School of Architecture and Design, specializes in the architecture of late medieval and Renaissance Italy. Since joining the Fay Jones School’s faculty in 1999, Sexton has taught survey courses in the history of world architecture, specialized courses on medieval and Renaissance architecture, and space and gender theory. Sexton is currently completing a book manuscript entitled Loggia Culture: Spatial Practices in Medieval Italy that positions the loggia or portico in cultural history.
Arkansas psych major Linh Luu giving a presentation at Santa Catalina, a Dominican convent in Arequipa, Peru.
Dean Coon and Professor Sexton have taught the second semester of H2P since 1999. They also developed Medieval Bodies/Medieval Spaces, an interdisciplinary honors colloquium that traces the evolution of western medieval history through text, ritual and built environments.