UT Austin Announces Significant Increase in Financial Aid

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.”
RaiseMe Collaboration

“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.”


Changes in Dept Rankings 2014-2018

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.

University 2013-14 2018-19 Chg + or –
Stanford 2.71 1.93 0.78
MIT 4.58 2.73 1.85
UC Berkeley 3.13 3.20 -0.07
Caltech 5.63 4.71 0.92
Princeton 5.77 5.38 0.39
Harvard 5.57 5.71 -0.14
Michigan 9.47 9.40 0.07
Columbia 10.85 10.23 0.62
UCLA 12.86 10.86 2.00
Yale 12.00 10.92 1.08
Chicago 11.92 11.67 0.25
Wisconsin 12.73 12.93 -0.20
Cornell 11.64 13.79 -2.15
UT-Austin 14.27 14.47 -0.20
Penn 18.53 16.73 1.80
Northwestern 19.00 17.86 1.14
Illinois 19.33 20.07 -0.74
Duke 22.38 20.23 2.15
Johns Hopkins 19.36 21.93 -2.57
Washington 21.67 22.20 -0.53
North Carolina 25.80 23.79 2.01
Minnesota 23.07 24.20 -1.13
NYU* 27.13 25.00 2.13
Georgia Tech 32.78 25.40 7.38
UCSD 23.29 25.93 -2.64
Ohio State 25.47 26.40 -0.93
Penn State 25.93 27.27 -1.34
Virginia 32.47 27.40 5.07
Brown 27.08 27.62 -0.54
Carnegie Mellon* 26.55 27.73 -1.18
UC Davis 30.57 28.14 2.43
Maryland 27.40 28.80 -1.40
Indiana 29.07 29.93 -0.86
Rice 33.83 31.92 1.91
WUSTL 29.08 32.29 -3.21
UC Irvine 34.31 32.53 1.78
Colorado 37.00 33.20 3.80
UCSB 35.64 35.21 0.43
USC 37.73 35.27 2.46
Vanderbilt 33.29 35.57 -2.28
Emory 33.00 38.86 -5.86
Purdue 40.33 40.27 0.06
Texas A&M 43.80 41.60 2.20
Michigan State 43.20 42.13 1.07
Arizona 38.20 43.00 -4.80
Rutgers New Bruns 43.87 43.87 0.00
Pitt 46.00 45.40 0.60
Notre Dame 52.23 45.43 6.80
Arizona State 47.27 45.67 1.60
Stony Brook SUNY 47.08 46.46 0.62
Massachusetts 52.14 48.67 3.47
Florida 44.00 48.57 -4.57
Boston University* 50.20 48.67 1.53
Boston College no data 50.27
Iowa 46.93 50.27 -3.34
Oregon 49.36 51.21 -1.85
Dartmouth 48.86 51.38 -2.52
Rochester no data 52.00
Virginia Tech 57.58 52.31 5.27
Georgetown 59.33 53.75 5.58
Illinois Chicago 58.07 59.80 -1.73

Will Florida Become the New Mecca for National Merit Scholars?

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.


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.


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
UC Berkeley
UT Austin
NC State
William and Mary
UW Madison
Florida State
New College Florida
Georgia Tech
Truman State
UC San Diego
New Mexico Inst Mining and Tech
UC Santa Barbara
Texas A&M
Ohio State

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

Top 25 Universities for Silicon Valley Hires: 17 Are Public

The website Quartz just published a list of the universities that place the highest number of grads at tech firms in Silicon Valley.

“The most coveted jobs are in Silicon Valley, and most selective US universities are members of the Ivy League. So it stands to reason that tech giants like Apple, Google, Amazon and Facebook would scoop up best and brightest from those bastions of power and privilege.

“Think again. None of the eight Ivy League schools—Harvard, Yale, Princeton, Brown, Columbia, Cornell, Dartmouth and the University of Pennsylvania—cracked the top 10 on a list of the universities sending the most graduates to tech firms, according to an analysis by HiringSolved, an online recruiting company. The company used data from more than 10,000 public profiles for tech workers hired or promoted into new positions in 2016 and the first two months of 2017.”

Editor’s note: The HiringSolve link also lists the 10 specific skills most in demand as of 2017, with changes from 2016. For example, the top four skills for entry level placement in 2017 are Python, C++, Java, and algorithms. The top job titles for entry placement in 2017 are Software Engineering Intern, Software Engineer, Business Development Consultant, and Research Intern.

Now let it be said that the 17 public universities in the top 25 are generally much larger than the private institutions on the list, so the sheer volume of highly-trained tech grads from the publics is much larger.

But the final message from Quartz was this:

If the list tells us anything, it’s that admission to an elite university isn’t a prerequisite for a career in Silicon Valley, and what you know is more important than where you learn it.” [Emphasis added.]

Here are the top 25 universities for Silicon Valley tech placement, in numerical order:

UC Berkeley
Carnegie Mellon
UT Austin
Georgia Tech
San Jose State
UC San Diego
Arizona State
NC State
Cal Poly
Waterloo (Canada)
Texas A&M
Santa Clara
Univ of Phoenix*
UC Santa Barbara
UC Davis
Penn State

*Hypothesis: hands-on experience and later degrees?

Money Magazine Best Values 2017: CUNY Baruch, Michigan, UC’s, UVA Lead Publics

The new rankings from Money are out, and public colleges and universities account for 27 of the top 50 best values in 2017. These rankings are likely the best college rankings overall, given their balanced approach.

As Jeffrey J. Selingo writes in the Washington Post, the earnings portion of the rankings are based in part on some very interesting new evidence: the “Chelly data.”

“That refers to Raj Chetty,” Selingo tells us, “a Stanford professor, who has led a team of economists that has received access to millions of anonymous tax records that span generations. The group has published several headline-grabbing studies recently based on the data. In findings published in January, the group tracked students from nearly every college in the country and measured their earnings more than a decade after they left campus, whether they graduated or not.

Money does a better job of ranking colleges based on “outcomes” than Forbes does (see Outcomes farther down). This is especially the case with the multiple earnings analyses.

To see the list of top publics, please skip the methodology discussion immediately below.


The 2017 rankings include 27 factors in three categories:

Quality of education (1/3 weighting), which was calculated using:

Six-year graduation rate (30%).

Value-added graduation rate (30%). “This is the difference between a school’s actual graduation rate and its expected rate, based on the economic and academic profile of the student body (measured by the percentage of attendees receiving Pell grants, which are given to low-income students, and the average standardized test scores of incoming freshmen).” [Emphasis added.]

“Peer quality (10%). This is measured by the standardized test scores of entering freshman (5%), and the percentage of accepted students who enroll in that college, known as the “yield” rate (5%).” Note: using the yield rate is an improvement over the U.S. News rankings.

“Instructor quality (10%). This measured by the student-to-faculty ratio.” Note: this is very similar to a U.S. News metric.

“Financial troubles (20%). This is a new factor added in 2017, as financial difficulties can affect the quality of education, and a growing number of schools are facing funding challenges.” Note: although this is not an “outcome” either, it is more meaningful than using data on alumni contributions, etc.

Affordability (1/3 weighting), which was calculated using:

“Net price of a degree (30%). This is the estimated amount a typical freshman starting in 2017 will pay to earn a degree, taking into account the college’s sticker price; how much the school awards in grants and scholarships; and the average time it takes students to graduate from the school, all as reported to the U.S. Department of Education….This takes into account both the estimated average student debt upon graduation (15%) and average amount borrowed through the parent federal PLUS loan programs (5%).

“Student loan repayment and default risk (15%).

“Value-added student loan repayment measures (15%). These are the school’s performance on the student loan repayment and default measures after adjusting for the economic and academic profile of the student body.

Affordability for low-income students (20%). This is based on federally collected data on the net price that students from families earning $0 to $30,000 pay.

Outcomes (1/3 weighting), which was calculated using:

“Graduates’ earnings (12.5%), as reported by alumni to PayScale.com; early career earnings within five years of graduation (7.5%), and mid-career earnings, which are for those whose education stopped at a Bachelor’s degree and graduated, typically, about 15 years ago. (5%).

“Earnings adjusted by majors (15%). To see whether students at a particular school earn more or less than would be expected given the subjects students choose to study, we adjusted PayScale.com’s data for the mix of majors at each school; for early career earnings (10%) and mid-career earnings (5%).

“College Scorecard 10-year earnings (10%). The earnings of federal financial aid recipients at each college as reported to the IRS 10 years after the student started at the college.

“Estimated market value of alumni’s average job skills (10%). Based on a Brookings Institution methodology, we matched up data provided by LinkedIn of the top 25 skills reported by each school’s alumni with Burning Glass Technologies data on the market value each listed skill.

“Value-added earnings (12.5%). To see if a school is helping launch students to better-paying jobs than competitors that take in students with similar academic and economic backgrounds, we adjusted PayScale.com’s earnings data for the student body’s average test scores and the percentage of low-income students at each school; for early career earnings (7.5%) and mid-career earnings (5%).

Job meaning (5%). We used the average score of each school’s alumni on PayScale.com’s survey question of “Does your work make the world a better place?”

“Socio-economic mobility index (20%).

For the first time, we included new data provided by the Equality of Opportunity Project that reveals the percentage of students each school move from low-income backgrounds to upper-middle class jobs by the time the student is 34 years old.Finally, we used statistical techniques to turn all the data points into a single score and ranked the schools based on those scores.” [Emphasis added.]

The inclusion of these metrics makes the Money rankings a hybrid of the Washington Monthly “public good” rankings, U.S. News, and Kiplinger rankings, with the socio-economic factors having a less significant impact than the Washington Monthly rankings on overall standing. Still, these factors do result in two CUNY campuses’ receiving high rankings.

“The data showed, for example,” Selingo writes, “that the City University of New York propelled almost six times as many low-income students into the middle class and beyond as all eight Ivy League campuses, plus Duke, M.I.T., Stanford and Chicago, combined. The California State University system advanced three times as many.”


CUNY Baruch College–2
UC Berkeley–4
UC Irvine–7
UC Davis–9
Georgia Tech–16
Virginia Tech–23
College of New Jersey–24
UC Riverside–29
Michigan State–30
UT Austin–31
Texas A&M–34
UC Santa Barbara–36
Purdue–37 (tie)
Cal State Long Beach–42
CUNY Brooklyn–43
UW Madison–45
James Madison–46
Rutgers, New Brunswick–49
NC State–50


Honors Programs Plus Strong Merit Aid: Alabama Honors College

Editor’s Note:  This is the second post in a new, lengthy series that will highlight ten or more public university honors colleges and programs that are (1) excellent academically and (2) offer substantial merit aid either through the honors program or the university as a whole.

For many readers it will come as no surprise to learn the the University of Alabama and its honors college offers some of the most generous merit aid packages in the country to high-achieving students. Yet our recent visit to UA sites revealed an even larger range of excellent scholarships than we had thought were available.

Before a listing of those awards (see below for national merit, in-state, and OOS), please know that the Honors College, despite being the largest in the nation (possibly as many as 7,000 students), nevertheless earned a 4.5 (out of a possible 5.0) rating in our latest book, Inside Honors. 

The major academic strengths of the college are a very large selection of honors classes, including honors sections in most academic disciplines; and an average honors class size of 26.6 students, even counting honors classes in the various departments. Honors students also do most of their honors work in honors-only classes, i.e., in classes that have few or no non-honors students.

Excellent honors residence halls are another strength of the college. The honors residence community includes Blount and Paty Halls, but almost 60% of honors students living on campus reside in Ridgecrest North and South, while another 28% live in Ridgecrest East and West.

“These buildings feature 4-bedroom suites with private bedrooms, 2 bathrooms, a living/dining area, and a kitchenette. The kitchenette has a full-size refrigerator, microwave, and cabinet space. The bedrooms feature height-adjustable beds with extended twin mattresses.”

Honors students are increasingly successful in winning prestigious Goldwater Scholarships, including the maximum of four allowed to a single college, in 2017. The award goes to outstanding sophomores and juniors who are working in the STEM disciplines. UA students have also won 15 Rhodes Scholarships and 16 Truman Scholarships.


National Merit Finalists can receive the value of tuition for up to five years or 10 semesters for degree-seeking undergraduate and graduate (or law) studies. In addition,

–One year of on-campus housing at regular room rate (based on assignment by Housing and Residential Communities.

A $3,500 per year Merit Scholarship stipend for four years. A student must maintain at least a 3.3 GPA to continue receiving this scholarship stipend. If a corporate-sponsored scholarship from the National Merit Corporation is received, the total value cannot exceed $3,500. (For example, if you receive a corporate-sponsored scholarship of $2,000 per year, UA will contribute $1,500 per year to reach the total stipend amount of $3,500. There is a one-time allowance of $2,000 for use in summer research or international study (after completing one year of study at UA).

Technology Enrichment Allowance $1,000.

National Merit Semifinalists are also eligible for extremely generous aid as Presidential Scholars, amounting to full tuition for four years. The award requires a 32-36 ACT or 1450-1600 SAT score and at least a 3.5 GPA. Recipients “will receive the value of tuition, or $41,800 over four years ($10,470 per year). Students graduating with remaining tuition scholarship semester(s) may use these monies toward graduate school and/or law school study at UA.”


To be considered for the Academic Elite Scholarships, a student must be accepted as a member of the University Fellows Experience (UFE). The student must maintain membership in the UFE to continue holding an Academic Elite Scholarship. Complete information on the UFE can be found on the University Fellows website.

There are a total of 8 academic elite scholars named each year. The pool of eligible applicants typically exceeds 1,000 students. These scholarships are awarded for 4 years. Seven Academic Elite Scholarship recipients will receive: Tuition plus one year of on-campus housing at regular room rate, $8,500 stipend per year, and a $1,000 one time technology stipend

The top Academic Elite Scholarship recipient will receive: Tuition, one year of on-campus housing at regular room rate, $8,500 stipend for the first year, $18,500 stipend for years 2-4, $5,000 study abroad stipend (to be used after at least one academic year is completed), a $1,000 one time technology stipend.

Eligibility for the University Fellows Experience requires an ACT score of 32 or a SAT score of 1450 (evidence-based reading and writing plus math) and a high school GPA of 3.8 who is accepted into UA will be eligible to complete the University Fellows Experience application. Applicants must first complete the Honors College application, and then must complete the UFE application. The general UFE application deadline is December 15.



First time freshmen who meet the December 15 scholarship deadline, have a qualifying score on the ACT or SAT and have at least a 3.5 cumulative high school GPA through the junior year will be eligible for the following merit-based scholarships:

Crimson Achievement Scholar: A student with a 25 ACT or 1200-1230 SAT score and minimum 3.5 cumulative GPA will be selected as a Crimson Achievement Scholar and will receive $8,000 over four years ($2,000 per year).

UA Legends: A student with a 26 ACT or 1240-1270 SAT score and minimum 3.5 cumulative GPA will be selected as a UA Legends Scholar and will receive $10,000 over four years ($2,500 per year).

Capstone Scholar: A student with a 27 ACT or 1280-1300 SAT score and minimum 3.5 cumulative GPA will be selected as a Capstone Scholar and will receive $16,000 over four years ($4,000 per year).

Collegiate Scholar: A student with a 28-29 ACT or 1310-1380 SAT score and a minimum GPA of 3.5 a student will be named a Collegiate Scholar and will receive $20,000 over four years ($5,000 per year).

Foundation in Excellence Scholar: A student with a 30-31 ACT or 1390-1440 SAT score and at least a 3.5 GPA will be named a Foundation in Excellence Scholar and will receive $32,000 over four years ($8,000 per year).

Presidential Scholar: A student with a 32-36 ACT or 1450-1600 SAT score and at least a 3.5 GPA will be selected as a Presidential Scholar and will receive the value of tuition, or $41,800 over four years ($10,470 per year). Students graduating with remaining tuition scholarship semester(s) may use these monies toward graduate school and/or law school study at UA.



Note: These are the same requirements as those above for in-state students, but the dollar amounts are larger. Please note especially the extremely high value of the Presidential Scholarship for OOS students.

Capstone Scholar: A student with a 27 ACT or 1280-1300 SAT score and a minimum 3.5 cumulative GPA will be selected as a Capstone Scholar and will receive $20,000 over four years ($5,000 per year).

Collegiate Scholar: A student with a 28 ACT or 1310-1340 SAT score and a minimum GPA of 3.5 will be named a Collegiate Scholar and will receive $24,000 over four years ($6,000 per year).

Foundation in Excellence Scholar: A student with a 29 ACT or 1350-1380 SAT score and at least a 3.5 GPA will be named a Foundation in Excellence Scholar and will receive $52,000 over four years ($13,000 per year).

UA Scholar: A student with a 30-32 ACT or 1390-1480 SAT score and at least a 3.5 GPA, he or she will be named a UA Scholar and will receive $76,000 over four years ($19,000 per year).

Presidential Scholar: A student with a 33-36 ACT or 1490-1600 SAT score and at least a 3.5 GPA will be selected as a Presidential Scholar and will receive $100,000 over four years ($25,000 per year). Students graduating with remaining scholarship semester(s) may use these monies toward graduate school and/or law school study at UA.

Honors Programs Plus Strong Merit Aid: Ohio State Honors

Editor’s Note:  This is the first post in a new, lengthy series that will highlight ten or more public university honors colleges and programs that are (1) excellent academically and (2) offer substantial merit aid either through the honors program or the university as a whole.

We begin the series with The Ohio State Honors And Scholars Program because it meets the criteria above and because we have been unable to review it in our two previous books. The program is coordinated by an honors team but delegates much of the course programming to major departments. The result is great for honors students but extremely difficult for us to measure for rating purposes.

The decentralized approach allows for the program to work with more than 5,000 students, making the program one of the largest in the nation.

Before a discussion of highly competitive merit awards for OSU students, it should be said that the University Honors Program is extremely selective despite its large enrollment. Our estimate of the average new SAT score for current students is 1470-1490, with an average ACT of 32-33. This equates to roughly the top 10% of OSU students.

While the university-wide six-year graduation rate is about 83%, the honors grad rate is about 91-92%. University Honors students can choose from 250-300 courses each term. More than a thousand first-year students enroll each fall. About 60% of first-year students (more than a thousand) choose among three main honors residence halls. Each residence has its own honor-related programming. Two of the residences are air-conditioned. The remainder of first-year honors students reside in other university residence halls, many of which have living/learning themes.

Merit Scholarships

The Honors Program coordinates the Eminence Fellowship, the most lucrative and prestigious award at the university. Eminence Fellows receive a “full ride” to OSU. In 2917, there were 17 fellows, all members of the honors program.

Given the high selectivity of the honors program, it is no surprise to find that fellows typically rank in the top three percent of their graduating classes and have an ACT composite score of 34 or higher or SAT combined Critical Reading and Math score of 1520 or higher.

Yet even impressive stats do not guarantee a fellowship. “Eminence Fellows demonstrate academic achievement, intellectual curiosity, high regard for humanity, and significant involvement both on and off campus.” Measuring factors such as a “high regard for humanity” is difficult, and so is the winnowing of fellowship applicants: more than 1,200 apply and only 17 fellowships were awarded in 2017.

On the other hand, the university awards about 300 Morrill Scholarships each year. The scholarships require both strong academic qualifications and characteristics that contribute to the diversity of the university.

Here, diversity means more than a racial or ethnic profile. The “targeted” students include not only ethnic and racial minorities but also first-generation, low-income, and Ohio Appalachian students. In addition, the awards may go to students whose gender is not typical of the major (e.g., women in engineering), or whose major is atypical but desirable (e.g., agriculture). Notably, Agriculture is one of the disciplines that offer many honors courses via the University Honors Program.

It is important to understand the three levels of Morrill awards:

Distinction equals the value of the cost of attendance for both Ohio residents and nonresidents, or a “full ride.” Only about 25 of the 300 Morrill awards are at the Distinction level. One hundred students are invited to interview for the 25 awards. Recipients likely need ACT 33 or new SAT ~1500 along with an extremely high class rank and achievements.

Prominence equals free tuition for out-of-state students.

Excellence: Equals the value of in-state tuition for Ohio residents.

The minimum stats for Prominence or Excellence awards are about 28 ACT or new SAT ~1320.

It is also possible to receive a Maximus Scholarship based mostly on stats and then be considered, usually later, for a Morrill or even Eminence award. The Maximus minimum stats requirement is high (top 3%, 32 ACT or 1450 new SAT) but not related to diversity goals as far as we can tell. The award approximates half the cost of in-state tuition, or about $5,000.

Finally, Provost and Trustees awards are $2,500 and $1,500 a year, respectively. The Provost minimum requirement is top 10%, 30 ACT, or new SAT of 1390. The minimum requirement for Trustees is top 20%, 29 ACT, or new SAT 1350 or higher.