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; 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’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’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’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.




Southeast, West Coast Colleges: Top Public Values in Kiplinger Report

The Kiplinger Best Value College Index methodology emphasizes a “quality” side in relation to the “cost” side of a university. The quality side includes selectivity, retention, and four-year grad rates, while the cost side takes tuition, fees, merit aid, need-based aid, and post-graduation debt into account.

For the 16th straight year, UNC Chapel Hill leads as the best public value for both in-state and out-of-state (OOS) applicants.

The Southeast and Mid-Atlantic account for 10 of the top 25 best public value schools. West coast universities in the UC system along with the University of Washington account for another half dozen in the top 25.

In the middle, so to speak, are traditionally strong publics including Michigan, UW Madison, Illinois, UT Austin, Minnesota, and Ohio State.

Acceptance rates vary widely among the top value schools, from a low of 15 and 17 percent at UC Berkeley and UCLA respectively, to a high of 66 percent at Illinois.

Other publics with relative low acceptance rates include Michigan (26 percent); Cal Poly (31 percent); Georgia Tech (32 percent); UC Santa Barbara (33 percent); UC San Diego (34 percent); and UC Irvine and UT Austin (39 percent).

Below are the top 25 in-state public values, with the OOS ranking and Acceptance Rate listed as well.

University In State OOS Accept Rate
UNC Chapel Hill 1 1 30
Virginia 2 2 30
UC Berkeley 3 7 15
William and Mary 4 6 34
Michigan 5 13 26
UCLA 6 14 17
Florida 7 3 48
Maryland 8 10 45
Georgia Tech 9 15 32
Georgia 10 11 53
UW Madison 11 18 49
Washington 12 24 53
UT Austin 13 26 39
UC Santa Barbara 14 28 33
Binghamton 15 8 42
Illinois 16 20 66
UC San Diego 17 31 34
NC State 18 9 50
New College Florida 19 21 61
Minnesota 20 4 45
Cal Poly 21 17 31
Ohio State 22 19 49
UC Irvine 23 44 39
Clemson 24 29 51
Miami Ohio 25 33 65

U.S. News Publication: Honors Programs Are Good for “Families Too Rich for Financial Aid”

Public university honors colleges and programs continue to raise their profiles as “value” choices  in higher education, as evidenced by columns in the New York Timesattention from college consultants, and a separate focus piece in the 2015 U.S. News Best Colleges publication.

Now comes another U.S. News publication, the Path to College Guidebook, available for $.99 to Compass subscribers. Compass subscriptions are currently $29.95. (Note: we have no affiliation with U.S. News.)

One section by Farran Powell, titled “Strategies for Students Too Rich for Financial Aid, Too Poor for College,” is especially interesting. Powell describes the experience of a mother in Illinois whose daughter was accepted by Boston College, where the yearly price tag was extremely high.

“Our daughter got into Boston College at $68,000 a year,” says the mom, citing the total cost of attending without any need-based aid and paying in cash.

But she and her daughter chose UConn’s honors program because they gave her daughter a $15,000 a year scholarship, leaving about $30,000 a year in total yearly costs, much less than regular out-of-state expenses would have been.

“(The University of Connecticut charged out-of-state students $34,908 in tuition and fees along with $12,174 for room and board for the 2015-2016 school year – which is much lower compared with Boston College, which billed students $49,324 for tuition and fees and $13,496 for room and board for that same year, according to U.S. News data.”

“Households similar to [this] family from suburban Chicago are turning to honors programs and schools that hand out non-need-based aid…especially if they are ‘too rich for financial aid’,” Powell writes.

Powell quotes a Houston wealth adviser, who told her that for “our folks…those with income $150,000 or higher or $200,000 plus…it also depends on how many kids you have and other factors.”

“Many parents realize there’s a shortfall in funds available as the cost of college continues to climb,” Powell writes.

“‘Thirty years ago, putting your kid through school was like buying a car. Now it’s like buying a house,'” the adviser told Powell.

Powell writes that “Many National Universities, institutions that offer a full range of undergraduate majors as well as master’s and doctoral programs, offer these types of programs along with merit aid to attract high-achieving students to their campuses, college experts say.

The same wealth adviser says “his clients are turning down top-tier schools such as Rice University and Southern Methodist University for in-state honors programs at the University of Texas—Austin or Texas A&M University—College Station because it’s better value for the money.”

“People are making their own way in the world,” the suburban mom told Powell, “and I don’t think you need to spend $70,000 a year on college to get ahead.”

“Reformers” Cite Productivity as the Reason for Higher Ed Cuts: Here’s What They Don’t Understand

After a years-long, bruising battle in Texas between the University of Texas and Texas A&M systems on one side and then-Gov. Rick Perry on the other, the two flagships have emerged more or less intact and relatively free of political meddling.

But that doesn’t mean that the overall fight to maintain quality in public universities is over. Far from it. Now comes news that Missouri and Iowa are joining Wisconsin in considering severe restrictions on faculty tenure, including the elimination of tenure tracks for new faculty hires.

Here are the four main factors involved in this ongoing battle:

  1. Real or exaggerated fiscal problems in the states;
  2. Ideological interference for partisan political purposes;
  3. Attacks by “reforming” governors on the fundamental purposes of public higher education;
  4. Disregarding what is unique about universities, while trying to turn them into business focused on “productivity.”

If far-right politicians in Iowa, Missouri, and Wisconsin and like-minded officials  across the nation succeed, then here is what will happen to public universities:

  1. They will be unable to compete for top faculty, continue to lose quality and prestige, and be relegated to secondary status.
  2. The purported vocational goals of the reformers (more business and STEM grads who can earn higher salaries) will in fact be undercut when public university grads find that their degrees are not regarded as highly as they are now.

Since the Great Recession, most states have struggled to keep abreast of legitimate public needs. In the early years of the recession, states enacted severe cuts in higher education. Often, the most severe cuts occurred in states with very conservative governors who saw an opportunity to leverage the recession into a continuing attack on the liberal arts and a concomitant turn toward vocationalism in higher ed.

But as the economy has rebounded, only some states have slowly begun to increase higher ed funding. Others, such as Wisconsin, Iowa, and Missouri, are renewing attacks on higher ed.

Here partisanship and ideology enter the picture. For the extreme right, public education should be almost entirely vocational, and “real” education should occur in the more expensive, private colleges, and mainly for those who can afford them. The fixation on private governance even drives these advocates to favor for-profit private “colleges” even though support for these dysfunctional businesses drives up federal loan losses.

Clearly, not funding public higher ed and reducing quality in public colleges is antithetical to the essential purposes of state universities: providing both access and quality to students in their states.

Moves to eliminate tenure are an example of the tone-deafness of some politicians when it comes to the differences between universities and the corporate business world.

The need to fire inept or irresponsible employees in the corporate world is a given. Almost always, such dismissals are unrelated to philosophical and ideological issues or to the expression of differing, even seemingly bizarre opinions.

The firing of a faculty member can come down to objective performance issues; but far more than in the case of firing a business employee, it can also be a punitive act against free expression or the result of a misguided bias against certain academic disciplines.

Of late, those disciplines–the humanities, mainly–are probably the very disciplines that need to be supported in an era of “fake news.” Do humanities and liberal arts majors find more high paying jobs than, say, chemical engineering graduates? No, but do engineering graduates need significant exposure to the humanities? The answer is yes, even if, or especially if, the engineering students disagree with what the humanities offer. At least they are more likely to think about why the disagree.

It must be said, however, that some alleged reformers see no value in having engineers–or any student, for that matter–do much critical thinking beyond that required by their (preferably) vocational major.

Arguments grounded in the need for “productivity” and the general uselessness of academic research have been an abiding feature of far-right attacks on public higher ed.

Yet there is a working paper from the National Bureau of Economic Research that not only describes the uniqueness of universities as institutions but concludes that they are in fact rational actors in making decisions about faculty pay in relation to both research and teaching loads. They are productive, but productive within the very special context of a university.

The paper does not disagree that sometimes research professors are rewarded more than those who lack a research pedigree. But in the end, “prizing research output over teaching doesn’t necessarily affect educational quality.”

According to an excellent summary of the research by Colleen Flaherty of Inside Higher Ed, “the paper seems to dispute assertions that higher education spending — at least on instruction — is wasteful or inefficient.”

The authors note that “Departments in research universities (the more so the more elite) must pay high salaries in order to employ research-productive faculty. These faculty, in turn, contribute most to the universities’ goals (which include teaching as well as research) by following their comparative advantage and teaching less, and also teaching in ways that are complementary with research — notably graduate courses.”

And one of those goals is to maintain or enhance academic credibility. Flaherty writes that the “authors predict that because ‘scholarly reputation and output’ at research-intensive institutions are shaped by largely by research, highly paid faculty members within a department ‘do relatively little teaching, on average.’ And whatever teaching they do ‘has relatively high consumption value, either directly or as an input into research.’”





New U.S. College Rankings: Wall St Journal Partners with Times Highered

Whether we need it or not, there is a new ranking on the scene, the Wall Street Journal/Times Higher Education College Rankings 2017.

There are some interesting features, and the rankings are certainly worth a look.

The rankings combine national universities and liberal arts colleges into one group, and in this way resemble the Forbes rankings. And, also like the Forbes rankings, the salaries earned by graduates also count as a metric, 12% of the total in the WSJ/THE rankings.

Farther down, we will list the top 100 colleges in the rankings. Only 20 of the top 100 schools are public; 31 are liberal arts colleges; and the remaining 49 are elite private universities. This is not much of a surprise, given that financial resources are a major ranking category.

Before listing the top 100, we will list another group of schools that have the best combined scores in what we consider to be the two most important umbrella categories in the rankings, accounting for 60% of the total: “Engagement” and “Output.”

Engagement (20% of total, as broken out below):

A. Student engagement: 7%. This metric is generated from the average scores per College from four questions on the student survey:

  1. To what extent does the teaching at your university or college support CRITICAL THINKING?
  2. To what extent did the classes you took in your college or university so far CHALLENGE YOU?
  3. To what extent does the teaching at your university or college support REFLECTION UPON, OR MAKING CONNECTIONS AMONG, things you have learned?
  4. To what extent does the teaching at your university or college support APPLYING YOUR LEARNING to the real world?

B. Student recommendation: 6%. This metric is generated from the average score per College from the following question on the student survey:

  1. If a friend or family member were considering going to university, based on your experience, how likely or unlikely are you to RECOMMEND your college or university to them?

C. Interactions with teachers and faculty: 4%. This metric is generated from the average scores per College from two questions on the student survey:

  1. To what extent do you have the opportunity to INTERACT WITH THE FACULTY and teachers at your college or university as part of your learning experience?
  2. To what extent does your college or university provide opportunities for COLLABORATIVE LEARNING?

D. Number of accredited programs (by CIP code): 3%. This metric is IPEDS standardized number of Bachelor’s degree programs offered.

Output (40% of the total, as broken out below):

A. Graduation rate: 11%. This metric is 150% of the graduation rate status as of 31 August 2014 for the cohort of full-time, first-time degree/certificate-seeking undergraduates, Bachelor’s or equivalent sub-cohort.

B. Graduate salary: 12%. This metric estimates the outcome of median earnings of students working and not enrolled 10 years after entry.

C. Loan default/repayment rates: 7%. This metric estimates the outcome of the 3-year repayment rate from College Scorecard data. The value added component is the difference between actual and predicted (based on underlying student and College characteristics) outcomes.

D. Reputation: 10%. This metric is the number of votes obtained from the reputation survey, and is calculated as the number of US teaching votes from the reputation survey and the number of US-only teaching votes from country section of the reputation survey.

The two remaining umbrella categories measure Financial Resources, including the amount spent per student; and the Environment, including the diversity of enrolled students (or faculty) across various ethnic groups. You can find a summary of the methodology here.

Here are the 23 colleges that scored at least 17.0 (out of 20) in Engagement and at least 30.0 (out of 40.0) in Output, listed in order of their overall place in the WSJ/TimesHigherEd rankings:

Stanford–Ranking 1; Engagement 17.4; Output 39.4

Penn–Ranking 4; Engagement 17.6; Output 39.0

Duke–Ranking 7; Engagement 17.2; Output 39.3

Cornell–Ranking 9; Engagement 17.3; Output 38.2

WUSTL–Ranking 11; Engagement 17.5; Output 38.6

Northwestern–Ranking 13; Engagement 17.1; Output 37.8

Carnegie Mellon–Ranking 19; Engagement 17.2; Output 37.0

Brown–Ranking 20; Engagement 17.5; Output 35.7

Vanderbilt–Ranking 21; Engagement 17.2; Output 38.8

Michigan–Ranking 24; Engagement 17.4; Output 37.2

Notre Dame–Ranking 25; Engagement 17.4; Output 37.0

Swarthmore–Ranking 34; Engagement 17.7; Output 31.0

Smith–Ranking 35; Engagement 17.1; Output 31.3

Univ of Miami–Ranking 37; Engagement 17.5; Output 30.8

Purdue–Ranking 37; Engagement 17.2; Output 34.1

UC Davis–Ranking 43; Engagement 17.1; Output 33.8

Illinois–Ranking 48; Engagement 17.1; Output 35.6

UT Austin–Ranking 51; Engagement 17.3; Output 33.3

Florida–Ranking 56; Engagement 17.1; Output 35.6

Pitt–Ranking 59; Engagement 17.0; Output 32

Michigan State–Ranking 63; Engagement 17.7; Output 32.9

Wisconsin–Ranking 67; Engagement 17.2; Output 33.5

Texas A&M–Ranking 81; Engagement 17.6; Output 31.7

Below are the top 100 colleges in the new rankings:

1. Stanford
2. MIT
3. Columbia
4. Penn
5. Yale
6. Harvard
7. Duke
8. Princeton
9. Cornell
10. Caltech
11. Johns Hopkins
13. Northwestern
13. Chicago
15. USC
16. Dartmouth
17. Emory
18. Rice
19. Carnegie Mellon
20. Brown
21. Vanderbilt
22. Williams
23. Amherst
24. Michigan
25. Notre Dame
26. UCLA
27. Tufts
28. Pomona
29. Georgetown
30. North Carolina
30. Wellesley
32. Case Western
33. NYU
34. Swarthmore
35. Smith
36. Middlebury
37. UC Berkeley
37. Carleton
37. Haverford
37. Univ of Miami
37. Purdue
42. Boston University
43. UC Davis
44. Bowdoin
45. Wesleyan
46. Claremont McKenna
47. Bryn Mawr
48. Illinois
49. UC San Diego
50. Lehigh
51. Georgia Tech
51. UT Austin
53. Bucknell
54. Colgate
54. Wake Forest
56. Virginia
56. Florida
58. Rochester
59. Pitt
60. Hamilton
61. Washington
62. Oberlin
63. Boston College
63. Michigan State
65. Trinity College (Conn.)
66. Colby
67. George Washington
67. Macalester
67. Wisconsin
70. WPI
71. Ohio State
72. Northeastern
73. Lafayette
73. Trinity (TX)
75. Tulane
75. Vassar
77. Davidson
78. Grinnell
78. RPI
80. Barnard
80. Texas A&M
82. Drexel
83. Denison
84. Occidental
84. Richmond
86. SMU
87. Howard
88. Holy Cross
89. Brandeis
90. Denver
91. De Pauw
92. Rose-Hulman
93. William and Mary
94. Kenyon
95. Bentley
96. Connecticut College
96. Penn State
96. Scripps College
99. Stevens Inst Tech
100. Maryland




Best Major Universities for National Merit Scholarships–Part Two

Note: Please note that some of the scholarships offered by the institutions listed below are NOT restricted to National Merit Scholars. We include them to show “full ride” and other high-value options.

In a separate post, Best Major Universities for National Merit Scholarship Funding, we use the official annual reports of the National Merit Scholarship Corporation to list the universities that sponsor some form of NMS scholarships, even though the individual award amounts may be limited.

And here is a list published by U.S. News that shows colleges with highest percentage of merit aid, based on enrollment. This map does not assess actual net remaining costs after merit aid, however.

In this post, we will provide a table that shows more than 120 universities, public and private, which provide full tuition, tuition “plus”, full ride, and full ride “plus” funding for national aard winners. In most cases, the tuition is at least at the in-state level, with many offering in-state tuition to out-of-state scholars. Tuition “plus” means that the extra award can be quite generous, including stipends and other funding that approach full ride status. Full ride “plus” is tuition, room, board, and additional funds for study abroad, conferences, and other activities.

Listed first on the table are hools that tie awards specifically to National Merit Scholars. Each of these schools has “nms” beside its name, for National Merit Scholarship. Colleges listed below these provide equivalent generous merit awards, though they are not in all cases linked to National Merit Scholars. Many of these will have less stringent requirements, but there are exceptions.

It is important to know that some of the universities listed offer VERY FEW scholarships of the type listed. For example, the Jefferson Scholarships at the University of Virginia are valued at $150,000 (in-state) and $280,000 (OOS), but only 36 extremely fortunate students are selected.

UniversityAward TypeNat Merit
Alabamatuition plusnms
Arizonafull ride plusnms
Arizona Statetuitionnms
Auburntuition plusnms
Cincinnatituition plusnms
Clemsonfull ride plusnms
Connecticutfull ridenms
Houstonfull ride plusnms
Idahofull ridenms
Kansastuition nms
Kentuckytuition plusnms
Louisvillefull ride plusnms
Loyala Chicagotuitionnms
Massachusettsfull ridenms
Memphistuition plusnms
Minnesota Morris tuitionnms
Mississippifull ridenms
Mississippi Stfull ridenms
Murray Stfull ridenms
Nebraskatuition plusnms
Nevada Las Vegasin state tuitnms
Nevada Renoin state tuitnms
New Mexicofull ridenms
New Mexico Stfull ride plusnms
NJITfull ridenms
North Dakota Stfull ridenms
Okla Sttuition plusnms
Oklahomatuition plusnms
Southern Missfull ridenms
Texas A&Mfull ridenms
Texas Sttuitionnms
Texas Techfull ridenms
Tulsafull ridenms
UCFfull ridenms
UNTfull ride plusnms
UT Arlingtonfull ridenms
UT Tylerfull ride plusnms
Utahtuition plusnms
West Virginiatuition plusnms
Wichita Stfull ride plusnms
Alaska Anchoragetuition plus
Appalachian Stfull ride
Boston Collegetuition
Case Westernfull ride
Centrefull ride plus
Chicagofull ride
Clarkfull ride
College of Charlestonfull ride plus
Colorado Collegetuition plus
Davidsonfull ride plus
Delawarefull ride
Drexelfull ride
Dukefull ride plus
George Masontuition
Georgiafull ride
Georgia Statefull ride
Georgia Techfull ride
Grand Valley Sttuition
Holy Crosstuition
Illinois Chicagofull ride
Indianafull ride
Iowa tuition plus
Iowa Statefull ride
Kent Sttuition
LSUfull ride plus
Marylandfull ride plus
Miami Univfull ride plus
Michigan Stfull ride plus
Michigan Techfull ride
Minnesotatuition plus
Mississippi Collegefull ride
North Carolinafull ride plus
North Carolina Stfull ride plus
North Dakotatuition
Northeasternfull ride
Notre Dametuition
Oberlinfull ride plus
Ohio Stfull ride plus
Ohio Univtuition plus
Oregonfull ride
Pittfull ride plus
Purduetuition plus
Richmondfull ride
Rochesterfull ride
Santa Claratuition plus
South Carolinaclose to full
South Dakotafull ride plus
Southern Illinoisfull ride
St. Louis Univtuition
Syracusefull ride
Truman Stfull ride plus
Tulanefull ride plus
Univ at Buffalofull ride
Univ of Miamifull ride
USCtuition plus
UT Austintuition plus
UT Dallastuition plus
Va Commonwealthfull ride plus
Vanderbilttuition plus
Virginiafull ride
Virginia Techfull ride
Wake Forestfull ride plus
Washington and Leefull ride
Washington Sttuition
William and Maryfull ride
Wisconsintuition plus
WUSTLfull ride plus
Wyomingfull ride