Most UT Austin Forty Acres Scholars Major in Plan II or Business Honors

The most prestigious scholarship–a rare “full ride”–at the University of Texas at Austin is the Forty Acres award. Only 15-20 of these scholarships are granted in any given year. One notable fact about the scholarships is that more than half are awarded to Plan II Honors and/or Business Honors Students. One of the most common majors of Forty Acres Scholars is the combined Plan II/Business Honors major.

Bear in mind that Plan II only has about 700 students out of 39,000 undergrads on the UT Campus, which was originally assigned to, yes, forty acres of land in Austin. About three quarters of all Forty Acres Scholars are in some kind of honors program, with Plan II predominating. Others are engineering honors and the Turing Scholars program for computer science.

Both Plan II and Business Honors are highly selective. In this post on UT’s Business Honors Program, we wrote that by “’highly qualified’ we mean enrolled students with an average ACT of 33, and SAT of 1477 (higher than the 1466 average for the Wharton School at Penn), and an average high school class standing in the top 2.27%.”

For Plan II, the admissions statistics show that enrolled students in 2014 had middle 50 percent SAT scores of 2090–2270 and middle ACT scores of 32–34.

It is likely that many Forty Acres Scholars have even more impressive credentials. The most recent group of scholars with Plan II, Business Honors, or both majors is below:

Susie and John L. Adams Forty Acres Scholarship
Henry Boehm
Majors: Business Honors; Plan II Honors
Honors Programs: Business Honors; Plan II Honors
Hometown: Waco, TX
High School: Vanguard College Preparatory School

Ray and Denise Nixon Forty Acres Scholarship
Michael Everett
Major: Business Honors
Honors Program: Business Honors
Hometown: Southlake, TX
High School: Carroll Senior High School

BHP Forty Acres Scholarship
Chevron Enrichment Award
Alejandra Flores
Major: Business Honors
Honors Program: Business Honors
Hometown: Laredo, TX
High School: United South High School

Sarah M. and Charles E. Seay Forty Acres Scholarship
Chandler Groves
Majors: Business Honors; Plan II Honors
Honors Programs: Business Honors; Plan II Honors
Hometown: Southlake, TX
High School: Carroll Senior High School

Elizabeth Shatto Massey Forty Acres Scholarship
Mandy Justiz
Majors: Biochemistry; Plan II Honors
Honors Programs: Dean’s Scholars; Plan II Honors
Hometown: Austin, TX
High School: St. Andrew’s Episcopal School

Barbara and Alan Dreeben Forty Acres Scholarship
Seth Krasne
Majors: Business Honors; Plan II Honors
Honors Programs: Business Honors; Plan II Honors
Hometown: El Paso, TX
High School: Coronado High School

Charline and Red McCombs Family Forty Acres Scholarship
Alex Rabinovich
Majors: Business Honors; Plan II Honors
Honors Programs: Business Honors; Plan II Honors
Hometown: McAllen, TX
High School: McAllen Memorial High School

Lowell Lebermann Scholarship
Francesca Reece
Majors: Government; Plan II Honors
Honors Program: Plan II Honors
Hometown: Euless, TX
High School: Trinity High School

Madison Charitable Foundation Forty Acres Scholarship
Audrey Urbis
Majors: Business Honors; Plan II Honors
Honors Programs: Business Honors; Plan II Honors
Hometown: Brownsville, TX
High School: Los Fresnos High School

 

Do Elite Colleges Really Offer Better Courses? Probably Yes, in Some Ways

Is it actually worth it, in terms of quality classroom learning, to land a place at an elite college or university? This is a question that many families with highly-talented students ask themselves. If their answer is yes, the result is likely to be a concerted, frenzied effort to mold the students in a way that gives them at least a modest chance of admission to such schools. (Of course, for better or worse, the question is often framed as “Is it worth it, in terms of career success, to land a place…”).

Regarding the differences in the quality of classes among all levels of institutions, new research provides some insights. The researchers lean toward minimizing the relationship between academic prestige and quality of instruction–but it appears that some of their own research suggests just the opposite.

In an article titled Are Elite College Courses Better?, Doug Lederman, editor and co-founder of Inside Higher Ed, provides an excellent, mostly neutral summary of the recent research that suggests course quality in a relatively broad range of institutions does not vary as much as the prestige of a given school might suggest.

“Researchers at Teachers College of Columbia University and at Yeshiva University… believe they are developing a legitimate way to compare the educational quality of courses across institutions,” Lederman writes, “and their initial analysis, they say, ‘raises questions about the value of higher-prestige institutions in terms of their teaching quality.'”

The researchers suggest that the drive to enhance prestige based on rankings and selectivity have led to “signaling”–branding, perceptions–that are increasingly divorced from the actual quality of classroom instruction. The laudable aim of the researchers is to turn the conversation away from college rankings and the metrics that drive them, and toward measurements of effective, challenging instruction.

Trained faculty observers visited nine colleges and 600 classes. Three of the nine had high prestige; two had minimum prestige; and four had low prestige. The schools were both public and private, with differing research and teaching emphases. We should note that there was no list of which schools were in each category, so we do not know exactly how the researchers defined “elite.” It appears likely, however, that many leading public research universities would be considered elite.

“Teaching quality was defined as instruction that displayed the instructor’s subject matter knowledge, drew out students’ prior knowledge and prodded students to wrestle with new ideas, while academic rigor was judged on the ‘cognitive complexity’ and the ‘level of standards and expectations’ of the course work,” Lederman writes.

“But they found that on only one of the five measures, cognitive complexity of the course work, did the elite colleges in the study outperform the non-elite institutions.”

First, we note that highly-qualified honors students at almost all colleges, including many less prestigious public universities, are far more likely to encounter more “cognitive complexity” in their honors courses. Whether this results from having more depth or breadth in actual assignments, from taking harder courses early on, or from engaging in more challenging interactions with similarly smart students and the best faculty, the learning experience in honors embraces complexity.

We also have to agree with one of the longest and most thoughtful comments posted on Lederman’s article, by one “catorenasci”:

“Well, is [more cognitive complexity] a surprise to anyone? After all…on average the students at elite colleges and universities (private or public) have demonstrated higher cognitive ability than the students at less prestigious colleges and universities. Which means that the faculty can teach at a level of greater cognitive complexity without losing (many) students.”

The full comment from “catorenasci” also seems to be on the mark when it comes to improved instruction in all other measured areas on the part of colleges with less prestige, regardless of honors affiliation.

“As for the level of ‘teaching quality’ based on faculty knowledge, given the job market today, it should hardly be surprising that it has equaled out since there are many top quality candidates for even less prestigious positions and overall, I would suspect that the ‘quality’ of the PhD’s of faculty at less elite schools is much closer to that of elite schools than it was during the ’50s and ’60s when higher education was expanding rapidly and jobs were plentiful.

“The transformational aspect should not be surprising either: assuming faculty are competent and dedicated, with less able students they will work harder to draw out what they know and build on it. And, it will be more likely that students will experience significant growth as the faculty do this.”

Ah, the Choices–Private Elite, Liberal Arts, Public Honors: One Family’s Story

Editor’s Note: This article comes from Jason Rose, an Illinois attorney with two extremely bright children, one now a freshman and the other a high school senior. What Jason has to say is especially relevant to families with highly-qualified students and with incomes that leave them in the infamous “donut hole” when it comes to financial aid. What to do when that elite college waitlist notice arrives, or even a rejection or two, despite a 34 ACT and 4.7 HSGPA?

As many parents know, this is the range when anything can happen: your child could do well at any university in the English-speaking world, but the capricious nature of elite admissions today makes acceptance unlikely for all but a fortunate few. Jason’s family’s story also provides an insightful look into the ways the winnowing process works–what students think they want is likely to change, especially with the all-important college visits. And the money–it’s hard to know what you’re willing to pay until that coveted acceptance doesn’t come with much, or any, aid. Now for Jason’s story…

My family in a nutshell: I am a 49 year old husband and parent of two teenagers: an 18-year-old daughter, Tori, (currently a freshman at a college to be named at the end of this article) and a 17-year-old son, Jake, (currently a high school senior).

Our goals: Helping guide Tori and Jake through the college admissions process without driving them, my wife, or myself crazy. Figuring out a way to make college relatively affordable. Figuring out what’s important and what’s NOT. In other words, what to sweat and what to let slide.

Tori (in a nutshell): While excelling in debate and orchestra in high school, Tori is a natural writer, researcher, and future politician. Voted most opinionated by her classmates, Tori is not interested in partying, at least not yet anyway. Although at times anxious, Tori is warm and friendly with those whom she is comfortable with. An eager learner who is well liked by her teachers, perhaps a future lawyer, professor or political wonk. For now, a likely English or Political Science major.

Issues: Attending a powerhouse public high school in an affluent suburb in northern Illinois, observers can almost believe that every student is a superstar (either academically, athletically, or in extra-curriculars) and that every family has a money tree in their backyard. While ideal in some respects, this sort of enriched environment often makes parents and their children a bit neurotic and ultra-competitive.

The Plan: Panic. No, just kidding. Read and research every admissions book and blog, every well known website, and every major college ranking service. My favorite websites were Niche, College Confidential, and Public University Honors. My favorite book about the various colleges was the venerable Fiske Guide to Colleges, which does an excellent job of going beyond the numbers and provides the reader with a feel for over 350 colleges. Later, during Tori’s senior year, I discovered the recently published book, A Review of Fifty Public University Honors Programs, which is the definitive book in the industry regarding the strengths of the various honors programs.

Junior Year: We visited many schools during Tori’s junior year so that we could get a feel for them all. During the visits, we quickly realized that each school has its own distinctive personality. During her junior year, Tori took the ACT multiple times, since we knew that an additional point could make the difference between getting in and getting rejected by a top school (or of getting scholarship money or not). By the end of her junior year, Tori had scored a 34 on her ACT and was sitting with a 4.7 weighted Grade Point Average, making her a very attractive candidate for most schools.

But without a hook (meaning that Tori was neither an athlete nor a legacy nor an underrepresented minority), we knew that entrance into the elite private schools was no sure thing. And even if Tori were to be accepted into a top private school, we were still not sure whether that was the best way to go.

As a quirky, intellectual type, Tori initially thought she would prefer a liberal arts school where she would benefit from close interaction with dedicated professors, small class sizes and a nurturing administration. We started by touring several fabulous liberal arts colleges on the east coast and in the Midwest, including Wellesley, Brandeis, Wesleyan, Carleton and Macalester; a few popular midsized schools (Boston University, Tulane University); and a few elite academic powerhouses (Yale, Brown, Northwestern University, University of Chicago).

What we learned during each visit is that each school had a distinct personality. Sometimes it came from the way the students interacted with each other or from the way the admissions officers would go through their spiels. Wherever it came from, it was palpable, something you could just feel.

But a funny thing happened during our search….after 5 or 10 visits, Tori realized that she was attracted to colleges in major cities. This was a major monkey in the wrench, since most of schools in major cities were typically larger, research powerhouses, while many of the best liberal arts colleges were in idyllic small towns, often far from any major city.

Senior Year (First Semester): By the beginning of Tori’s senior year, we thought that we were well prepared for the year ahead and the upcoming admissions process. At this point, Tori’s college list was in serious transition. Several colleges in major cities were added (welcome University of Minnesota, University of Pittsburgh, University of Texas at Austin, Rice University, Washington University at St.Louis and Emory University, among others) while the original target liberal arts colleges, which had at first appeared to be a wonderful fit, dropped out of the picture one by one. With the inclusion of several larger public schools, I began to look into the honors programs at Texas-Austin, Minnesota and Boston University.

Fortunately, two of the public schools on Tori’s list (Minnesota and Pittsburgh) had rolling admissions, which meant that Tori would receive acceptances from these schools in a matter of weeks. Knowing that Tori had acceptances from two very good schools early in the process (with scholarships from both schools) reduced the collective stress somewhat.

Meanwhile, I created color-coded charts listing the various application and scholarship deadlines and Tori got to work on her common application essay and the various mini-essays which the various colleges would require. By the end of the 2014, Tori had applied to twelve colleges, more than most students but not an extreme number, at least from our perspective. In our case, the number was appropriate since Tori was applying to several elite colleges with shrinking accepting rates and because Tori was not yet willing to limit herself to just one area of the country.

The net was also relatively wide since we had still not talked much as a family about exactly how much money had been saved and how much money might have to be borrowed in the future. Admittedly, the matter of how to fund college for two students was something that probably should have been discussed much earlier in the process.

Senior Year (Second Semester): Tori applied to one school early action, Yale. Deferred…which meant that we would not know until the end of March whether she would be admitted to Yale and the other elite schools that she applied to. While some students already had acceptances in hand to their dream schools, we could tell that Tori’s second semester would be stressful as we awaited decisions from most of the schools that she applied to.

The various reactions to Tori’s deferral from Yale were particularly interesting. In some cases, people would ask us “Is Tori o.k?”, sensing that Tori might be disappointed by the deferral and knowing that the odds for Tori to get in were not great. Others, however, would get excited and say “that’s amazing,” knowing that the Ivy league was just a pipe dream for most students and that most students would not have the grades and test scores to even contemplate attending an Ivy league school.

By February and March, the results started to roll in. Tori would eventually be accepted by 9 of the 12 schools that she applied to, with one school offering her a spot on the waitlist and two Ivy league schools (Yale and Brown) rejecting her. The schools that accepted Tori ran the geographic gamut, in the Midwest, South and along the eastern seaboard. Several of the schools were excellent public research universities (Texas, Minnesota, Pittsburgh), but Tori also was accepted into several smaller elite private schools, including Rice, Emory, Tulane, Washington University (“WUSTL”) and Boston University.

Decision Time: During our visit last fall to St. Louis, Tori had fallen in love with WUSTL, and when she was accepted, Tori was starting to see herself as spending her next four years there. But when the various financial aid packages came rolling in, we were quickly seeing that our family fell into the so-called donut (where families are relatively well off but not so wealthy that they could afford to pay $50,000-65,000 per year to have their child attend college). Some of these schools in fact were willing to work with us, but reductions of $5,000-10,000/year (while certainly substantial) only made a dent on the four year cost of an education.

Meanwhile, a weekend trip to Texas (to see Texas-Austin and Rice) was changing the list of favorites. In particular, Tori became enamored during her Texas trip not only with the city of Austin but also with UT’s Plan II Honors Program, which was widely regarded as being one of the very best honors programs in the country. The venerable but outstanding Fiske Guide to Colleges had touted Plan II as being one of the nation’s most renowned programs and also one of the best values in the country…at least for students in Texas who would pay in-state tuition. Additionally, A Review of Fifty Public University Honors Programs had also listed Plan II as being one of the very best honors programs in the country. But would out-of-state tuition push UT-Austin into the group with some of the other excellent, but ultimately unaffordable options.

At this point, the focus went towards some of the schools that had offered Tori sizable scholarships, most notably Tulane and Pittsburgh. Another trip to New Orleans impressed but did not lead to a commitment. This would be a decision that would go down to the wire.

The Decision: With May Day soon approaching, Tori decided that she wanted to go to Austin and that she wanted to take advantage of Plan II’s interdisciplinary curriculum. This, frankly, was a bit of a shocker because Tori is more of an intellectual than a sports fan. Most people who knew her expected Tori to select a smaller school, not a major research university with 50,000 students known at least somewhat for its prowess in the various major sports. At this point, we reached out to Texas to see if there was any possibility of receiving a Non-Resident Tuition Exemption (“NRTE”). NRTEs are in short supply at Texas-Austin, but most of the various departments at UT (Engineering, Business, Plan II) have a limited number of NRTE each year. In this case, we explained that while Tori would love to attend Texas-Austin, an NRTE would be needed to turn this dream into a reality.

Just days before May Day, we received the word from UT-Austin: Tori would be extended a small scholarship, which would be linked to an NRTE. Tori would be heading to Austin, Texas.

The Aftermath: So how’s it going so far? Two months into the school year, Tori is making new friends, enjoying her new environment, the honors dormitories at UT, and the improved climate–and excelling in the classroom. There will certainly be stressful days ahead and obstacles to overcome but at this point it looks like Tori absolutely made the right decision for herself. But I can’t spend too much time mulling over the past year: our second child, Jake, is now a high school senior and so we are going over a new set of options with a new set of decisions to be made.

Best Colleges for Pell Grant Support and High Grad Rates for Recipients

The New York Times, in its “Upshot” feature, has analyzed for the second consecutive year data for some 179 colleges and universities to determine the “economic diversity” of the institutions. What this boils down to is a scoring mechanism that ranks the schools according to the percentage of freshmen who receive Pell Grants and graduate. The grants typically go to students with a family income of $70,000 or less.

Note: Two tables are listed below, the first for public universities and the second for private schools.

The review of access data is also useful for families whose income is greater than 70k. To be included in the analysis and ranking, each school had to have a 2014 five-year grad rate of 75% or more. This information in itself is a handy way to group these schools by grad rate.

Other data elements stand out: only 32 public institutions made the list because of the grad rate threshold, while 147 private schools are on the list. This, too, is useful, but the story is more involved that these figures suggest. The 32 public schools actually have more Pell Grant recipient/graduates (26,690) than the 147 private schools (20,192). The average percentage of freshmen with Pell Grants in the public universities is 17%; for the private schools, 14% of freshmen are recipients.

Publics have lower average net cost for Pell Grant recipients, $16,250 versus $19,986.

One more interesting element is that the amount of endowment per student is far less for public universities. UC Irvine, ranked number 1 in the analysis, has an endowment per student of $11,000; for Princeton, ranked number 18 in economic access, the endowment per student is $2,320,000. It is common for the per student endowment for publics to be only 5-15 percent of that for wealthy private colleges. Nevertheless, the publics do somewhat better relative to private schools in providing economic access. The link to the New York Times report lists the endowment figures for each school.

RankPublic College or UniversityFreshmenPell %Total PellNet Price
1University of California-Irvine54490.42179.613000
2University of California-Davis50630.311569.5314000
3University of California-Santa Barbara45970.311425.0714000
4University of California-San Diego52180.281461.0413000
5University of California-Los Angeles56840.281591.5213000
6University of Florida63480.241523.529000
7University of California-Berkeley46770.231075.7113000
24University of Georgia52190.17887.2313000
27Rutgers-New Brunswick63930.231470.3920000
29Texas A&M-College Station90300.171535.114000
35SUNY at Binghamton25850.251718000
40University of Texas at Austin71180.171210.0617000
48University of Michigan61760.12741.1212000
49University of Illinois73210.171244.5718000
54Georgia Tech-Main Campus26690.11293.5911000
59University of Vermont24830.13322.7915000
65Ohio State-Main Campus71210.151068.1517000
71Clemson32860.11361.4614000
75University of New Hampshire28690.18516.4222000
77College of William and Mary14790.09133.1111000
79University of Maryland40110.12481.3215000
87University of Connecticut37410.14523.7418000
91SUNY at Geneseo11280.13146.6418000
94University of Delaware42100.11463.115000
102University of Virginia35160.11386.7616000
113Virginia Tech53600.12643.218000
114James Madison41990.1419.916000
116University of Wisconsin-Madison63230.1632.316000
118The College of New Jersey14020.14196.2822000
148University of Pittsburgh38510.12462.1226000
152Penn State-Main Campus80050.11880.5525000
157Miami University-Oxford36370.09327.3324000
Totals0.17834.06937516250
RankPrivate College or UniversityFreshmenPell %StudentsNet Price
8Vassar6620.22145.6412000
9Amherst4660.293.211000
10Pomona3960.1871.289000
11Harvard16580.15248.77000
12Westminster, Pa.3020.2781.5421000
14Knox3800.2491.219000
15Davidson4830.1467.627000
17M.I.T.11150.15167.259000
18Princeton12840.13166.927000
19Stanford16740.13217.627000
20Wellesley5900.17100.312000
21Columbia14760.15221.49000
22Brown15420.16246.7211000
23Williams5440.1581.610000
25Moody Bible Institute4140.2499.3621000
26Yale13580.12162.968000
28Rice9760.14136.6411000
30Barnard5760.18103.6815000
31Grinnell4230.1980.3716000
32Occidental5480.1898.6415000
33Gustavus Adolphus6100.21128.119000
34Vanderbilt16130.12193.569000
36Haverford3300.1549.513000
37Hamilton4910.1678.5614000
38Wesleyan7410.17125.9716000
39U. Penn.23530.14329.4213000
41St. Mary’s, Md.3830.1661.2815000
42College of Saint Benedict5380.2107.621000
43Duke17300.12207.612000
44Claremont McKenna3370.1240.4411000
45Middlebury6250.1381.2513000
46Wheaton, Ill.5970.17101.4918000
47Allegheny6010.2120.222000
50Clark6140.18110.5220000
51Bowdoin4970.1259.6412000
52Macalester5550.1583.2516000
53Franklin and Marshall6040.1696.6417000
55Dartmouth11090.12133.0812000
56Swarthmore3880.1454.3216000
57Saint John’s4970.1784.4919000
58Smith6430.16102.8818000
60Brandeis8330.17141.6119000
61Augustana6270.17106.5919000
62Hope8220.16131.5219000
63St. Olaf7520.15112.817000
64Washington and Lee4800.0943.210000
66University of Richmond8050.13104.6515000
67Yeshiva8600.16137.619000
68Colby4830.0943.4711000
69Kalamazoo4530.1672.4819000
70Wofford4150.1666.419000
71Clemson32860.11361.4614000
72Northwestern20400.13265.216000
73Cornell32230.14451.2217000
74Denison5820.1587.318000
76Sewanee4880.1468.3218000
78Juniata3910.1766.4721000
80University of Rochester14720.16235.5220000
81University of Chicago14260.1142.613000
82Reed3540.1553.119000
83Emory18530.18333.5422000
84Colgate7590.175.913000
85USC29200.17496.421000
86Mount Holyoke5110.1471.5418000
88Georgetown15930.12191.1616000
89Lawrence3920.1766.6422000
90Syracuse34760.19660.4425000
92DePauw6410.1596.1519000
93Ursinus4250.1876.523000
95Johns Hopkins13900.12166.816000
96St. Lawrence Univ.6290.16100.6422000
97College of the Holy Cross7190.15107.8521000
98Bryn Mawr3650.1347.4518000
99Skidmore6600.1385.818000
100Elizabethtown5300.1684.822000
101Siena College7660.19145.5426000
103Illinois Wesleyan5270.1684.3222000
104Carleton5270.1157.9716000
105Notre Dame20700.120716000
106Washington & Jefferson3260.1755.4223000
107Luther6270.16100.3222000
108Trinity, Conn.6040.160.415000
109Bates5000.094514000
110Messiah6480.16103.6823000
111Pepperdine7830.15117.4522000
112Lehigh11980.13155.7419000
115Connecticut College4890.1258.6819000
117Trinity University, Tex.5340.1264.0819000
119Stonehill6100.1591.523000
120Kenyon4800.0943.216000
121Colorado College5220.152.218000
122Willamette5450.1792.6526000
123Tufts13070.1130.718000
124Wheaton, Mass.4580.1673.2825000
125Gettysburg7030.1284.3620000
126Babson4890.1573.3524000
127University of Portland8350.16133.626000
128Stevens Institute of Tech6220.1699.5226000
129Bentley9740.13126.6222000
130Case Western12520.15187.825000
131Creighton9630.13125.1924000
132Oberlin7800.0862.419000
133Lafayette6350.0957.1519000
134Hobart William Smith6380.1276.5623000
135Centre3770.1349.0124000
136Washington Univ St. Louis15950.07111.6517000
137Dickinson6260.0956.3420000
138Muhlenberg5790.157.921000
139Boston College23050.11253.5523000
140Fairfield9630.11105.9322000
141Union College5590.1267.0824000
142University of Scranton8780.14122.9227000
143Rhodes5450.1159.9523000
144Wake Forest12300.11135.323000
145Loyola University, Maryland10960.12131.5224000
146Villanova16590.12199.0824000
147American16230.14227.2228000
149Gonzaga12380.13160.9427000
150Marquette19890.13258.5727000
151George Washington23480.1234.823000
153Whitman3920.0935.2823000
154Carnegie Mellon14420.11158.6225000
155University of Denver13990.12167.8827000
156N.Y.U.51680.18930.2434000
158Boston University38070.12456.8427000
159Ithaca17890.14250.4630000
160Bucknell9330.0874.6423000
161Furman7550.175.526000
162Santa Clara12910.11142.0127000
163R.P.I.14110.14197.5430000
164Fordham19440.14272.1631000
165Northeastern28910.1289.126000
166Providence10270.1102.727000
167University of Miami21150.12253.829000
168Bryant8900.13115.732000
169Quinnipiac17950.12215.431000
170Marist11490.11126.3929000
171Southern Methodist14280.09128.5227000
172University of Dayton17650.08141.227000
173Worcester Polytechnic Inst11030.11121.3331000
174Emerson8620.12103.4433000
175Rhode Island School of Design4550.1568.2536000
176Elon14750.07103.2528000
177Texas Christian19350.06116.127000
178University of Puget Sound6700.1173.733000
179Saint Joseph’s, Pa.12720.0789.0430000
Totals0.1420192.0819986

Payscale 2015-2016: Early Career Salaries, by University, Grad and Professional Degrees

The latest PayScale report contains a lot of extremely useful information about salaries of college grads.  But the list below, with more than 250 rows,  shows the early career pay, by graduate degree and institution because so many current and prospective honors students will end up pursuing graduate and professional degrees.

The salaries listed are for JD’s, MBA’s, Masters, and Ph.D.’s, with the last two degree types showing pay for degree holders working mostly in government and private industry. Many of these have earned Masters and Ph.D.’s in STEM disciplines.

Please note that several universities, public and private, have entries for all four categories above .

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Degree TypeUniversity and Professional SchoolEarly Pay
MBAMassachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) - Sloan School of Management131000
MBAUniversity of California, Berkeley - Haas School of Business123000
MBAYale University - School of Management123000
MBAWharton School of the University of Pennsylvania122000
MBAUniversity of Chicago - Booth School of Business122000
JDHarvard Law School118000
MBAStanford University Graduate School of Business118000
MBANorthwestern University - Kellogg Business School117000
MBAHarvard Business School114000
MBADartmouth College - Tuck School of Business111000
MBAUniversity of Virginia (UVA) - Darden School of Business111000
PhDStanford University111000
PhDMassachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT)105000
PhDCarnegie Mellon University (CMU)105000
MBAColumbia Business School104000
MBACornell University - Johnson Graduate School of Management (JGSM)104000
MBAUniversity of California at Los Angeles (UCLA) - Anderson School of Management103000
PhDHarvard University103000
MBADuke University - Fuqua School of Business102000
PhDUniversity of California - Santa Barbara (UCSB)102000
MBAUniversity of Notre Dame - Mendoza College of Business101000
PhDUniversity of California - Berkeley101000
MBAUniversity of Michigan - Stephen M. Ross School of Business100000
MBACarnegie Mellon University (CMU) - Tepper School100000
MBABabson College - F.W. Olin Graduate School of Business96900
PhDCalifornia Institute of Technology (Caltech)95600
MBAVanderbilt University - Business School94800
MBANew York University (NYU) Leonard N. Stern School of Business94700
MBAUniversity of Texas (UT) - Austin McCombs School of Business94600
PhDRensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI)94000
MBAGeorgetown University McDonough - School of Business93300
PhDUniversity of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (UIUC)93100
PhDPrinceton University92700
PhDGeorgia Institute of Technology92300
PhDCornell University - Ithaca, NY92000
JDUniversity of California - Hastings College of Law91700
MBAUniversity of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (UNC) - Kenan-Flagler Business School91600
PhDColumbia University90300
PhDUniversity of California - Los Angeles (UCLA)90200
Master'sUnited States Naval Postgraduate School89800
PhDPurdue University - Main Campus89500
PhDUniversity of California - Irvine (UCI)89500
PhDUniversity of Houston (UH)89400
PhDArizona State University (ASU)89200
MBAGeorgia Tech - College of Management88800
PhDUniversity of Massachusetts (UMass) - Amherst Campus88500
MBAUniversity of Southern California - Marshall School of Business88300
PhDUniversity of Michigan - Ann Arbor88100
PhDUniversity of California - Davis (UC Davis)87900
JDUniversity of Houston Law Center87400
MBAUniversity of Minnesota - Carlson School of Management86900
PhDUniversity of Texas (UT) - Austin86900
MBATexas Christian University (TCU) - Neeley School of Business86700
MBASanta Clara University - Leavey School of Business86600
PhDUniversity of Wisconsin (UW) - Madison86600
PhDUniversity of Minnesota - Twin Cities86100
MBABoston University - School of Management85900
PhDUniversity of Florida (UF)85900
MBAVillanova University - Villanova School of Business85800
MBABoston College - Wallace E. Carroll School of Management85500
PhDUniversity of California - San Diego (UCSD)85300
PhDJohns Hopkins University85200
MBAEmory University - Goizueta Business School85100
MBAUniversity of California Davis (UC Davis) - Graduate School of Management85000
PhDRice University84900
PhDUniversity of Rochester84700
MBAUniversity of Washington (UW) - Foster School of Business84200
MBABrigham Young University (BYU) - Marriott School of Business84100
PhDYale University84100
Master'sUniversity of Nebraska Medical Center83800
MBAWake Forest School of Business83800
Master'sStanford University83400
PhDPennsylvania State University (Penn State) - Main Campus83300
PhDUniversity of Southern California (USC)83200
PhDNorth Carolina State University (NCSU)82900
PhDVirginia Polytechnic Institute and State University (Virginia Tech)82500
MBAUniversity of California Irvine (UCI) - Paul Merage School of Business82400
PhDTexas A&M University - Main Campus82400
PhDUniversity of Utah82300
PhDUniversity of Maryland - College Park82100
PhDDuke University82100
MBASouthern Methodist University (SMU) - Cox School of Business81900
PhDUniversity of Colorado - Boulder (CU)81900
PhDMichigan State University (MSU)81900
MBAUniversity of California San Diego (UCSD) - Rady School of Management81700
PhDOhio State University (OSU) - Main Campus81600
JDGeorgetown University Law Center81500
JDSanta Clara University School of Law81300
MBAOhio State University (OSU) - Fisher College of Business81100
Master'sCarnegie Mellon University (CMU)81000
JDUniversity of Texas at Austin School of Law80900
Master'sMassachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT)80900
PhDUniversity of Virginia (UVA) - Main Campus80900
PhDUniversity of Notre Dame80700
MBAUniversity of Connecticut (Uconn) - School of Business80600
PhDUniversity of Central Florida (UCF)80600
MBAThunderbird, The American Graduate School of International Management80500
PhDUniversity of Pennsylvania80400
JDUniversity of California at Los Angeles (UCLA) - College of Law80300
PhDUniversity of Pittsburgh - Main Campus80200
JDBrooklyn Law School80100
MBAKelley School of Business, Indiana University80000
MBAUniversity of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (UIUC) College of Business80000
Master'sSanta Clara University79700
MBAUniversity of Maryland - Robert H. Smith School of Business79700
PhDAuburn University79500
PhDBoston University79400
MBAGeorge Washington University (GWU) - School of Business79200
MBAThe University of Iowa - Henry B. Tippie College of Business79200
PhDUniversity of Washington (UW) - Main Campus79000
MBATulane University - A.B. Freeman School of Business78700
Master'sSan Jose State University (SJSU)78500
PhDUniversity of Arizona78300
PhDUniversity of Illinois at Chicago78300
PhDIndiana University (IU) - Bloomington78200
MBAPepperdine University - Graziadio School of Business and Management77900
JDPepperdine University School of Law77700
MBABentley University - McCallum Graduate School of Business77600
JDGeorge Washington University Law School77100
PhDUniversity of Tennessee77100
JDBoston University School of Law76800
MBAUniversity of Wisconsin (UW) - Madison School of Business76800
PhDIowa State University76800
MBAUniversity of Pittsburgh - Katz Graduate School of Business76600
PhDWashington State University (WSU)76600
JDMcGeorge School of Law76300
PhDClarkson University - Potsdam, NY76300
JDUniversity of Southern California Law Center and Law Library76200
JDFordham University School of Law76200
Master'sKettering University76200
MBAVirginia Commonwealth School of Business76000
PhDUniversity of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (UNC)75800
MBAWashington University - Olin Business School75600
JDSouthern Methodist University School of Law75500
MBAUniversity of Rochester - Simon School of Business75100
Master'sUniversity of South Alabama75000
JDUniversity of California at Berkeley School of Law74900
PhDRutgers University - New Brunswick Campus74800
MBAFordham University - Gabelli School of Business74700
MBAThe College of William and Mary - Mason School of Business74700
JDUniversity of Miami School of Law74600
Master'sCornell University - Ithaca, NY74500
PhDUniversity of Connecticut (UConn) - Main Campus74500
JDUniversity of Washington (UW) School of Law74000
MBARutgers Business School74000
MBAPurdue University - Krannert School of Management73900
Master'sGeorgia Institute of Technology73800
MBAUniversity of Delaware - Alfred Lerner College of Business and Economics73800
JDSt. John's University School of Law, New York73700
MBANortheastern University - D'Amore-McKim School of Business73400
JDSeton Hall University School of Law73300
MBAMichigan State University - Broad College of Business73300
MBACUNY Bernard M Baruch College - Zicklin School of Business73200
JDUniversity of San Diego (USD) School of Law73100
Master'sStevens Institute of Technology73000
MBALehigh University College of Business and Economics72900
JDEmory University School of Law72700
MBAUniversity of Arizona - Eller College of Management72400
MBAPennsylvania State University (PSU) - Smeal College of Business72300
MBASuffolk University - Sawyer School of Management72100
Master'sRochester Institute of Technology (RIT)71900
MBAArizona State University (ASU) - W. P. Carey School of Business71900
MBAUniversity of Massachusetts (UMass) - Boston Campus71900
MBALoyola Marymount College of Business Administration71800
PhDNorthwestern University71700
MBAJohns Hopkins University - Carey Business School71400
PhDVanderbilt University71300
JDLoyola Law School71200
Master'sWorcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI)71100
JDUniversity of North Carolina (UNC) School of Law71000
MBAGeorge Mason University - School of Management71000
MBAUniversity of Colorado Boulder (UCB) - Leeds School of Business70900
MBAUniversity of Arkansas - Sam M. Walton College of Business70900
JDUniversity of Illinois College of Law70700
Master'sPurdue University - Main Campus70700
MBAOklahoma State University (OSU) - Spears School of Business70700
MBACase Western Reserve University - Weatherhead School of Management70600
MBAUniversity of Miami School of Business (Florida)70500
MBAUniversity of Georgia (UGA) - Terry College of Business70500
Master'sManhattan College70400
Master'sNYU Polytechnic School of Engineering70200
Master'sUniversity of California - Berkeley70100
Master'sMissouri University of Science and Technology (S&T)70000
MBAAmerican University - Kogod School of Business70000
Master'sEmbry-Riddle Aeronautical University (ERAU) - Daytona Beach, FL69900
MBAUniversity of Texas at Dallas - Naveen Jindal School of Management69900
MBAClarkson University - Clarkson School of Business69700
MBAUniversity of Houston (UH) - C.T. Bauer College of Business69600
PhDColorado State University (CSU)69400
Master'sUniversity of Texas at Dallas69300
MBATexas State University - San Marcos Campus69200
Master'sMedical University of South Carolina69100
MBAUniversity of Florida (UF) - Warrington College of Business69100
JDSeattle University School of Law68900
JDUniversity of Connecticut (UConn) School of Law68700
MBADuquesne University - A.J. Palumbo School of Bus Admin and John F. Donahue Grad School of Bus68700
JDDetroit College of Law at Michigan State University68600
MBADrexel University - Bennett S. LeBow College of Business68600
Master'sMichigan Technological University68500
MBATexas A&M University - Mays Business School68500
MBAUniversity of South Carolina - Darla Moore School of Business68400
JDAmerican University Washington College of Law68300
MBAUniversity of St. Thomas - Opus College of Business68300
Master'sColorado School of Mines68200
Master'sGannon University68200
Master'sUniversity of California - Irvine (UCI)67900
Master'sVanderbilt University67900
MBASan Francisco State University (SFSU) - College of Business67900
MBAClemson University - College of Business and Behavioral Science67800
Master'sPrinceton University67700
Master'sLehigh University67700
Master'sUniversity of Michigan - Dearborn Campus67700
Master'sTufts University67700
Master'sIllinois Institute of Technology (IIT)67500
MBASan Jose State University (SJSU) - College of Business, and Lucas Graduate School of Business67500
JDUniversity of Florida (UF) Levin College of Law67400
Master'sUniversity of Southern California (USC)67400
Master'sPennsylvania State University (Penn State) - Great Valley Campus67400
JDTemple University School of Law67300
Master'sRensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI)67300
Master'sCalifornia Polytechnic State University (CalPoly) - San Luis Obispo67300
Master'sClarkson University - Potsdam, NY67200
Master'sUniversity of Colorado at Colorado Springs67200
MBAWayne State University - Detroit, MI67100
Master'sUniversity of Alabama - Huntsville Campus67000
Master'sTexas A&M University - Main Campus67000
MBAUniversity of New Haven67000
MBADePaul University - Kellstadt Graduate School of Business66900
Master'sNortheastern University66800
MBAOakland University - Rochester Hills, MI66700
MBAWestminster College - Salt Lake City, UT66700
JDUniversity of Minnesota Law School66600
MBAUniversity of Kansas - School of Business66500
JDUniversity of Denver College of Law66400
Master'sNew Jersey Institute of Technology (NJIT)66400
PhDFlorida State University (FSU)66400
Master'sUniversity of California - San Diego (UCSD)66300
Master'sIdaho State University (ISU)66200
MBASan Diego State University (SDSU) - College of Business Administration66200
MBASt. Xavier University66200
JDNew England School of Law66100
Master'sDuke University66100
Master'sBowie State University (BSU)66100
JDTulane Law School65700
MBATemple University - Fox School of Business and Management65700
MBAUniversity of Utah - David Eccles School of Business65600
Master'sJohns Hopkins University65500
Master'sUniversity of Colorado - Boulder (CU)65500
Master'sNorth Carolina State University (NCSU)65500
MBASUNY Albany - School of Business65500
JDJohn Marshall Law School - Chicago, IL65400
Master'sUniversity of California - Santa Barbara (UCSB)65400
Master'sUniversity of Houston (UH)65400
Master'sPhiladelphia University65300
JDCalifornia Western School of Law65200
Master'sUniversity of Massachusetts (UMass) - Lowell Campus65200
MBAFlorida State University (FSU) - College of Business65200
MBAGeorgia State University - J. Mack Robinson College of Business65100
MBASeattle University - Albers School of Business and Economics65100
Master'sBentley University65000
Master'sPurdue University - Calumet Campus65000
MBACalifornia State University East Bay (CSUEB) - College of Business and Economics65000
MBALoyola University of Chicago - Quinlan School of Business65000
MBAUniversity of Denver - Business School65000
>

 

Honors News: August 13, 2015

Have you ever notice that the Academic Reputation scores in the U.S News Best Colleges ranking can be very high for several public universities although their overall ranking is much lower than other schools with less stellar reputations?

Of course, there can be good reasons for this discrepancy: larger class sizes in public universities, lower graduation rates, etc. But…honors colleges and programs within the larger institutions offset the negatives and offer their students opportunities to take advantage of the factors contributing to the strong academic reputations.

First, these are factors to consider if the state university’s academic reputation is much stronger than its overall ranking:

1.  The overall rankings penalize public universities for their typically larger class sizes, but the average class size in the 50 major honors programs we track is only 21.2 students, much smaller than the average class size for the universities as a whole.  Most of these honors classes are lower-division, where the preponderance of large classes is the norm.  Result:  the relatively poor rating the whole university might receive for class size is offset for honors students.

2.  The overall rankings hit some public universities hard for having relatively low retention and graduation percentages, but freshmen retention rates in honors programs are in the 90% range and higher; meanwhile six-year grad rates for honors entrants average 89%–much higher than the average rates for the universities as a whole.  Result: the lower rates for the universities as a whole are offset for honors students.

3.  All public universities suffer in the overall rankings because U.S. News assigns ranking points for both the wealth of the university as a whole and for the impact that wealth has on professors’ salaries, smaller class sizes, etc.  This is a double whammy in its consideration of inputs and outputs separately; only the outputs should be rated.  Result: the outputs for class size (see above) are offset for honors students, and the wealth of the university as an input should not be considered in the first place.

4.  For highly-qualified students interested in graduate or professional school, academic reputation and the ability to work with outstanding research faculty are big advantages. Honors students have enhanced opportunities to work with outstanding faculty members even in large research universities, many of which are likely to have strong departmental rankings in the student’s subject area.  Result: honors students are not penalized for the research focus of public research universities; instead, they benefit from it.

5.  Many wealthy private elites are generous in funding all, or most, need-based aid, but increasingly offer little or no merit aid.  This means that families might receive all the need-based aid they “deserve” according to a federal or institutional calculation and still face annual college costs of $16,000 to $50,000.  On the other hand, national scholars and other highly-qualified students can still receive significant merit aid at most public universities.  Result: if a public university has an academic reputation equal to that of a wealthy private elite, an honors student could be better off financially and not suffer academically in a public honors program.

But…what if the academic reputation of the public university is lower than that of a private school under consideration?   In this case, the public honors option should offer the following offsets:

1. The net cost advantage of the public university, including merit aid, probably needs to be significant.

2.  It is extremely important to evaluate the specific components of the honors program to determine if it provides a major “value-added” advantage–is it, relatively, better than the university as a whole.  Typically, the answer will be yes.  To determine how much better, look at the academic disciplines covered by the honors program, the actual class sizes, retention and graduation rates, research opportunities, and even honors housing and perks, such as priority registration.

Honors News is a regular (not always daily) update, in brief, of recent news from honors colleges/programs and from the world of higher ed. Occasionally, a bit of opinion enters the discussion. These brief posts are by John Willingham, unless otherwise noted.

How Much Should Public Universities Spend on Merit Aid?

Critics claim that public universities spend far too much on merit aid at a time when the focus should be on providing more need-based assistance, but the uses of merit aid are many, as are the reasons that drive the aid decisions at individual institutions.

The main problem for leading institutions, especially, is how to balance quality, access, state interests (including revenue), and public perception. In general, the most vocal critics of merit aid believe that access should trump all the other factors.

Two recent examples of that criticism come from the New America Foundation: Colleges’ Pursuit of Prestige and Revenue Is Hurting Low-Income Students and The Out of State Student Arms Race, both by analyst Stephen Burd.

First of all, some of the arguments in these and other reports are valid. For one thing, there is no doubt that the U.S. News rankings drive many colleges to spend money on generating better metrics, especially those related to test scores, selectivity, and student/faculty ratios. Some schools have become proficient in gaming the system.

The U.S. News methodology currently gives a combined weight of 9.25% to test scores and selection ratios. The use of the latter should be scrapped, given the increased use of the Common App and marketing geared to ramping up applications just for the sake of lowering acceptance ratios. (As for test scores, there are ways that colleges can game that metric as well.) The methodology also assigns a weight of 22.5% to multiple financial metrics that also pressure colleges to raise and spend more money.

State budget cuts and rising costs for instruction, research, and administration have also led to the need for more revenue. Just how much of the additional revenue is actually necessary for improved instruction is a matter of contention. (See for example Baumol’s Cost Disease and The Bowen Effect.) The combined effects of state disinvestment and the obsession with prestige and rankings have undoubtedly led to the intense focus on increasing revenues.

Yet after granting the critics a fair measure of credit, we come back to the four main factors that affect the allocation of merit aid, discussed below. And here’s a proposed standard for balancing the factors: If merit aid is denied to highly qualified, low-income students who are residents of the state, and goes instead to out-of-state students whose qualifications are about the same or less, then the merit aid is being used excessively for revenue purposes.

Quality–As noted elsewhere on this blog, the elite colleges and universities in this country, almost all of them private, simply do not have enough slots for the top 8-10% of students, based on test scores. Most of the highly talented students who are not accepted by elite private colleges will end up at public universities. Those public universities that allocate funds to support smaller classes and undergraduate research for talented students through honors programs, along with merit aid, are not only spending money to recruit students with higher test scores in order to enhance their prestige; they are also filling a real need by providing more slots for talented students. In addition, many are trying to keep talented students in state rather than seeing them leave, never to return. All too often, critics of public university spending ignore these needs.

Access–The relationship of merit aid to greater access for lower-income students is complex. Rankings and prestige have an impact on merit aid allocations, but that impact is not always what the critics see.

Some elite public universities (UC Berkeley, Michigan) offer higher percentages of merit aid than other public universities that are excellent but not so elite (although the average amounts of merit aid from Berkeley and Michigan are not especially large.) Why? The competition for UC Berkeley and Michigan includes many private elite schools, and sometimes even modest merit aid can be the deciding factor. Private universities such as Chicago, Northwestern, and Rice also offer significant merit aid, and do so to compete with the Ivies, Stanford, etc., who are so much in demand that they don’t have to offer non-need-based aid.

The University of Virginia and the University of North Carolina also compete effectively against private elites, but they have chosen to provide very limited merit aid.

For public universities at the next level, Washington, Illinois, UT Austin, Wisconsin, the competition is often with other publics, and they more than hold their own. Partly as a result of being in high demand regardless of aid, UT Austin has one of the highest enrollments of Pell Grant students and offers little in the way of merit aid.

But when it comes to public universities with lesser reputations than those listed above, the balance between aid for quality or aid for access may tip too far toward quality, sometimes with an eye on improving rankings and revenue. New America singles out the University of Alabama and the University of South Carolina for criticism. How much of this criticism is valid?

State Interests/Revenue–The state of South Carolina now funds only 10 percent of the cost of education at the flagship university. Moreover, the number of college-age students in the state is declining. New America criticizes the University of South Carolina for awarding too much merit aid to out-of-state students, who still end up providing more revenue out of pocket than in-state students, and also help to sustain enrollment levels.

If the university allocated most or almost all of its aid to need-based students within the state, the revenue would drop dramatically and the expense per student would rise. The university would probably be unable to support its excellent honors college; for that matter, the university would eventually be unable to serve as many students period. So even if the state legislature undervalues higher education, the university and many citizens believe it is in the interest of the state to increase the number of college graduates (and their families) over the long haul, and not diminish the university in the process.

Is the percentage of non-resident freshmen (45%) too high, and the merit aid they receive too much? To answer those questions, one would need to know (1) whether many highly qualified (but low-income) in-state students are not receiving aid because the aid is going to out-of-state students with equal or lesser qualifications; and (2) how many of talented out of state students will remain in South Carolina after graduation.  To the extent that highly qualified, low-income, in-state students are losing out, then the out  of state aid should be reduced.

Public Perception–Funding honors programs and offering merit aid to talented students can certainly increase the selectivity profile of a university and eventually enhance rankings and public perception. But we would draw a distinction between the aggressive gaming of the rankings and the more justifiable funding that is related to legitimate state interests. New America suggests that the extremely generous merit aid that the University of Alabama offers to talented out-of-state students is mainly to enhance rankings. But, contrary to what New America claims, the Alabama U.S. News ranking has actually fallen 13 places since 2012.

The University of Mississippi is another flagship that offers generous merit aid. What is also true is that the state of Mississippi has the second lowest percentage of college grads in the nation, and Alabama the 7th lowest. Surely these states should find ways to sustain their flagship institutions, and merit aid, for now, is one of those ways. Who knows but that some day they might join UVA, UNC Chapel Hill, UT Austin, Wisconsin and others that can go forward without so much emphasis on merit aid.

Again, we agree with New America that many universities, including some major public institutions, do use merit aid, at least in part, for purposes of moving up in college rankings and sometimes excessively for revenue purposes. But the total picture is much more complicated, resulting in one of the most difficult issues to emerge from state disinvestment in higher education.

Accepted to All the Ivies and Stanford–Chooses Alabama Honors

Editor’s note: The following article is by Peter Jacobs of Business Insider. We are posting it here because it is a great illustration of the main advantage of many public honors colleges and programs–merit aid for highly talented students that they cannot receive at most private elites.

After some thought and consideration of all the schools’ offers, Nelson decided it wouldn’t be worth the financial strain to use this money on his undergraduate education. He plans on going to medical school after college, and knows he’ll be faced with more tuition costs.

“With people being in debt for years and years, it wasn’t a burden that Ronald wanted to take on and it wasn’t a burden that we wanted to deal with for a number of years after undergraduate,” Ronald Sr. said. “We can put that money away and spend it on his medical school, or any other graduate school.”

University Alabama Quad Denny Chimes Campus

Looking long term, Nelson doesn’t think his decision will impact his chances of getting in to a top medical school or other graduate program. After speaking with his teachers and guidance counselors, Nelson said, he realized that “any undergraduate school can prepare you for a graduate program. It’s just determined on how much work you’re willing to put in.”

At UA, Nelson will be part of the university’s “Fellows Experience” through its honors college. A visit to Tuscaloosa, Alabama, as part of the program’s multiround interview process helped seal the deal for UA. He got to meet other students he would study with over the next four years and was impressed by them.

“It was kind of amazing being around so many like-minded students, which is why I think I’ll be able to have a similar situation [to an Ivy League school], considering the type of students they’re attracting,” Nelson said.

The financial incentive for attending Alabama was high. Due to his high standardized-test scores on the SAT and ACT, UA waived Nelson’s out-of-state fees and covered his tuition costs. Through the fellows program and his National Merit scholarship, Nelson will also have stipends for extra campus costs and potentially studying abroad.

While some people may see his decision to turn down schools such as Harvard, Princeton, Yale, and Stanford as ill considered or shortsighted, Nelson said he’s received a ton of support for choosing UA. One teacher, he told Business Insider, complimented him for “making such an informed decision” about where to work towards his undergraduate degree.

“I’ve had a lot of people questioning me — ‘Why are you doing this?’ — but after I explain my circumstances, they definitely understand where I’m coming from,” Nelson said.

Overall, though, Nelson doesn’t appear to have any regrets about his decision and seems excited to start college in the fall.

“The Ivy League experience would certainly be something amazing, to make these connections, and have these amazing professors,” he said. “But I really do think I’ll be able to make the same experience for myself at the college I chose.”

Here Are 23 Reasons for College Choice–and a Note on the Honors Option

Editor’s note: The following list comes from a post by college consultant Nancy Griesemer, who writes regular for the Washington Examiner. Read the full post, and consult the always fascinating UCLA Freshman Report for more information.

Griesemer notes in her post that while 73% of applicants are accepted by their first choice college, only 55% end up enrolling at that institution. Clearly, cost is a big factor behind these stats, and points to an issue of concern to us: finding a place for students smart enough to get into elite private colleges but cannot attend the private school of their choice for financial reasons.

In addition, with the current emphasis on selectivity as a major metric in the U.S. News rankings, highly talented students are being ever more widely recruited by elite universities and, at the same time, finding their odds of acceptance significantly reduced. For these students, the relatively high first choice acceptance cited above does not obtain.

So…insufficient merit aid to offset costly private tuition and expenses, plus capricious selectivity designed to make schools look better by  rejecting smart applicants, have helped boost public honors programs where students can find quality at a lower cost, along with a better overall mix of students.

The arrows below indicate whether the response percentage has increased or decreased since the previous year’s survey.

1. College has a very good academic reputation (65.4 percent)↑
2. This college’s graduates get good jobs (53.4 percent)↑
3. I was offered financial assistance (46.9 percent)↓
4. The cost of attending this college (44.9 percent)↓
5. College has a good reputation for social activities (42.8 percent)↓
6. A visit to the campus (42.4 percent)↓
7. Wanted to go to a college about this size (36.6 percent)↓
8. Grads get into good grad/professional schools (32.9 percent)↓
9. Percent of students that graduate from this college (31.1 percent)↑
10. Wanted to live near home (20.7 percent)↑
11. Information from a website (18.8 percent)↑
12. Rankings in national magazines (18 percent)↑
13. Parents wanted me to go to this school (17.2 percent)↓
14. Admitted early decision and/or early action (15.7 percent)↑
15. Could not afford first choice (14.1 percent)↓
16. Not offered aid by first choice (10.6 percent)↓
17. High school counselor advised me (10.4 percent)↑
18. Athletic department recruited me (9.1 percent)↓
19. My relatives wanted me to come here (8 percent)↑
20. Attracted by religious affiliation/orientation of college (7.3 percent)↓
21. My teacher advised me (7.2 percent)↑
22. Private college counselor advised me (4.6 percent)↑
23. Ability to take online courses (4.1 percent)↑

 

 

U.S. News Rankings at Odds with Quality of Academic Departments

Comparing the departmental rankings of leading public research universities to the overall rankings of the same schools by U.S. News yields striking disparities, emphasizing the impact that selectivity, class size, and financial resources have on the U.S. News listings, to the detriment of other factors.

(See also Rankings, Academic Departments: Private Elites vs Publics.)

As we have pointed out elsewhere, honors students have fewer concerns about class size because honors classes in the first two years tend to be much smaller than regular classes; and while selectivity is a driver of graduation rates, honors students have a six-year rate average grad rate approaching 90 percent in major public honors programs, with many significantly higher than 90 percent.

We have also commented before that the strong faculties at leading public research universities are competitive with many private elite national universities.  Soon we will update our post that compares the most recent departmental rankings of both public and private research universities.   In the meantime, below are the public research universities with the highest overall departmental rankings, listed along with their U.S. News ranking to illustrate the disparities.

The fifteen disciplines surveyed are business (undergrad); engineering (undergrad); biological sciences; chemistry; computer science; earth sciences; economics; education; English; history; math; physics; political science; psychology; and sociology.

Please note that many universities with highly-ranked academic departments (e.g., Indiana, Minnesota) do not have correspondingly high rankings in U.S. News.  The converse is also true: some highly ranked universities (e.g., Virginia) don’t have the highest ranked academic departments.

One of the main reasons for this kind of discrepancy is that U.S. News emphasizes selectivity and small class sizes, and some public universities with extremely strong faculties are not highly selective (Wisconsin, Minnesota, Illinois, Washington) or have larger classes than many other universities.  But many class sections over the first two years, normally large for non-honors students, are usually much smaller for honors students. The takeaway for prospective honors students: selectivity for the university as a whole and the size of all classes at the university are less important for you than for non-honors students.

We certainly recognize the excellent instruction that occurs at, for example, William & Mary, Wake Forest, Lehigh, Carlton, Swarthmore, Williams, etc., regardless of whether or how highly their academic departments are rated.  But for highly qualified students who are looking at large research universities, we do believe the rankings of departments matters quite a bit.

Not included below are universities that do not have ranked departments in at least 13 of the 15 academic disciplines.  Notable among these is Georgia Tech, with its nationally renowned engineering programs and a very strong business department.

UC Berkeley has an average national departmental ranking of 3.33 across the 15 disciplines mentioned above.  Please bear in mind that the rankings below include all national universities, public and private.  All of the top five universities below–UC Berkeley, Michigan, Wisconsin, UCLA, and UT Austin–have no academic departments among the 15 disciplines surveyed that are ranked lower than 30.

University U.S. News Rank Avg Natl Dept Rank
UC Berkeley 20 3.33
Michigan 29 9.40
Wisconsin 47 12.40
UCLA 23 12.43
UT Austin 53 14.93
Illinois 42 19.47
Washington 48 21.33
Minnesota 71 23.13
Ohio State 54 26.27
Indiana 76 26.43
North Carolina 30 26.53
Penn State 48 26.53
Maryland 62 28.33
UC Davis 38 28.57
UC San Diego 37 28.80
Virginia 23 33.60
UC Irvine 42 34.33
Colorado 88 36.93
Arizona 121 37.53
UC Santa Barbara 40 37.86
Purdue 62 42.20
Texas A&M 68 44.00
Florida 48 44.47
Rutgers 70 45.60
Stony Brook 88 47.00