Honors Completion Rates: ‘A Dirty Little Secret’ or a (Very) Complicated Issue?

This post, by editor John Willingham, is about 4,000 words in length, so not a quick read. As the title indicates, the issue of honors completion is complicated. The post makes frequent references to statistical data. Our thanks to the 31 honors deans and directors who contributed data for this report and for the Fall 2018 edition of INSIDE HONORS, due out in early October.

This post was edited on August 6, 2018. All changes were minor.

First of all, what is an honors completion rate?

It is the percentage of honors program entrants who complete the required honors curriculum by the time of graduation. Many programs have more than one honors curriculum completion option; for example, entering freshmen may be required to finish 30 honors credits and write a thesis for the main option, or they might need to complete only 18 credits without a thesis for a lower option. Honors completion rates are not the same as graduation rates. Entering honors students, because of their strong credentials, will have very high graduation rates regardless of honors completion.

Completing the requirements of an honors program is typically not directly related to graduating with Latin honors (cum laude, magna cum laude, summa cum laude) even though some universities do make the connection. Latin honors are most often tied to a student’s university grade point average or class standing. In many colleges and universities a student can graduate with Latin honors without taking any honors courses or writing a thesis. Many, if not most, honors program completers do also earn Latin honors.

At least two researchers have written that honors completion rates can be extremely low (in the 30 percent range) and that, because publicizing completion rates can be embarrassing to some programs and their parent institutions, the rates are a “Dirty little secret.” Academic studies leave the impression that having 50 percent or more of honors students complete one or more options could be, if not desirable, then acceptable. Using any set percentage as a standard is, however, questionable. (Please see below.)

University of South Carolina

The data we have received does provide evidence that some program completion rates are as low as 30 percent. On the other hand, the mean six-year completion rate in our own study of 31 honors programs, enrolling more than 64,000 honors students, was 58 percent. The years covered were 2010-2011—2015-2016.

Some honors educators believe that offering the lower, “mid-career” options increases the likelihood of at least some level of completion. The researchers cited above found evidence that mid-career completers are also inclined to add higher levels of honors completion before graduation.

Academic studies of honors retention, completion, and university graduation rates have focused on individual programs rather than on a significant range of programs. These studies have evaluated the impact that program curriculum requirements, entrance test scores, high school GPAs, housing, co-curricular activities, first-year seminars, and other factors have had on honors retention, completion, and graduation.

Our own work began with an analysis of 14 factors: program size; mean test scores of admitted students; number of honors credits required for completion; six-year graduation rate of honors entrants; six-year university graduation rates; university freshman retention rates; number of honors sections offered; average size of honors classes; number of honors sections in key academic disciplines; percentage of honors program members occupying classroom seats; comparison of main option and multiple option program completion rates; impact of a thesis requirement; the percentage of honors residence hall places available for the first two years; and the impact of requiring a separate honors application or credentials. After considering the potential value of each factor as an independent variable in our final models, we excluded some of factors based on tested co-linearity.

UT Austin

Again, we will publish a full statistical report in a separate post. We have also developed a formula for estimating target completion rates, taking into account variations in rates for honors completion, freshman retention, and university-wide graduation.

Below is a detailed discussion of the honors completion issue.

 

IT’S COMPLICATED

Honors educators and university administrators have a keen interest in achieving high honors completion rates. Honors students bring higher test score profiles to the university as a whole, and one would anticipate that being in an honors program would make it even more likely that these students would go on to graduate and, in the process, improve the university’s retention and graduation rates.

While the academic studies make it clear that honors student entrants, whether completers or not, have high retention and graduation rates, it is not altogether clear that they have higher rates than those of non-honors students who entered the university with equivalent credentials.

Evidence does indicate, however, that after one or two years in an honors program, students do have better critical thinking skills than similarly qualified non-honors students, probably due to smaller, interdisciplinary classes in the first year and greater interaction with faculty, mentors, and fellow students. And of course these skills and a greater likelihood of obtaining strong faculty recommendations should help students to gain entrance to prestigious graduate and professional schools or find highly desirable and remunerative employment.

Arizona State University

Students who do not actually complete all honors requirements do not perform as well academically as honors completers and also take somewhat longer to complete their undergraduate work. One reason: almost all honors students enjoy some form of priority registration.

The principal goals of honors educators and administrators are to improve the metrics of the host university by enrolling high quality students and to provide those students with an enhanced education that can compare favorably with the education one might receive in an elite private college or university.

Our data and other studies show that honors programs do meet the goal of improving university metrics. Honors entrants (not necessarily program completers) on average graduate at a rate 19.7 percentage points higher than the rate for their parent universities as a whole, according to our data. For programs housed in universities with relatively low university graduation rates, the difference can be more than 35 percentage points. (Of course, honors entrants who graduate make up a part of the graduation rate of the university as a whole.)

The main goal of honors educators, however, is to provide an enhanced education.

Honors completion rates should surely be one measure of meeting this goal. Low completion rates are an especially discouraging result given the cost and effort allocated to honors. “Non-participation or minimal participation of honors students is the honors equivalent of poor overall university retention and graduation rates,” according to one paper on the subject.

The quote is probably accurate when it comes to describing the mindset of honors educators. But comparing honors completion rates to, for example, the graduation rates of elite colleges and universities is problematic. Honors programs are a hybrid; this all but universal, structural reality clearly differentiates honors programs from most elite colleges, which generally do not have honors programs. (More on the hybrid issue below.)

Comparing honors completion rates with the graduation rates of the parent university as a whole is more reasonable, provided that there is some baseline ratio of honors completion rates to university graduation and freshman retention rates. Programs in our study with completion rates above the mean of 58 percent do, on the whole, match the graduation rates for the parent universities. Programs with completion rates below the mean, on average, fail to match the university graduation rate by about 20 percentage points. (These rates and ratios will be discussed in the next post, and, again, we have developed a baseline formula for estimating target completion rates.)

Honors programs seek to combine the best qualities of an elite private college with those of a large research university. In general, this means that the “elite private college” components of this hybrid model are smaller classes, more interdisciplinary sections and class discussion, more faculty mentoring, completion of a substantial honors curriculum and sometimes an undergraduate thesis, and a high level of collegiality in the form of co-curricular activities and access to honors housing.

The advantages of the “large research university” include academic majors in abundance, more undergraduate research opportunities, study under nationally recognized scholars, the enjoyment of big college football and other athletics, larger alumni networks, and life in a “college town” that is centered on the large university. Some of these advantages are, however, double-edged (see below).

The hybrid model, if realized, would be for many students an ideal college experience. But one can imagine how daunting it is to meet such expectations–to match private elites at their own game and to optimize the research university experience–all simultaneously. Honors and university administrators would like to see honors completion rates that equal or exceed parent university graduation rates, or even the graduation rates of elite colleges. But in the context of honors completion rates, some of the hybrid components are positive while others can work to lower completion rates.

 THE HYBRID MODEL: WHAT MAKES IT WORK?

Six of the 31 programs in our study had six-year honors completion rates of 80 percent or higher. (But recall that honors entrants, regardless of honors completion, do graduate from the host university at a much higher rate than the rate for all students, on average about 87 percent.)

These programs are, in alphabetical order, by university: Arizona State Barrett Honors College; CUNY Macaulay Honors College; University of Illinois Campus Honors Program; Penn State Schreyer Honors College; University of South Carolina Honors College; and the UT Austin Plan II Honors Program. Programs with rates of 70 percent or higher, in alphabetical order, are Clemson Calhoun Honors College and the Colorado State Honors Program.

Colorado St University

The six programs with completion rates of 80 percent or higher have striking differences. Barrett Honors College at ASU and the Schreyer Honors College at Penn State make very extensive use of honors contracts and mixed sections. Compared with the funding required for separate honors sections, the cost of contract and mixed sections is much less. Honors contracts allow a student to take a non-honors course for honors credit if the student “contracts” with the instructor to do some form of additional work. Mixed sections are those that include honors and non-honors students; they should be more rigorous or have an honors-only discussion or lab section. Schreyer Honors College at Penn State has an extremely large percentage of mixed sections—but honors students make up a high percentage of total students in those sections.

The UIUC Campus Honors Program and the UT Plan II program, both small in size, have a far more structured curriculum that does not include contract or mixed section credit. Plan II students receive most of their honors credit through Plan II-specific courses, even in subjects such as physics. CUNY’s Macaulay Honors College students take honors-only classes offered by the honors college or by academic departments. The South Carolina Honors College offers an impressive range of honors-only classes of the same type, and only about 11 percent of sections are mixed. The program does not offer contract options.

Contract and mixed sections give students a lot of flexibility. Many of these courses are upper-division, so students can continue to receive honors credit throughout their time in the program, without having to wait for a specific honors-only course to open. It is difficult for many large honors programs to achieve four-year involvement without utilizing contract and mixed sections. Yet the South Carolina Honors College and the Macaulay Honors College at CUNY both have more than 2,000 honors students and also have strong four-year participation.

One thing is clear: the hybrid structure itself has many variations. Here we should note that one honors college, the Wilkes Honors College of Florida Atlantic University, is not a hybrid at all because the whole campus is dedicated to honors education.

But based on statistical analyses of the data from all 31 programs, common predictive factors emerge: high university freshman retention rates; a substantial honors curriculum (30 credits or more); an emphasis on one completion option; and enhanced access to honors housing. Other positive factors include higher test scores, important to freshman retention rates; and smaller class sizes. Both of these factors have their greatest impact in programs with multiple, lower completion requirements.

As a variable in multiple regression, the impact of curriculum “flattens” because much of its effect appears in the variables for main option emphasis, honors grad rates, housing, separate honors application, and especially by participation if the latter is also a variable. The same flattening occurs with the impact of test scores, much of it expressed by the freshman retention variable.

Penn St Schreyer students

Programs looking for a “shorthand” method of assessing completion issues might find it in one overriding measure, which we call “participation”: the percentage of honors program members who occupy classroom seats in a given term. This participation rate correlates very significantly with honors completion, as one would expect. If an honors program has 1,000 members, and 1,000 honors credit classroom spaces are filled in a given term, then the participation percentage is 100. But because some honors students almost always take more than one honors class per term, it is common for participation percentages to be higher than 100. (If 1,000 members occupied 1,100 classroom spaces, then the participation rate would be 110 percent.)

The mean participation rate for all 31 programs was 129 percent. For the 16 programs with completion rates above 58 percent, the mean participation rate was 150 percent. For the 15 programs with lower completion rates, the mean participation rate was 108 percent.

For main option programs, the participate rate was 1.49; for multiple option programs, it was 1.11.

(So, a path to improvement might be >More Honors Housing >Emphasis on 30+ Credit Curriculum >Increased Freshman Retention >More Honors Class Sections and Disciplines>More Classroom Spaces Occupied>Higher Participation>Higher Completion Rate. This path, like most things in higher education, is impossible without funding. All honors deans and directors want to achieve high completion rates. The fact is that almost all honors programs do their best with the resources they have been dealt—and it is the rare honors student who does not benefit from a program even if he leaves after a year or two.)

Clemson University Honors Center

Out of 11 programs in our study with an honors curriculum requirement of 30 credits or higher, only one had a completion rate below 50 percent. The mean curriculum requirement for the six programs with a completion rate of 80 percent or higher was 37 credits. The overall mean for the 31 programs, when we averaged the multiple completion options for programs that offered them, was 27 credits.

One notable finding was that main option programs* with significantly stronger curriculum requirements (mean of 31.8 credits) had an average completion rate of 67.8 percent compared with an average rate of 48.5 percent for programs with multiple (lower) completion requirements (mean of 22.1 credits). This finding seems to contradict previous evidence and assumptions. We note that 24 of the 31 contributors to our study are either flagship or designated land-grant universities, but we have no data related to the differences between their programs and those at other types of institutions. The average U.S. News ranking of the 31 programs was 126, so the study was not limited to “public elites.” The highest ranking of any programs was 52. (In case anyone is curious: There is no significant correlation between the U.S. News rankings and honors completion rates.)

*(Included in main option programs are two programs that, while technically offering two options, have essentially the same total completion credit requirement for each option and have no mid-career option. In addition, option categories were also defined according to the curriculum requirements that honors programs offered for first-year entrants only, except we classified one program with a significant number of sophomore and junior transfers as a multiple option program.)

A precise calculation of curriculum requirements for multiple option programs would have included the proportion of honors students completing each option. In some multiple option programs more than 75 percent of students complete the highest option; in other programs fewer than 10 percent of students do so.

Although program size did not emerge as a clear predictor, the main option programs include four that have fewer than 1,000 honors students. Meanwhile, the smallest multiple option program has an enrollment of more than 1,300 students.

All 16 multiple option programs had an honors thesis option or requirement. The University of Arizona Honors College, the University of Arkansas Honors College, the Oregon State Honors College, and the Commonwealth Honors College at the University of Massachusetts, all with multiple options, do require an honors thesis for all options. Eleven of 15 main option programs had a thesis option, with nine listing a thesis as required. Regression models did not, however, establish that a thesis requirement or option had a significant impact on completion rates for the whole data set. But it appears that the combination of a significant thesis requirement along with relatively low university freshman retention rates (79-83 percent range) might contribute to low completion rates.

As for housing, the six programs with the highest completion rates offered .84 honors residence hall spaces per every first- and second-year honors student. The mean for all 31 programs was .53 residence hall spaces, or slightly more than one dorm space for first-year entrants only.

With respect to university freshman retention rates, the mean rate for the top six programs was 93.3 percent, while the overall mean freshman retention rate for 31 programs was 86.6 percent. Programs with completion rates at or above 58 percent had a mean university freshman retention rate of 88.9 percent; programs with lower completion rates had a mean university freshman retention rate of 84.2 percent. These bare statistics along with statistical models point clearly to freshman retention rates as being the most important institutional factor related to honors completion. They are co-linear with university graduation rates and almost as closely tied to the graduation rates for honors entrants, but are more significant than university graduation rates in relation to honors completion rates.

The top six programs had a mean SAT (ACT adjusted to SAT when necessary) of 1433, versus a mean score of 1406 for all 31 programs. The impact of test scores was, however, stronger for multiple option programs, though their mean test score was lower, at 1396. The mean test score for all main option programs was 1417, a difference of only 21 points. It appears, then, that the much stronger completion rates among main option programs as whole (67.1 percent versus 48.6 percent for multiple option programs) were not the result of proportionately higher test scores.

While all six of the programs with the highest completion rates were main option programs, the six programs with the lowest completion rates were all multiple option programs, with an average completion rate of 34.7 percent. For this group, the mean test score was 1358. Unlike the relationship of test scores to completion rates for the entire data set, it seems likely that, for this lowest subset, test scores would play a significant role; however, we could not confirm such a role statistically. Neither could we do so for the relationship of test scores and completion rates for the top subset.

We also calculate the ratio of enrolled individual honors students to all honors sections, and to total sections in 15 key academic disciplines. Both main and multiple option programs had about the same ratios. These ratios explain why the class size averages for main and multiple option programs are almost exactly the same (24 and 24.4, respectively). However, the absolute numbers of sections offered are much higher for main option programs because, with higher curriculum requirements, they have more students taking classes across all four years.

The six-year graduation rate for honors entrants in main option programs was 88.7 percent; for honors entrants in multiple option programs it was 85.2 percent. This difference would have an impact on university-wide graduation rates. For the six programs with the highest completion rates, the honors graduation rate averaged an impressive 91.3 percent; the honors graduation rate for the six programs with the lowest completion rates was almost eight points lower, at 83.5 percent. Freshman retention rates, test scores, and curriculum have the most impact on honors graduation rates, especially the first two factors, as one would expect. Freshman retention rates and honors graduation rates are remarkably similar.

It is somewhat unusual for honors completion rates to equal or exceed university graduation rates. Eleven of the 31 programs achieved such rates, according to our data. In alphabetical order, they are Arizona State’s Barrett Honors College; Colorado State Honors Program; CUNY Macaulay Honors College; University of Houston Honors College; University of Illinois Campus Honors Program; University of Kansas Honors Program; University of Nevada Reno Honors Program; University of South Carolina Honors College; Texas Tech Honors College; UT Austin Plan II Honors Program; and the Virginia Commonwealth University Honors College.

Texas Tech University

 CHOICES, AND MORE CHOICES

The part of the hybrid structure that is related to the “large public research university” component is difficult to measure. Of course the resources allocated by the university make possible the scores of academic departments and sub-disciplines available for majors and fund the honors program, or programs, as well. Relatively generous funding allows for more honors sections, smaller classes, undergraduate research, and more housing, all of which are important to participation.

But the one characteristic of honors programs and the public universities in which they reside that receives little attention, in relation to completion rates, is the enormous range of choices that are available. An honors student at a major public university can choose to persevere through a demanding honors curriculum, or not; can choose to attend every home football game and party, or not; can choose among hundreds of degree plans and change to one that is too time-consuming to allow for honors work, or not; join eight or ten of the two hundred groups on campus, or not; and choose to live off-campus or with a non-honors friend, or not.

Their counterparts at elite private colleges do not have a hybrid structure that allows such a range of choices. Of course they can change majors, or, perhaps, change residence halls. They can also choose to spend too much time partying. But they have a smaller range of majors and college organizations from which to choose; and college sports often have limited appeal. And most do not experience large, sprawling campuses where one can feel overwhelmed, although honors programs certainly make big-campus life more collegial.

A larger range of choices, then, is an inherent piece of the “research university” component of the hybrid model, and in our opinion, it can contribute to lower honors completion rates. Some characteristics of a large public university campus (large class sizes, registration issues, social distractions) often cause parents and students to choose smaller, private colleges even at greater cost. Honors programs mitigate but do not eliminate the potential impact of these factors.

The real question is whether greater choice is ultimately negative or positive. All students make good choices and bad choices; college is often the place where they learn the first big lessons about choice. Clearly, however, students who are mature and focused enough to enjoy the large university experience without overindulgence are most likely to take full advantage of their honors opportunities.

Students should also be strongly motivated on their own if they are to undertake honors study and succeed. Their counterparts at elite private colleges must demonstrate their motivation repeatedly, not least during the application process. Our study shows that, for main option programs only, honors admission requirements that require an honors-specific application or credentials beyond those required for regular university admission do have an impact on completion rates.

Twelve of 15 main option programs require honors-specific application materials. Eleven of 16 multiple option programs do. (Some programs simply gather data from the admissions office and then issue invitations to top students already admitted to the university.)

 PUBLIC HONORS VS. PRIVATE ELITES

The issue of honors completion is not only linked to the question: Do honors programs actually deliver? Another question often follows: How do honors programs really compare with private elite colleges?

Above we noted that honors participation, a major statistical (and common-sense) factor in predicting honors completion rates, is enhanced to a large extent by substantial curriculum requirements, frequently including a thesis. Assuming that a student is in a public honors program with both a strong curriculum requirement and a high completion rate, does that student graduate with an education comparable with that attained by a student at an elite private college?

The hybrid model carries with it the assumption that students at elite private colleges complete a rigorous curriculum that usually includes extensive undergraduate research and an honors thesis, and that the honors model should strive to do the same.

Like the perception that honors completion rates should approximate graduation rates at elite colleges, the perception that most or all students at elite colleges necessarily pursue an especially rigorous path is inaccurate.

Princeton is the only university in the Ivy League that requires an undergraduate thesis for graduation. Likewise, Stanford, MIT, Duke, Swarthmore, Amherst, Williams, and other elite schools do not require a thesis. Reed, Chicago, and Bates do have a high number of students who complete an undergraduate thesis. If a student wants to graduate with Latin honors at many elite colleges, or especially to graduate magna cum laude or summa cum laude, or departmental honors, only then would the student have to write a thesis.

Anecdotal information suggests that only 20-25 percent of students at elite colleges complete a thesis or equivalent project. In addition, grades at elite institutions hover around an A-minus average, bringing into question just how much many of them are actually challenged by the courses they take.

So, yes, given appropriate effort, a student in a public honors program with a strong curriculum requirement and a thesis should receive an equivalent education or, perhaps, even a better education than most students at a private elite college. One can argue, however, that the relatively few students pursuing Latin or departmental honors at private elite schools can receive an even better education.

Finally, another comparison: Does the education of an honors student who is in a program with, say, a 55 percent completion rate, a 24-credit completion requirement, and no requirement for a thesis compare with that of his or her counterpart at a private elite college?

The private elite college will have a graduation rate about 5-10 points higher than the graduation rate of public university’s honors students. The student body at the private elite will, on the whole, be “smarter” but less diverse, less “real-life,” economically and otherwise. The honors student may well be challenged more by honors work than most students at the private elite are in regular classes. Both students may receive some financial aid, but at the private elite most of the aid is need-based or leaves funding gaps that could leave the student with large student loans. Meanwhile, the honors student and many of his classmates enjoy a large, renewable merit scholarship.

Not a simple choice.

 

 

 

 

 

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

Attacks on the humanities and social sciences have increased since the Great Recession, even at a time when the critical thinking skills associated with these disciplines are urgently needed to navigate the sometimes bizarre world of facts, alternative facts, distortions, and outright lies.

Indeed, with the decline of humanities departments, we might be nearing the time when honors colleges and programs will be the focal point of liberal arts education in many public universities. (Below is a discussion of what the nation’s largest honors college is doing to promote the humanities and “civic education.”)

The economic downturn along with rising college tuition costs forced many parents and prospective college students to zero in on courses of study that provide near-term financial results and security. The trend is so strong that, recently, the University of Wisconsin at Stevens Point announced a plan to eliminate 13 humanities and social science majors.

These include English (excluding English for teacher certification); French; geography and geosciences; German; history (excluding social science for teacher certification); philosophy; political science; sociology; and Spanish.

Studies consistently show that voters with college degrees turn out in greater numbers than those with lower levels of education, but among college-educated voters it is likely that the type of coursework taken in college is an additional contributing factor to greater and more perceptive participation in civic life.

In the higher ed world, this link between education and civic engagement is known as the “civic education hypothesis.” A recent paper by Jacob Andrew Hester of the University of Alabama and Kari Lynn Besing of Indiana University argues persuasively that honors seminars, notably in the humanities and social sciences, “can and often do impart the civic skills that, the civic education hypothesis posits, enable political participation and lead to increased involvement in politics and civic life.”

Many public universities are unable to offer small, discussion-focused classes in these disciplines. The authors contend that larger lecture sections do not develop  “the classic skills associated with politics: language, rhetoric, public speaking, debate, and critical thinking.” Students can, however, develop these skills in an honors college or program that offers small seminar sections in Gen Ed courses.

Humanities and social science departments have for centuries sought to inculcate these “classic skills.” For years they have been losing faculty; now, with the elimination of majors, more faculty will be cut and course sections will be reduced, probably leading to larger classes with no opportunity for discussion. Where will these disciplines, with their manifold intersections, survive in a format conducive to civic education? Honors colleges and programs–and the mission is critical.

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

“Honors education and the humanities share core values, including the importance of deep, sustained reading. Students of history, literature, and philosophy confront complex and demanding texts and develop sophisticated methods of analyzing these texts….Both humanities and honors value not only high levels of reading skill but thoughtful responses to texts and an ability to integrate them into broader knowledge, reaching toward not just learning but wisdom. Such habits run counter to the mindless consumption of infobits.”

Some of the brightest students are math, science, and engineering majors, and their numbers are on the rise. Their analytical skills are seldom in question–indeed, they are often amazing. But the classes in their majors offer little discussion and, as Hester points out, “Math courses [for example] rarely involve discussion or conceptualizing social issues, and very rarely if ever do math instructors connect the development of mathematical skills to political discourse.”

On the other hand, Hester and Besing write, the “University of Alabama (UA) Honors College has an explicit goal of developing ‘agents of social change.’ At the heart of the honors experience are three-hour, interdisciplinary, honors seminars for no more than fifteen students. To graduate with honors, UA students must complete no fewer than six hours of seminar credit, but often students complete more.

“In contrast to the traditional academic lecture, the skills developed in a seminar are uniquely suited for the development and application of citizenship behaviors. In particular, UA honors seminars stress discussion, reflection, writing, and debate, providing students the opportunity to practice each behavior in a controlled environment. Through the seminar experience, honors students are expected to engage the skill sets that produce interest and competence in public affairs more frequently than non-honors students.”

To test their hypothesis that honors programs can promote civic education, Hester and Besing surveyed University of Alabama Honors College students to answer the following question: “To what extent has your experience at this institution contributed to your knowledge, skills, and personal development in the following areas: Voting in local, state, or national elections?”

The conclusion: “Students who engage in a curriculum with more opportunities to develop civic skills are more likely to respond that their institution has contributed to their interest in voting. This finding lends support for the civic engagement hypothesis within the context of an honors education. Specifically, it suggests that students in the UA Honors College are more likely to respond that their education has contributed to their interest in voting. Similarly, our findings suggest that the amount of reading and writing in their curriculum positively correlates with students’ perception that their education has had an impact on their interest in voting.”

“Our argument is that seminar courses are likely to contribute to an honors student’s interest in participating in politics, but we do not believe that honors electives have the same effect. For example, an elective honors lecture course in accounting is likely to be more enriching than a non-honors version of the course but is not likely to build political skills in the same way that a seminar does.”

“On one side of the debate, policymakers, employers, and administrators extol the benefits of a STEM education, e .g ., technological innovation, expansion of research, and the financial payoffs of a labor force with robust science and mathematics skills. On the other side, classical theories of higher education argue that a college degree is about more than the development of a professional skill set on the way to a career; it is about the development of each individual’s ability to function as a citizen in a democratic society. An honors education provides a unique opportunity for higher education institutions to satisfy both sides of the debate, proving sufficient rigor for STEM students while also grounding students in the classical purposes of higher education.”

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

Arkansas Honors College “Honors Passport” Courses Combine Foreign Study, Student Presentations

Editor’s Note: The following information is from the University of Arkansas Honors College. The college dean has designed the Honors Passport experiences, a capstone course abroad. “Honors Passport courses send honors students and top faculty scholars to historically and culturally significant sites around the globe. During these two-week intersession courses, each student much research and present on a historic site, monument or notable individual, taking an active role in teaching the course.”

Sixteen Honors College students recently spent a full semester preparing for study abroad in Peru, and landed in Lima well-versed on the Incan Empire, the Andean Hybrid Baroque and indigenismo.

Arkansas Honors Dean Lynda Coon and Prof. Kim Sexton, Fay Jones School of Architecture and Design

“The idea is to create an international capstone experience where students and professors together explore the interaction of contemporary and historical sites, texts, and artifacts,” said Honors College Dean Lynda Coon.

Honors College Dean Lynda Coon has launched a series of innovative honors courses since joining the history faculty in the J. William Fulbright College of Arts and Sciences in 1990. She helped to create the Honors Humanities Project (H2P) and as dean she has developed Signature Seminars, Forums, Retro Readings courses and this Honors Passport study abroad experience. Coon’s research focuses on the history of Christianity from circa 300-900.

Kim Sexton, an associate professor of architecture at Fay Jones School of Architecture and Design, specializes in the architecture of late medieval and Renaissance Italy. Since joining the Fay Jones School’s faculty in 1999, Sexton has taught survey courses in the history of world architecture, specialized courses on medieval and Renaissance architecture, and space and gender theory. Sexton is currently completing a book manuscript entitled Loggia Culture: Spatial Practices in Medieval Italy that positions the loggia or portico in cultural history.

Arkansas psych major Linh Luu giving a presentation at Santa Catalina, a Dominican convent in Arequipa, Peru.

Dean Coon and Professor Sexton have taught the second semester of H2P since 1999. They also developed Medieval Bodies/Medieval Spaces, an interdisciplinary honors colloquium that traces the evolution of western medieval history through text, ritual and built environments.


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New Director of UT Austin Plan II Honors Is a Guggenheim Fellow, Winner of Teaching Awards

Editor’s Note: The following news is from the UT College of Liberal Arts.

New Plan II Director, Dr. Alexandra Wettlaufer

Plan II is pleased to announce Dr. Alexandra K. Wettlaufer as our new Director, following Dr. Michael Stoff who served as the program director for the past 11 years. Dr. Wettlaufer has been the Plan II Associate Director since 2005, overseeing the program’s senior thesis course and developing a deep love for the program and our students.

She is a Professor of French and Comparative Literature, specializing in 19th-century literature, visual arts, culture, and gender studies. A recipient of a 2014-15 Guggenheim Fellowship, Dr. Wettlaufer is currently working on a book project entitled “Reading George: Sand, Eliot and the Novel in France and Britain, 1830-1900.”

She is the author of three previous books: Pen vs Paintbrush: Girodet, Balzac and the Myth of Pygmalion in Post-Revolutionary France (2001), In the Mind’s Eye: The Visual Impulse in Diderot, Baudelaire and Ruskin (2003), and Portraits of the Artist as a Young Woman: Painting and the Novel in France and Britain, 1800-1860(2011).  She has published numerous articles on Balzac, Sand, Baudelaire, Zola, Manet, Ruskin, Turner, Berlioz, Grandville, and Flora Tristan; her article “She is Me: Tristan, Gauguin, and the Dialectics of Colonial Identity” (Romanic Review,2007) was awarded the Nineteenth-Century Studies Association Essay Prize, Honorable Mention.

Dr. Wettlaufer has received fellowships from the Whiting Foundation, ACLS, Bourse Marandon, the Clark Art Institute, and the National Humanities Center.  Her teaching awards include a President’s Associates’ Teaching Award, the Blunk Memorial Professorship in Teaching and Advising, a Raymond Dickson Centennial Endowed Teaching Award, a Liberal Arts Council Teaching Award, and University Coop Award for Undergraduate Thesis Advising.

She is the Co-Editor of Nineteenth-Century Contexts: An Interdisciplinary Journal and serves on the Editorial Boards of European Romantic Review, Nineteenth-Century Studies, George Sand Studies, and Dix-Neuf. Dr. Wettlaufer has also served on the Advisory Boards of the American Comparative Literature Association, Nineteenth-Century French Studies Association, Interdisciplinary Nineteenth-Century Studies Association, and on the Executive Council of the Modern Language Association.  Dr. Wettlaufer is a core faculty member of Comparative Literature, Women’s and Gender Studies, and European Studies.

Fall Application Deadlines for 80 Honors Colleges and Programs

Editor’s Note: This page is in the process of being updated for 2018-2019. There can be last-minute changes, so readers should check honors websites to verify that the dates below.  

Below is a list of application deadlines for 80 public university honors colleges and programs.  Please note that some deadlines are fast-approaching, while a few are as late as the Spring and Summer of 2017.

If the deadlines are separated into categories (early action, early decision, regular deadline, priority deadline, etc.), we will list the deadlines for each category.

Alabama Honors: For University Fellows applications, the deadline is December 15, 2018; for other applications there is “no formal deadline,” but for housing and orientation purposes, the earlier the better.

Arizona Honors : Priority deadline is December 2, 2018, with notification the wek of January 21, 2019. Essay required.

Arizona State Honors (Barrett): Early action deadline I- November 1, 2018 (notification December 19); early action deadline II- January 6, 2019 (notification February 22); Late consideration I, February 24, 2019 (notification April 5); Late consideration II, March 31, 2019 (notification May 10).

Arkansas Honors: November 1, 2018 for priority application; for scholarships, priority deadline is November 15, 2018; for financial aid, priority deadline is January 1, 2019, and final deadline is February 1, 2019; final Fall application deadline is August 1, 2019, but this might be too late for honors college.

Binghamton HonorsPriority deadline and common app by November 1, 2018; all application materials by December 1, 2018; priority decision by January 15, 2019. Regular deadline January 15, 2019 (notification April 1, 2019).

Cincinnati Honors: December 1, 2018, for honors and for scholarships.

Clemson Honors (Calhoun): Priority honors deadline December 1, 2018, with notification February 15, 2019; regular deadline March 1, 2019; after meeting university deadline of February 15, 2019; notification April 1, 2019.

Connecticut HonorsFor merit and honors consideration, December 1, 2018.

Delaware Honors:  Deadline January 15, 2018, including honors essay; (notification mid-March 2018).

Florida Honors: (Freshman Honors): March 1, 2018; notification April 1, 2018; must accept by May 1, 2018.

Florida State Honors: For presidential scholarship, honors medical, or honors legal, deadline is November 12017. Honors application deadline is February 14, 2018.

Georgia State Honors: Early action deadline is November 15, 2017; regular action deadline is March 1, 2018.

Georgia Honors:  February 1, 2018; (notification April 1, 2018).

Houston Honors: November 15, 2018, for priority consideration; final deadline April 1, 2019.

Illinois Honors (CHP): Early action deadline November 1, 2018, preferably earlier; final deadline January 5, 2019.

Illinois Chicago Honors: Priority, December 1, 2018; regular decision, February 1, 2019.

Illinois State Honors: See website.

Indiana Honors (Hutton): Deadline for Hutton scholarships November 1, 2018.

Iowa HonorsFirst deadline November 15, 2018, with notification February 1, 2019; final deadline, February 1, 2019, and notification April 1, 2019.

Iowa State Honors: April 1, 2019, but prefers earlier applications.

Kansas Honors: November 1, 2018, for admission and scholarships.

Kansas State HonorsNo specific deadline, but admission may be limited to space available.

Kentucky Honors: December 1, 2018, but prefers earlier.

LSU Honors (Ogden): November 15, 2017; notification mid-December, 2017, onward, on a rolling basis.

Macaulay Honors CUNY: December 1, 2017, including essays; notification of college choice in February 2018; notification of honors decision by March 15, 2018.

Maine Honors: Early action is December 1, 2017; regular decision (recommended) is February 1, 2018; transfer deadline is June 1, 2018.

Maryland Honors: Must apply by November 1, 2017, the university preferred deadline; no separate honors application; notification late January 2017

Massachusetts Honors (Amherst): Early action November 1, 2017, credentials by November 20; regular deadline January 15, 2018, credentials by February 1, 2018; scholarship deadline March 1, 2018. No separate honors application.

Michigan Honors: Updated info to be posted at honors side November 1, 2017. Likely deadlines: Apply to university first, then send honors essay; university early action deadline November 1, 2017 (notification late December); regular deadline for failed early action and others is February 1, 2018 (notification mid-April 2018). Students admitted to the university may submit LSA honors application essays and other information through early April 2018, but the earlier the better as space is limited.

Michigan State Honors: University has rolling admissions deadlines, but students should apply by November 1, 2017. Invitations are extended approximately 8 weeks after admission to MSU. Average ACT 32.

Minnesota HonorsPriority application deadline November 1, 2017 (notification by end of February, 2018); applications after December 15, 2017, all invited only after university acceptance on space-available basis only. No separate honors application.

Mississippi Honors (SMBHC): Early action November 1, 2017, notification December 20, 2017; regular deadline is January 5, 2018, notification by early March 2018.

Mississippi State Honors: December 1, 2017, preferably earlier; after that date, space available basis.

Missouri HonorsThe university scholarship deadline is December 1, 2017. Students may apply as early as August 1, 2017.

Nebraska HonorsThe Fall priority deadline is October 15, 2017; final deadline is February 15, 2018.

New Jersey Inst of Technology Honors (Dorman): February 1, 2018.

New Hampshire Honors: Early action is November 15, 2017. Regular decision was extended from February 1 to March 1. No separate honors application. Double check website to make sure regular deadline is extended for 2018.

New Mexico HonorsUniversity final deadline is May 1, 2018.

North Carolina HonorsMust be accepted by university first, followed by honors invitation. University early action deadline is October 15, 2017, with decision by late January 2017. Regular deadline is January 15, 2018, with notification in late March. Final university deadline is February 15, 2018, with decision by mid-April. Admitted students are automatically considered for an honors invitation, typically sent out within two weeks of admission to the university.

NC State HonorsMarch 15, 2018.

Ohio University HonorsDecember 1, 2017.

Ohio State HonorsTest scores, letters of recommendation, etc., by November 1, 2017.

Oklahoma HonorsUniversity scholarship deadline is December 15, 2017. Final deadline is February 1, 2018. No separate deadline for honors college.

Oklahoma State HonorsDeadline for many scholaships is November 1, 2017. Final deadline is February 1, 2018.

Oregon Honors (Clark)Early action deadline November 1, 2017, with all materials due November 7, 2017; notification December 15, 2017. Regular deadline January 15, 2018, with all materials due February 1, 2018; notification April 1, 2018.

Oregon State Honors:  Early round deadline is November 1, with notification by December 31; primary round deadline is February 1,2018, with notification by March 31, 2018.

Penn State Honors (Schreyer): (Schreyer): Priority deadline November 30, 2017, allows for interviews by end of January, 2018; final deadline December 20, 2018; notification by late February, 2018.

Pitt Honors“We operate on a rolling admission policy and although there is no specific deadline to apply for admission, it is to your advantage to plan ahead and apply early.” The priority deadline for scholarships is December 15, 2017.

Purdue HonorsPriority deadline is November 1, 2017, for admission and scholarships.

Rhode Island Honors: Early action deadline is December 1, 2017; regular deadline is February 1, 2018.

Rutgers Honors (Honors College): December 1, 2017.

San Diego State Honors (Weber): Preferred deadline is January 15, 2018.

South Carolina Honors: Preferred deadline for scholarships and honors college admission is October 15, 2017. Test score assignment to university and letters of recommendation, November 15, 2017. First round of notifications in late December, 2017. Final notification in mid-February, 2018.

Stony Brook HonorsPriority deadline January 15, 2018.

Temple HonorsEarly action deadline November 1, 2017; university deadline is February 1, 2018. No separate honors application, and honors notification is within four weeks of university acceptance.

Tennessee Honors (CHP): November 1, 2017, in order to be eligible for major scholarships.

Texas A&M HonorsApplication period begins August 1, 2017.

Texas Tech Honors: Application period begins July 17, 2017, and ends March 1, 2018.

UC Davis HonorsApplication period for all UC campuses is August 1-November 30, 2017. Honors invitation after applicants confirm UC Davis as choice on May 1, 2018.

UC Irvine Honors (CHP): Application period for all UC campuses is August 1-November 30, 2017. Honors invitation after applicants confirm UC Irvine as choice on May 1, 2018.

UCLA HonorsApplication period for all UC campuses is August 1-November 30, 2017. Honors invitation after applicants confirm UC Irvine as choice on May 1, 2018.

UC Santa Barbara HonorsApplication period for all UC campuses is August 1-November 30, 2017. Honors invitation after applicants confirm UC Irvine as choice on May 1, 2018.

University at Albany Honors: Apply February 1–April 1, 2018, with reviews of applications in early March. Applications after April 1, 2018, on a space-available basis. Some advantage to applying no later than March 1, 2018.

Univ at Buffalo (SUNY) HonorsEarly action by November 15, 2017, to university and provide all test results and supporting material by December 15, 2017, also the scholarship deadline. Regular decision is February 1, 2018.

Utah HonorsPriority deadline November 1, 2017; final deadline March 1, 2018.

UT Austin Plan II: May apply beginning August 1, 2018; recommended deadline is October 15, 2018, but final deadline is December 1, 2018. Applications are reviewed in the order in which they are accepted.

UT San Antonio Honors: November 1, 2018, through February 1, 2018.

Vermont HonorsEarly action November 1, 2017; regular deadline January 15, 2018. No separate honors application.

Virginia Honors  Echols: University early action deadline November 1, 2017; regular deadline January 1, 2018.

Virginia Tech HonorsUniversity early decision deadline November 1, 2017, with notification December 15; regular deadline is January 15, 2018, and notification by April 1, 2018.

Washington HonorsNovember 15, 2017. Notification of university admission March 1–March 15, 2018; notification of honors admission March 19–April 13, 2018.

Washington State HonorsJanuary 31, 2018.

Wisconsin Honors: First Fall deadline is November 1, 2017, with notification by January 31, 2018; Second Fall deadline is February 1, 2018, with notification by March 31, 2018. Honors applicants have 30 days to apply for honors after they login.

Georgetown Prof on Finding Best Teaching, Mentoring: Consider Honors Colleges (with a nod to INSIDE HONORS)

Editor’s Note: In a piece in the Washington Post, Georgetown University Professor Jacques Berlinerblau, author of the book COLLEGE CONFIDENTIAL, offered several tips for prospective students who want a good return on investment, smaller classes, strong teaching, and undergraduate research and mentoring. Below are his comments on honors colleges, and a nod to our own book, INSIDE HONORS.

“Honors Colleges: In many ways an Honors College represents an institutional effort to deal with all the deficiencies of American undergraduate education alluded to above. These units (here is a handy guide) are usually carved out from larger schools. They may possess a “war chest” which lets them lure high-performing applicants away from highly ranked places where professorial buy-in will be minimal. In short, these administrations try to identify the best scholar-teachers on the Quad (regardless of their politics), place them in small classroom settings, and properly train them and incentivize them to completely commit to undergraduate teaching. That’s what all colleges should be doing. And that’s what all parents should be looking for.”

It would be hard to find a stronger endorsement of honors colleges.

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
Stanford
Carnegie Mellon
USC
UT Austin
Georgia Tech
Illinois
San Jose State
UC San Diego
Arizona State
Michigan
UCLA
NC State
Cal Poly
Cornell
Waterloo (Canada)
Texas A&M
Washington
Purdue
MIT
Santa Clara
Univ of Phoenix*
UC Santa Barbara
UC Davis
Penn State

*Hypothesis: hands-on experience and later degrees?

Q & A with Inaugural Honors Dean at Kentucky’s Lewis Honors College

Editor’s Note: The following detailed Q & A is between editor John Willingham and Dr. Christian M.M. Brady, the inaugural Dean of the Lewis Honors College at the University of Kentucky, where almost half of the inaugural class is receiving full tuition scholarships or greater awards. Dr. Brady is the former longtime Dean of the Schreyer Honors College at Penn State. [Emphases below are added.] Please see earlier post, Kentucky to Open New Honors College with Gift of $23 Million.

Dean Christian M.M. Brady, Lewis Honors College

Editor: Can you say what the expected test score and GPA requirement will be, at least approximately at LHC?

Dean Brady: This year’s incoming class has an average unweighted GPA of 3.86 and an average ACT of 31.4. Please note that these figures are determined after the fact. The LHC does not use standardized test scores, but rather has an holistic selection process. The formal statement on the website currently reads*: “Applicants to the Lewis Honors College typically have at least a 28 ACT or 1310 SAT (M + EBRW) and an unweighted GPA of 3.50 on a 4.00 scale.” These minimums are not guarantees of admission to the program, but act as a benchmark for consideration. All applicants should be aware that Honors admission decisions are made independently of Competitive Academic Scholarships and applications will not be reviewed until a student has been admitted to the University….[A]n applicant’s essay responses carry a large amount of weight in the admission process….The deadline for submission of the application and all required documents is December 1.

*These minimum requirements are likely to change.

Editor: In what ways will the LHC differ from the previous honors program? In what ways the same? Will the number of honors sections be significantly increased?

Lewis Hall

Dean Brady: Honors was created at UK in 1961 and has taken on various forms in its nearly 60 year history. With the establishment of the Lewis Honors College we will continue the more recent progress of a university-wide honors program with certain key features. The development of a foundational course and experience that all Lewis Honors College Scholars will participate in, the expansion of departmental honors courses, and the strengthening of the honors thesis or capstone requirement. Students are also required to do 6 credits of “honors experience,” which can be accomplished via study abroad, service learning, and research. The LHC will have up to ten lecturers who will teach the Foundations Seminar and other honors courses through the relevant departments. We will also have two endowed lectureships: one in the area of organizational behavior and the other in entrepreneurship. There is a new Career Advising Center being created, with a staff of four advisors. There will also be five Academic Advisors. These new staff positions, along with other student programing positions, will all be in place by the end of fall 2017. Staff will be housed in the new Lewis Hall.

Located directly across from the WT Thomas Library and next to “The 90,” a dining and classroom space, Lewis Hall is one of three Honors residence halls and includes 346 beds. It also has over 20,000 square feet of office and meeting space, including four classrooms and a café. There is a spacious outdoor patio venue as well. One particular concern that I think will come to the fore is the commitment to helping students from their earliest moments on campus to discern their pathway forward. (E.g., they might have always thought they should be an engineer because they are good at numbers and like creating things, but they might actually be more of a business person. Or vice versa.) This will be determined and elaborated later in this semester, once we have the opportunity to meet with students and faculty.

Editor: What is the size of the class of 2021, and anticipated size thereafter?

Dean Brady: The incoming class is predicted to be 540 and our target is to maintain 10% of total student population, roughly 2,200 LHC Scholars.

Editor: What is your personal vision for LHC, building on your long experience at Penn State and contacts in the honors community?

Dean Brady: I believe firmly that every honors college and program should reflect what is distinctive and unique about the larger university community of which it is a part…. [W]e should also have a particular distinctiveness that reflects the Kentucky identity. This does not mean that we are regional, quite the opposite. The traits I have already seen in terms of work ethic, humility, and commitment to community are those that we should seek to inculcate in all students. Over the next 5 to 10 years we will build one of the strongest honors colleges in the nation. Founded upon the strength of excellent faculty, great breadth of offerings at UK (it is one of the most comprehensive research universities in the nation, with every professional school, aside from veterinary, within 1 mile of the honors complex), and developing men and women to understand and meet their own potential while benefitting their communities. As some have put it, “doing well while doing good.” The LHC will also become a standard within the nation and the world for innovation….With over thirteen years in the honors community, I look forward to working with our colleagues around the world to continue to learn from their best practices, develop exchange opportunities for our students, and help establish new standards for honors education. We will be submitting a proposal to host the [Honors Education at Research Univerity] HERU meeting in 2019 and I look forward to working with my SEC colleagues, many of whom I have already met through HERU and Big Ten conferences.

Interior view of Lewis Hall

Editor: What are the amounts and availability of merit scholarships, and do LHC students automatically qualify for university scholarships? Does the LHC offer its own merit scholarships?

Dean Brady: I am still learning where exactly all funds reside, but this is certain: the LHC has more than $8MM in scholarships each year. Almost half of all incoming students will have a scholarship at least cover full tuition. We are also preparing to enter into a capital campaign in which developing further scholarship and grant funds (for research, study abroad, and internships) will be a priority.

Editor: Can you tell us more about the honors residence halls and the LHC administration building?

Dean Brady: I referenced the new Lewis Hall earlier. There are also two other Honors residence halls, all built within the last 5 years, that are beautifully appointed with learning spaces for the students on each floor, ground floor lounges, and located next to the library and the new, $112MM Jacobs Science Building.

Another view of the Lewis complex

Editor: Can you tell us more about the size of the LHC staff and their assignments; are any staff dedicated to prestigious awards?

Dean Brady: When fully staffed we will have over 30 staff members including an associate dean for academic affairs, a director of academic affairs, five academic advisors, and up to twelve lecturers. We will have a senior director of student affairs who will oversee a director of career advising and 3 career advisors, a director of recruitment, a director of the Residential College (student programming), and an administrative assistant for student affairs and receptionist. We will also have a budget officer, director of communications, and a philanthropy officer.

Editor: What are the levels of honors completion and the semester-hour requirements for each level; is there a thesis required; is there a limit on honors conversions (contract courses?

Dean Brady: There are some adjustments being made, but the basic requirements beginning in 2018 will be:

• Total of 30 honors credit hours

• Writing, Reading, and Digital Studies/CIS (accelerated two-semester course)

• 2 first year courses + foundational seminar

• 2 upper level courses + directed elective (“Honors students must choose at least three credit hours in HON 301 [an honors ‘pro-seminar’] or departmental Honors sections outside their general discipline of study, including declared majors, minors, and certificate programs at the time of course enrollment.”)

• 6 cr Honors experience study abroad, experiential & service learning, research

• Senior Thesis

Former Schreyer Dean Christian Brady Is First Dean of UKY New Lewis Honors College

Editor’s Note: The following post is from the University of Kentucky.

University of Kentucky provost Tim Tracy announced today that the former head of one of the most highly regarded honors programs in the country will be the first dean of the Lewis Honors College.

Christian Brady for 10 years — from 2006 to 2016 — served as dean of the Schreyer Honors College at Penn State University. Previously, he directed the honors program at Tulane University. At Penn State, Schreyer — under Brady’s leadership — raised more than $80 million to enhance honors education, developed a renowned leadership academy, and tripled applications to the college while also increasing selectivity.

Christian Brady

Brady’s permanent appointment is subject to approval by the UK Board of Trustees. He begins his work at UK Aug. 1.

“In Christian Brady, we have someone acknowledged throughout the country as a leader in honors education, who at the same time, has maintained an active career as a scholar in his field,” Tracy said. “This combination of skills, background and leadership is precisely what we have been looking for in our inaugural Lewis Honors Dean. Our students and staff are excited about the potential of growing this program into one of the leading Honors Colleges in the country under Christian’s leadership. The Lewis Honors College, I’m confident, will quickly become one of the distinctive programs at UK, one that helps prepare students for what President Capilouto often refers to as lives of meaning and purpose.”

Brady is a scholar of ancient Hebrew and Jewish literature. He has written two books and has a third one in progress. Brady also is the author of numerous scholarly articles and papers.

“It is a great honor and responsibility to be the founding dean of the Lewis Honors College. Honors education is not an exercise in elitism, rather it is providing UK honors students with an enhanced educational experience that will also benefit the entire university. Our goals are nothing less than building the best honors program in the nation and developing women and men who will transform this world in a positive way.”

In October 2015, the University of Kentucky received the largest single gift in its history — $23 million — from alumnus, longtime donor and successful entrepreneur Thomas W. Lewis and his wife Jan to create the Lewis Honors College from the previously existing Honors Program. The dean of the Lewis Honors College is a full-time appointment, reporting directly to the provost and serving on the Deans’ Council.

The dean serves as the academic and administrative head of the Lewis Honors College and is responsible for the leadership and administration of all aspects of the college.