Editor’s note, updated August 17, 2016. For our new edition, INSIDE HONORS, we have used a different methodology based on a deeper analysis of honors class sizes and courses.  The new edition features exclusive and comprehensive new data about leading honors colleges and programs in the U.S.

I. Basic Methodology.

–Honors curriculum requirement for completion at the highest level, as a percentage of total hours required for graduation=20%

–Number of honors sections =10%

–Number of honors sections in 15 key disciplines=10%

–Extent of honors enrollment (reach of program across four years)=10%

–Average actual honors-only class size, including mixed departmental sections=6.25%

–Average overall honors program class size, including mixed/contract sections=6.25%

–Honors actual graduation rate, adjusted for performance versus other programs in the same entrance test score group=7.5%

–Value-added graduation rate, or the difference between the honors grad rate and that of the university as a whole=2.5%

–Ratio of honors staff to honors students, scaled=7.5%

–Honors housing amenities=7.5%

–Availability of honors housing=2.5%

–Prestigious awards (Rhodes, Marshall, Truman, Goldwater, Fulbright, NSF, etc.)=7.5%

–Priority registration for honors students=2.5%

II. Changes to reflect the variations in honors programs.  The most useful criticism we received after the first, limited effort to review honors programs was that our emphasis on honors curriculum as a percentage of total hours required for graduation was simplistic.  Although that measure is central to National Collegiate Honors Council standards and the extent of honors requirements is extremely important, we do agree that quantifying required honors hours alone does not reflect the substance that derives from the number, type, and availability of classes. That is why we have also analyzed the complete class schedules of each program.

A related issue is the value of contract courses and large mixed sections of honors and non-honors students, often with smaller break-out (discussion) sections that are all-honors. In calculating class size, we use a somewhat complicated formula that does not count just the honors enrollment in large mixed sections. The reason: we believe that most parents and prospective students want to know the size of the main section of a given course, which meets 3 or 4 hours a week, rather than the size of the weekly break-out section that usually meets for only 1 hour a week and may be taught by a graduate assistant.

The cost of providing resources for large numbers of engineering students can result in lesser allocations to honors programs and to honors curricular requirements that are less extensive.  In recognition of this fact, we have included a small adjustment in the curriculum metric that considers the percentage of engineering students in a university.

Finally, we have abandoned numerical rankings in favor of “mortarboards,” similar to the star rating systems.  Ratings will vary from 5, to 4.5, to 4.0, to 3.5, to 3.0 ‘s.

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