Honors Completion Rates: A Statistical Summary

Editor’s Note: This is the third and final post in our series on honors program completion rates.

In the first post, we wrote about the hybrid structure of honors programs and how that can affect honors completion rates. An honors completion rate is the percentage of honors students who complete all honors course requirements for at least one option by the time they graduate. The second post presented a tentative formula for evaluating honors completion rates.

This post has two parts. The first part compares honors completion rates of main option and multiple option honors programs; the second part (2) a compares completion rates of honors colleges and honors programs.

Main option programs emphasize only one curriculum completion path, usually requiring more than 30 honors credits and often an honors thesis as well. Multiple option programs offer two or more completion paths for first-year students. One option might require 24 honors credits; another might require 15-16 credits. Either of these might also require a thesis.

Many universities are now establishing honors colleges. These usually have a dean and a designated staff of advisors. They typically provide at least enough honors housing space for first-year students. Some began as honors programs and then re-formed into honors colleges. Quite a few honors colleges have significant endowments.

Honors programs do not have a dean, but are administered by a director and staff. Sometimes there are few real differences between honors colleges and programs. In general, however, honors colleges have more staff and offer more access to honors housing.

We received data from 23 honors colleges and eight honors programs, having a combined enrollment of more than 64,000 honors students. The 31 parent universities had an average U.S. News ranking of 126, ranging from the low 50s to higher than 200.

The first summary is below:

PART ONE: SUMMARY STATISTICS   
MAIN OPT PROGRAMS VS
MULTI OPTION PROGRAMS
MEASUREALL PROGRAMSMAIN OPTIONMULTI OPTION
NO. OF PROGRAMS311516
NO. HONORS STUDENTS642872768836599
PROGRAM SIZE2073.81845.92287.4
COMPLETION % rate57.967.848.6
UNIVERSITY GRAD RT67.268.765.6
UNIV GRAD RT>COMPLETION RT9.3.917.0
HONORS GRAD RATE86.988.785.2
HONORS GR RT>COMPLETION RT29.020.936.6
HONORS GR RT>UNIV GR RT19.720.019.6
FRESH RETENTION86.787.785.6
TEST SCORES ADJ TO SAT1405.61416.91395.0
CURRICULUM REQUIREMENT AVG27.031.822.1
CLASS SIZE24.224.024.4
THESIS OPTION Y/N27/411/416/0
THESIS REQ ALL OPTIONS Y/N14/3110/54/16
DORM RMS / FR & SOPH0.53.57.48
HON CLASS SEATS / HON STUDENTS1.291.491.11
APPLY SEP TO HONORS Y/N23/812/311/5

The second summary, comparing honors colleges and honors programs, is below:

SUMMARY PART TWO: HON COLLEGESHON PROGRAMS
HONORS COLLEGES vs
HONORS PROGRAMS
NO. OF PROGRAMS238
NO. HONORS STUDENTS5277111516
PROGRAM SIZE2294.391439.5
COMPLETION % rate54.866.7
UNIVERSITY GRAD RT64.774.5
UNIV GRAD RT>COMPLETION RT9.97.8
HONORS GRAD RATE85.591.0
HONORS GR RT>COMPLETION RT30.724.3
HONORS GR RT>UNIV GR RT20.816.5
FRESH RETENTION85.689.5
TEST SCORES ADJ TO SAT1394.61437.3
CURRICULUM REQUIREMENT AVG26.029.75
CLASS SIZE25.022.0
MAIN OPTION 106
MULTIPLE OPTION132
THESIS OPTION Y/N20/236/8
THESIS REQ ALL OPTIONS Y/N10/233/8
DORM RMS / FR & SOPH.55.46
HON CLASS SEATS / HON STUDENTS1.251.44
APPLY SEP TO HONORS Y/N17/235/8

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Top Honors Programs, Honors Components Only

So, what do we mean by “honors components only”?

In our latest book of honors program ratings, we listed the honors programs and colleges that received an overall five “mortarboard” rating. One component of the rating model used in order to determine the leading programs is prestigious scholarships–the number of Rhodes, Marshall, Truman, Goldwater, etc., awards earned by students from each university as a whole.

In most cases, honors programs at these universities contribute most of the winners of these awards, but not in all cases. So while the prestigious scholarship component is worth including, we do not want it to override the 12 other rating components used in the ratings. These components are “honors only” because they do not include awards earned by non-honors students of the university as a whole.

Therefore, we decided to do a separate rating, one that is not included in the new book, INSIDE HONORS. The new rating uses only the 12 components listed below. Farther down,  you can see whether the prestigious scholarship component had a major impact on the overall ratings of top programs.

Those 12 additional components are…

  • Curriculum Requirements
  • Number of Honors Classes
  • Number of Honors Classes in 15 Key Disciplines
  • Extent of Honors Enrollment
  • Average Class Size, Honors-only Sections
  • Overall Average Class Size, All Sections
  • Honors Graduation Rate-Raw
  • Honors Graduation Rate-Adjusted for Test Scores
  • Student to Staff Ratio
  • Type and Extent of Priority Registration
  • Honors Residence Halls, Amenities
  • Honors Residence Halls, Availability

Below is a comparison of the honors programs that received a five mortarboard OVERALL RATING (left side) and those that receive the same rating for HONORS COMPONENTS ONLY (right side), all listed ALPHABETICALLY.

OVERALL FIVE MORTARBOARDS HONORS ONLY COMPONENTS, FIVE MORTARBOARDS
Arizona St Clemson
Clemson CUNY Macaulay
CUNY Macaulay Georgia
Georgia Houston
Houston Kansas
Kansas New Jersey Inst Tech
New Jersey Inst Tech Oregon
Oregon Penn St
Penn St South Carolina
South Carolina Temple
UT Austin UT Austin

It is notable that the overlap is almost identical: Arizona State is not on the second list, while Temple is not on the OVERALL list but is on the HONORS COMPONENTS list.

We must add that Temple barely missed a five mortarboard overall rating, while ASU was similarly close to making the honors components list.