About the Numbers, Part 1

We have collected a lot of data, some of which has been through two or three rounds of number crunching. From time to time, we will have posts in our “About the Numbers” series that will inform our readers about some of our preliminary findings. For the most part, these posts will not contain lists or name individual universities, but simply report on some of the wonkier aspects of our project. Many of these reports will focus on university-wide data. Please remember that these data are primarily a framework in our overall evaluation of honors colleges and programs and are certainly not the only measures we will consider.

Today’s post will discuss the relationship of U.S. News rankings and BA to Ph.D. progression, on the one hand, to the number of prestigious scholarships awarded, on the other hand.

You might think there would be strong positive correlation and significance between a university’s U.S. News rank and the number of prestigious scholarships awarded to the university’s students. Nevertheless, the U.S. News rankings of the fifty universities we are reviewing do not appear to be significantly related to the number of prestigious scholarships awarded.

Of course there are some universities in our group that are highly rated and that do see a high percentage of their graduates winning prestigious awards; but as a group, there is little or no significant relationship between U.S. News rank and Goldwater, Rhodes, Udall, and Truman awards. There is, however, a significant relationship between U.S. News rank and the number of Fulbright awards, even after the Fulbright awards are adjusted for the size of each university’s undergraduate population.

Similarly, the number of Bachelor’s grads who proceed to earning a Ph.D. might seem to correlate significantly with prestigious awards; but, again, the only significant correlation is with Fulbright awards.

Finally, awards to faculty and faculty membership in national academies correlate significantly to U.S. News and to BA to Ph.D. progression, but not to prestigious scholarships, except, again, to Fulbright awards.

So, with respect to our “Fifty,” factors other than U.S. News rank, faculty awards, and BA to Ph.D. progression contribute more significantly to the number of prestigious scholarships awarded. These other “excellence factors” may well include effective honors programs.

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