Honors Programs with High “Value Added”

As we approach the publication date of A Review of 50 Public University Honors Programs, we plan to share some results of our research over the past six months. Today’s post lists the universities whose honors values–curriculum, prestigious scholarships, grad/retention rates, and honors benefits–elevate them dramatically in relation to their rankings by U.S. News.

In the guidebook, we refer to the positive difference between the perception of a university, on the one hand, with honors excellence factors, on the other hand, as HONORS IMPACT. For example, a university may have a U.S. News ranking of 100, but score in the top 10 in our review when honors values are the primary focus. One way to look at this positive difference is to regard it as a value added, over and above the perception or quality of the university as a whole. Of course it is far more difficult for a university with a high U.S. News ranking to achieve a dramatic value-added result, but some of the best honors programs are not in high-ranking universities, and we think it’s useful to show how much value they do add.

Below is a list of universities, their U.S. News rank, and their honors impact rank among the 50 we are reviewing:

Arizona State—–132—1
South Carolina—-111—2
Michigan State—–71—7
Stony Brook——-111—9

(Revised, April 8, 2012.)

Honors Residence Halls–University of Indiana

Freshmen students in the Hutton Honors College at Indiana University may live anywhere on campus, but they might prefer to live on honors residential community floors in Briscoe Hall, in the northwest neighborhood; Teter Hall, in the central neighborhood; and Forest Hall, in the southeast neighborhood. All these residence halls are air-conditioned. Living arrangements vary from the traditional, with hall baths in Teter and Forest, to coed living and a selection of room configurations in Briscoe.

With its central location, Teter is the choice of many students. Not far from the School of Education, the Wells Library, several classroom buildings, and the highly-regarded Kelley Business School, Teter is also close to most classes and other campus facilities.

Briscoe is closer to the business school, but farther from other campus facilities. According to some students, Briscoe has something of a party reputation, and is home to a lot of athletes and a high number of business school students. But here’s one honors student’s view:

“I chose to live in an Honors Residential Community in Briscoe, and living there changed my entire college experience; I am surrounded by students like myself who are driven academically, but who are incredibly involved all across campus. I have found my home away from home, and I attribute that feeling to being in the Honors College here at IU.”

Forest Hall is farther away from some classes, to the southeast, but one student reviewer really likes the location:

“I think the SE dorms are probably in one of the best locations on campus because they’re the closest to most of the buildings where your classes will be and there are great places to eat here as well that are way underrated.

Forest is also near the Jacobs School of Music, so a lot of music majors live there. Many international students live there as well.

Hutton Honors College also recommends housing for freshmen in the Living Learning Centers “in Foster International, Collins, Kelley, and the Global Village, but one doesn’t have to be in Hutton to live in these LLC’s, and there are no Honors Residential Community floors located in these.”

Hutton upperclassmen have two additional Honors Residential Community floor choices, one in the New Union Street Center, and the other in Willkie Hall.

Honors Residence Halls–University of Georgia

In discussing other honors residence halls, we have noted that some universities–and many students–prefer traditional dorms with corridor baths because this arrangement, though not ideally convenient, does afford more socialization than suite-type living.

Myers Hall at the University of Georgia tackles this issue by offering several living options within one residence hall: traditional doubles, suites, and private rooms. Freshmen at UGA are required to live on campus, with few exceptions, so being assigned to a newly-renovated and classically appealing hall such as Myers is a great advantage for 250 entering honors students each year. The Honors program even maintains a satellite office in Myers in order to facilitate participation, registration, and activities for honors students.

In addition to the variety of living arrangements, Myers is in a great location in South Campus, very close to classes and other campus facilities. The hall has in-room temp controls for the air conditioning that is so important for students living through the Georgia heat in early Fall and late Spring. Myers is adjacent to Snelling Dining Hall, a 24-hour facility. And it’s not just the dorm itself that’s appealing. Here’s what a UGA student has to say about the Myers Quad:

“The best part about these halls is Myers Quad. It’s the huge space of lawn shared by the Myers community and is a beautiful multi-purpose space. You can study, play ultimate Frisbee, play basketball, go to a barbecue, have a water fight, or just take a nap on the lawn. It also is a prime tailgate location of game days and in 2008, College Gameday even filmed it’s show from the quad. It’s the perfect college quad and even if you don’t live in Myers, you should find some time to unwind on the quad.”

And all the better if you DO live there!

After freshman year, honors students can live in the East Campus Village, as well as other locations. ECV is basically apartment living, and successful honors students have an edge in applying a place there because GPA is one important factor in assigning priority.

The Matter of Size

Often it appears that college honors programs are known more by their differences than by their similarities. This is certainly true when it comes to the varying sizes of honors colleges and programs among the fifty universities we are reviewing.

Indeed, for four of the universities we are reviewing, we can’t even determine the size of their honors programs. But for the other 46, the mean honors enrollment is 1,762 students.
Total honors enrollment in all fifty universities is in excess of 80,000 students.

The mean enrollment for honors colleges is 1,958; the mean for honors programs is 1,624. The smallest programs are those at Binghamton (c. 175) and Stony Brook (c. 250). The largest are at Ohio State (6,500), Iowa (5,000), Indiana (4,000), Arizona State (3,500), Massachusetts (3,100), and Maryland and Texas A&M (3,000).

Clustered relatively close to the mean are Alabama (1,650), Iowa State (1,600), Washington (1,450), Delaware (1,850), Florida (1,800), and Penn State (1,877).

Some of the Southern colleges with newer or more consolidated facilities cluster around 1,100: Mississippi (1,135), South Carolina (1,200), and Clemson (1,000).

These enrollment numbers may vary somewhat from actual numbers in a given year. (Revised March 12, 2012.)

Does the size of an honors program or college matter? Some of the really large programs will consider the top 15% of applicants to the university as eligible, thereby significantly increasing a prospective student’s chances of being admitted.

Of the more selective honors programs, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Michigan, Minnesota, and Penn State have honors enrollments greater than 1,850 students. The Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, and Penn State enrollments are on the lower end of this range, with about 1,800–1,850 honors students. Georgia, Michigan, and Minnesota all have more than 2,000 students.

Other selective honors programs are much smaller. UC Irvine has about 625 students, and Texas (Plan II only) has about 700 students. Kansas has about 1,100, Virginia about 1,000, and North Carolina 1,200. Wisconsin enrolls 1,300 honors students, and Washington has 1,450.

Therefore, even if SAT and GPA requirements are equivalent, acceptance rates vary significantly. The UT Austin Plan II program accepts less than 8% of applicants, a number which translates to much less than 1% of the undergraduate student body. At Wisconsin, on the other hand, the top 7.5% of all students in the College of Letters and Sciences are eligible. This figure translates to about 4% of the undergraduate student body.

So, when it comes to size, the odds are more in your favor when you go for a larger honors program or college, as you would expect. The larger question is what size program appears to be optimal for honors learning? Stay tuned; we might have a tentative answer later.

Honors Residence Halls–University of Michigan

One of the premier universities–public or private–in the nation, the University of Michigan, through its LSA Honors Program, also provides excellent housing opportunities for it students.

Most live in South Quad, one of the best locations on this large campus, with a dining hall, pizzeria, and a cafe. South Quad is near State Street in Ann Arbor, the site of festivals, restaurants, pubs, theaters, bookstores, and many other events and attractions.

About 35 percent of students in South Quad are in honors program, living in contiguous halls. The presence of both honors and non-honors students in the same residence halls allows a broader range of associations on a regular basis, while maintaining the relative peace and quiet in the honors halls. South Quad is a traditional dorm, meaning that baths are shared by all residents of a corridor.

South Quad, despite its name, is actually in central campus, convenient to most classes and facilities, including the student union. It is also the home of the student-run cable TV station, WOLV.

“South Quad was built in 1951 and won an award from the Michigan Society of Architects. At the time, South Quad was a trendsetter in college residence halls,” according to the university housing department. “Although it was originally an all-male residence, South Quad went co-ed in 1964 when half of its male residents traded places with half of Markley Hall’s female residents.”

Honors women also have the opportunity to live in Martha Cook Hall, “a small, traditional, independent house for women in the Central Campus Housing Neighborhood; it features beautiful rooms, traditional events, and a warm community for its residents.”

“Martha Cook is home to 140 first years to graduate women. Located in the heart of central campus, it is only steps away from the Diag, Grad Library, UgLi, Law quad, Michigan Union, Business School and School of Education. Martha Cook opened to female students in the fall of 1915 as the first dormitory on campus, a gift of alumnus William Cook. Over the past century the building has been home to thousands of University of Michigan women, who have left their mark on the building, the University and the world.”

Honors Residence Halls–University of Maryland

Honors students at Maryland have four possible options for housing: Ellicott, Hagerstown, and La Plata Halls, all a part of the north-central Ellicott housing community, or Anne Arundel Hall, a much smaller dorm located on South Campus. It appears that most honors students may be assigned to Hagerstown Hall.

The Ellicott houses are generally considered to be more centrally located, and they share the North Campus Dining Hall and The Diner, a popular eating spot on campus. Of the three Ellicott houses, only one is air conditioned: La Plata. All have corridor bathrooms shared by all students living on a hall, usually 33 residents.

Anne Arundel only houses just over 100 students in its South Campus location. The hall is air conditioned, and baths are shared by 9 students. Anne Arundel is housed in the most aesthetically pleasing structure.

The honors-related Gemstone program is housed in Ellicott Hall. The Entrepreneurship and Innovations Program and Integrated Life Sciences Program students are in Laplata Hall. Hagerstown Hall is home to the University Honors Program, while some honors offices, conference spaces and team rooms are in La Plata Hall. All three Ellicott dorms are near the campus recreation center.

The Dining Hall is a part of the Ellicott community, and a convenience store is only a few minutes away. Most academic buildings and libraries are less than a 15-minute walk away and the university shuttle makes frequent stops in the community for overall safety and convenience.

Honors Residence Halls–Penn State

Located in South Campus at Penn State, the two honors halls–Atherton and Simmons–are right by College Avenue, a great location for social activities and the closest residence halls to downtown. On College Avenue, students can find bookstores, theaters, pharmacies, pizza and hamburger joints, restaurants, and pubs.

The two honors halls are south-central on campus, not as close to most classrooms as North and West campus dorms, perhaps, but still a great location. The honors halls are adjacent to the nationally-recognized Schreyer Honors College offices and share the neighborhood with three dining halls, one on site, and many private restaurants.

The halls are traditional, meaning that residents share rooms, mostly doubles, and also share corridor bathrooms. Atherton has a 24/7 computer room that has a printer and 29 computer terminals for student use. The Schreyer Honors College administration offices are also in Atherton. The mail room for both halls is in Simmons. Some students consider Simmons to be the best dorm on the entire Penn State campus. Both halls also have a grand piano.

Each hall has laundry facilities, and Atherton has a TV lounge and a 24-hour study room called the “Zombie Lounge.” Simmons has two TV lounges and a “cultural/coffee house lounge” as well.

Honors Residence Halls–University of Virginia

You might not know it without some research, but the University of Virginia, which prides itself on its deserved reputation for the excellence of its entire study body, also now provides special honors housing for Echols Scholars in arts and sciences and Rodman Scholars in engineering.

Good housing is especially important for UVA freshmen because they are required to live in campus housing during their first year.

The “New Dorms” on Alderman Road–the name comes from the fact that they were built “recently,” in the 1960s–have been remodeled. The two halls for honor students are Balz-Dobie and Watson-Webb; seven other halls make up the Alderman Road Residence Area.

The two honors halls house about 460 students. Though not as conveniently located as the “Old Dorms” on McCormick Road, the New Dorms have air conditioning; the Old Dorms are smaller and have no AC. The Alderman Road Area is still a good location, however, better than most others outside the Old Dorm area. There is also a commons between the two honors halls.

A UVA official told the campus paper that “the buildings add something to the residential experience.” They are “very rich in spaces that allow for social gathering and in support of academic pursuits,” she said. On the first floor of each building, the paper reports, there are “multiple lounges for private study, multipurpose rooms and a large open lounge that can be partitioned into two smaller spaces, along with laundry and vending areas.”

Rooms are configured so that up to five double bedrooms share a large bath area, so that only 10 or so students are involved versus the 30 or more that sometimes have to share corridor baths. There is a separate study room that allows one or more students to hit the books without disturbing their roommates. Some of the rooms even have balconies.

The New Dorms for honors students have received their share of attention on campus. A student reviewer expresses both the admiration and the jealousy felt by some UVA students:

“I have personally been in [Balz-Dobie] and it is a hotel. The toilets flush up and down (up for #1, down for #2), have motion-sensitive lighting, and beautiful lounges. I believe they are LED-certified buildings, and this statement makes me jealous: ‘The air handler has an energy recovery wheel that captures the heat from exhaust air and recycles it, and the whole precinct is fed by steam from McCormick Road and chilled water from the Aquatic and Fitness Center.’ It’s like the environmentally-friendly version of caviar and Perrier.”

Major Public Universities with Best Honors Benefits

In the recent Review of Fifty Public University Honors Programs, some 20% of the total score for each university will be for the special benefits that each provides for honors students.

Of this 20%, honors housing will count for 10%; study abroad for 7.5%; and priority registration for honors students for 2.5%. Note: many programs do not regard study-abroad programs as a “benefit” but as an essential part of the curriculum.

Some honors educators believe that an over-emphasis on benefits detracts from what should be the primary focus of honors education: learning at the highest level, but without too many perks. A few of the best public universities do not offer priority registration for honors students, for example, because these universities believe in the high quality of their student bodies as a whole and think that cohesion and mutual respect are more important to their mission than perquisites for the few.

On the other hand, students themselves value the benefits, especially if their university is extremely large and bureaucratic, or the campus is far-flung, or they have a keen interest in foreign study, or simply prefer more peace and quiet than most college students. A significant number of student comments suggest that priority registration is the main reason that the students participate in some honors programs. This is not typical, but even when “perks” are not primary, they are appealing to most honors students.

The universities among our fifty who scored the highest in the combined metric for honors housing, study abroad, and priority registration are listed below. (Please note that the score for the combined metric does not mean that all of the universities listed below have priority registration for honors students, though almost all of them do.) This list was revised on April 4, 2012.

1. Arizona, Delaware, Vermont

4. Ohio State

5. Georgia, Kansas, Texas

8. Michigan State

9. Arizona State, Mississippi

11. Texas A&M

12. Virginia

13. Penn State

14. Illinois, Minnesota, UCLA

Close behind are Indiana, Iowa, South Carolina, and Washington State.

Top Study-Abroad Programs

As we get closer to completing our research on fifty leading public university honors programs, we will release some of the results prior to publication of the guidebook A Review of Fifty Public University Honors Programs in April. In this post, we will list the top universities among the fifty for study-abroad opportunities.

The data we used are a composite of university-wide and program-specific information, depending on the degree of cooperation from the honors programs and colleges.

Some of the best study-abroad programs have an extremely high level of participation from honors students: as many as two-thirds of all honors students study abroad, many for a significant period of time. About half of the fifty universities in our study have received some form of recognition for study-abroad programs.

The universities below all received the maximum score in the study-abroad category (revised April 4, 2012):

Arizona, Delaware, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Michigan State, Minnesota, UCLA, UT Austin, Washington, Wisconsin, and Vermont.

Close behind are Georgia Tech, UC Irvine, UC San Diego, and UC Santa Barbara.