New College of Florida: Unique, with Honors Attributes

The New College of Florida, located in Sarasota, is the official public liberal arts college for the state, and with only about 800 undergraduates enrolled, the entire campus functions in much the same way as a relatively small honors program at a larger university.

New College is not, strictly speaking, an honors college.  But with an estimated average SAT in the 2000 range and average GPA of about 3.75, it is as selective as many major research university honors colleges and programs, and the curriculum and extremely flexible options appear to have some of the same elements as Echols Scholars enjoy at the University of Virgina along with tutorial choices that are similar to Ohio University’s Honors Tutorial College.

Like Echols scholars, all students at New College can create their own, individual curriculum, with a choice of forty majors and additional choices for double concentrations.  Classes are with very small–about 12 students–or one on one, in the tutorial format that is associated with Ohio U.

And there’s one other thing you should know about New College: there are no grades.

Students receive lengthy and detailed narrative evaluations of their performance in course work and tutorials.  Does this hurt New College students when they apply to graduate and professional schools?

The answer appears to be no.  “About 80 percent of New College alumni go on to graduate school within six years of graduating,” the college reports. “For the 2010 graduating class, 86 percent of graduates who applied to a Ph.D. program were accepted, and 100 percent who applied to law school got in! It’s no wonder that The Wall Street Journal ranked New College the nation’s no. 2 public feeder school for elite law, medical and business schools.”

Another key feature of New College is that Kiplinger’s Best Values in Public Colleges ranks New College at number 5 as an in-state public college value, and at number 19 as an out-of-state value.

One thing that students should consider is very small size of the college.  On the plus side, there is the flexibility, the individual instruction, the research opportunities, and excellent options for studying abroad, especially in language-related study.  New College students have an extraordinarily high rate of success in attaining Fulbright Student Fellowships, to go with the excellent prospects for placement in graduate and professional schools.

But on the other side of the ledger, the small campus is also like a very small town, and some small towns can seem confining.  One factor that may offset the small size is that about 80 percent of students live on campus.

“New College’s Pei Campus is the center of residential life, the college says, “with eight out of a total of nine residence halls located there. Along with the dorms, Hamilton ‘Ham’ Center, Palm Court, the Fitness Center and other recreational facilities form a student village where academics and campus life seamlessly intertwine and ‘learning occurs around the clock.'”

“Designed by internationally-renowned architect I.M. Pei, New College’s Pei Residence Halls opened in 1965 and accommodate more than 250 students in double and triple-occupancy rooms, each with its own private bathroom. Community spaces and laundry rooms in the Pei buildings are located in each of the three quads, and the outdoor Palm Court around which the rooms are grouped is a focus of New College student life. Pei rooms are spacious, measuring approximately 15′ x 15.’

“All of the rooms have recently, and some feature covered porches or large balconies, providing additional living space. The clustered construction, communal spaces and orientation around Palm Court affords Pei residents a strong sense of community.”

Dining options include the student-run Four Winds Cafe, located on the Bayfront section of campus, a market cafe with sandwiches and traditional entrees, and a deli.

And we shouldn’t neglect to mention the nearby beaches.

“Lido Key offers quiet North Lido Beach, the popular Lido Beach with parking and restrooms, and South Lido Beach, which has BBQ grills and picnic tables under Australian Pines. Boutique stores and restaurants can be found on St. Armands Circle.

“Siesta Key Beach, named America’s #1 beach and known for its powdery white sand, has volleyball nets, tennis courts and picnic area. Every Sunday at sunset there’s a drum circle. Siesta Village offers restaurants and nightlife. Turtle Beach, on the southern end of the island, is quieter with coarser sand and beach dunes.

“Or head up north to Anna Maria Island for a change of scenery. There are many restaurants and funky shops along the beautiful beaches. Check out the island’s annual Bayfest, too.”



University of Utah Honors College Is Loaded with Options

The Honors College at the University of Utah may have more interesting options for living, learning, and participating in honors projects than any other program or college that we have reviewed–and we’re not talking about the fabulous skiing that is so accessible from Salt Lake City.

Okay, we do have to mention that the brand new Donna Garff Marriott Honors Residential Community (MHC for short) does in fact have a ski wax room as well as storage space for skis and bikes.

But what is most impressive is the thoughtful, coherent, yet flexible curriculum that blends effectively with so many living and learning options that it will be difficult to list them all.

Admission is selective but holistic, with no ironclad test and GPA requirements.  From what we gather from the website, applicants are “highly likely” to be admitted with SAT 1490 (ACT 34) and above, plus a GPA of at least 3.8.  It appears that “likely” admission requires an SAT of around 1360 (ACT 31) and a GPA of 3.6 or so.  SAT of approximately 1250 (ACT 28) and a GPA of 3.5 or higher may require the applicant to go through a portfolio admissions process.  The portfolio must contain two letters of recommendation, a graded writing sample that includes the name of the teacher who issued the grade, and a personal statement of 1-3 pages.  Portfolio applications may require four or five weeks for review.

The requirements for the preliminary honors certificate are six hours of credit in Intellectual Traditions (IT) courses; three hours of credit in an honors writing course; and six more hours that can be from several honors core options.  These include American Institutions; honors calculus; and core courses in behavioral sciences, physical and life sciences, fine arts, Construction of Knowledge, or any honors seminars.  Note: AP credits can apply to general education requirements but DO NOT displace honors course requirements.

The university honors degree requires an additional six hours of honors courses and a thesis or capstone project.   Most departments also offer an honors track, and even those that do not offer the separate track do have honors advisors that can supervise the thesis.

It appears that it would be difficult not to continue taking honors courses, given the range of options.

Students can select honors internships “to work alongside a community leader in a real-world situation to bring about change in a community,” meanwhile receiving a $1,000 stipend for the 16 weeks required to complete the internship.

Or students can take honors tutorials that enable them to work one on one with a faculty member on a research project, while meeting with the instructor weekly.

Most interesting to us is the option to participate in the honors think tank collaborative classes, limited to 12 students, many with different majors.  These two-semester courses bring students together to apply multidisciplinary perspectives to a “contemporary societal challenge under the guidance of faculty,” and also carries a stipend of $1,000.

Students may also participate in honors cohorts of 20 students, who focus on topics of mutual interest.  Examples are cohorts for religious studies, environmental studies, pre-med, pre-law, ethics, American Studies, Sciences, and LGBTQ studies.  Students meet monthly to discuss their projects and aims.

The legal cohort, for example, allows students to attend hearings, meet with judges and attorneys, do legal research, learn about the Socratic method of teaching, and study case law and courtroom practices.  Students also have the opportunity to consult with advisors about the many career options and specialty fields available to lawyers.

Another exciting feature is the early assurance program, which is open to students with SAT scores of 1170 or higher (ACT 26) and GPA of 3.8, who want to attend graduate school at the “U.”   Most honors students are eligible.  The program allows students to take up  to two years to decide on a graduate major–a remarkable level of flexibility.

Each year, the most elite applicants to the early assurance program are selected as Eccles Distinguished Scholars, who receive full support for tuition, fees, and housing as long as they remain eligible.

All honors students are eligible for the Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program (UROP), which offers some grants of $1,200 for first-time research projects in collaboration with and $600 in renewable grants.

Students may earn honors credit for studying abroad and can choose from seven special honors options:

  • Theater, humanities, and fine arts in London
  • British studies–the Bloomsbury Group–in London
  • Environmental studies in Costa Rica
  • Summer studies in Berlin
  • Summer studies in Cambridge
  • Social work in Mexico
  • Writing in Costa Rica

Students may also receive credit for non-honors study-abroad courses, but not for courses in language study abroad.

The new Marriott Honors Center (MHC) is opening this Fall.  The MHC is located near the Huntsman Center on Campus, at the intersection of Mario Capecchi Drive and South Campus Drive.  The MHC has 309 beds in apartment/suite configurations, and there are plans to expand the facility.

The MHC has its own cafe, coffee shop, laundry, ski wax room, music room, secure bike storage, and is near a TRAX line that provides transportation around the city.

The residence hall includes an honors core experience floor for students who have not decided on a major; a first-year honors floor for students who have chosen a major; an upper-division honors community; and residences for Eccles School of Business honors students and College of Engineering honors students.

Additional honors communities are located in the Officer’s Circle section of the campus.  These include The Law House for pre-law students; the Honors Innovation House; the Poulson House for students working on capstones and theses; and another Honors First-Year Floor at Sage Point.




The Value of Honors Contract Courses: It Depends

Some honors programs and colleges make liberal use of honors contract courses, which allow a student to receive honors credit for taking a non-honors class if the student and professor agree on additional requirements–often a paper or research project–and honors staff confer formal approval on the contract arrangement.

Whether the contract courses are worthy additions to honors education depends on the following factors:

  • the reasons that the courses are offered;
  • the substance of the additional requirement for honors credit;  and
  • the frequency of the contract courses.

If faculty productivity requirements reward departments and individual faculty for teaching large numbers of students, then honors contracts may allow faculty to receive credit for teaching a large section and also allow the honors credit for the section.  This approach may be defensible if budget cuts  or productivity requirements leave no other alternative, or if the university as a whole offers smaller, high-quality classes to most of its students, whether or not the students are in the honors program.

Using contract courses primarily as a means of circumventing faculty involvement in honors-only courses, however, could well be a sign that the program lacks strong support from the departments, the administration, or both.

But if a culture of excellence is pervasive at a university, then the honors contracts may be more defensible.  Honors students at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, for example, might be able to contract for a large number of classes that are relatively small and of high quality, but that are not formally designated as honors-only classes.  While this arrangement may lead to claims that the honors program is not sufficiently distinct from the university as a whole, the result is nevertheless likely to be a substantive experience.

In any case, honors contract courses should in fact be substantive.  If an additional paper is required for honors credit, then the paper should be of considerable length and reflect serious scholarship.  The stronger the requirement, the higher the likelihood that the professor and student have a higher degree of collaboration.  In such cases, the contract courses mix tutorial and class instruction, perhaps even to a greater extent than would a regular honors course.

On the other hand, if honors contract courses are the dominant element in the honors curriculum, it is difficult to see how the faculty involvement could reach the high level discussed above.  For if that level of involvement could be attained, why would it not result in more actual honors courses instead of an excess of contract courses?








Macaulay Honors College CUNY: Devour the Big Apple

Editor’s Note: There is a full, updated profile and detailed rating of Macaulay Honors College in our book, INSIDE HONORS. You can see a list of the highest rated honors programs here.

Students who are residents of New York State have the unique opportunity of qualifying for free tuition and other benefits at the Macaulay Honors College, which is affiliated with eight senior colleges of the City University of New York. Admission to Macaulay for state residents not only makes them Macaulay Scholars with free tuition but also presents to them the Big Apple in all its fascinating dimensions.

Out-of-state students who meet CUNY New York State residency requirements can also receive the full tuition scholarship. And for those who do not qualify for the free tuition support, CUNY provides one of the best values in higher education. In addition, the student will receive all of the enhanced benefits of a Macaulay education.

Macaulay students study at the following CUNY campuses: Baruch College, Brooklyn College, City College, Hunter College, John Jay College, Lehman College, Queens College, and the College of Staten Island (CSI). There are special honors housing packages at City College and Hunter College. All the other colleges have residence options. Macaulay Honors College is housed in an elegant, renovated brownstone located in the Upper West Side, near Central Park and the Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts.

In addition to free tuition, Macaulay students receive a $7,500 Opportunities Fund “to pursue global learning, internships, and other service and learning opportunities”; a MacBook Pro laptop; a “Cultural Passport” that permits free or discounted admission to arts, cultural, and educational institutions across the city; and specialized advising through the Macaulay Advising Program (MAP).

The laptops are an integral part of Macaulay’s plan to enable students to participate in social and academic programs at campuses other than their home campuses and to prepare and present e-portfolios of their college work, with the help of Instruction Technology Fellows (ITF’s) assigned to each of the honors seminars. “ITFs are CUNY doctoral students in a wide range of academic disciplines, carefully selected for their familiarity and experience using technology both in the classroom and in research,” according to the Macaulay site.

Admission to Macaulay is selective, with an average SAT score of 1410 and grade average of 93.9. In addition, co-curricular activities, essays, and letters of recommendation are required. The acceptance rate was 29% for the Class of 2016; approximately 540 freshmen will be entering Fall 2013.

The honors curriculum for the first two years is focused on the city of New York itself:
“Seminar 1 introduces Macaulay Scholars to the arts in New York City and the Cultural Passport. During the semester, students attend theatrical, operatic, and musical performances, exhibitions of visual art, and other highlights of the current cultural season, and help to create the annual “Snapshot of New York City” exhibition.”

“During Seminar 2, Macaulay Scholars investigate the role of immigration and migration in shaping New York City’s identity–past, present, and future. Visits to archives, interviews, mapping and walking tours allow students to create the collaborative Neighborhood Websites, presenting their research through audio, video, photography, and other media.”

“In Seminar 3, Macaulay Scholars analyze issues in science and technology that have an impact on contemporary New York. Students work together to create scientific posters and presentations for a Macaulay-wide conference of their peers and others in the Macaulay community.”

“The purpose of Seminar 4 is to analyze the ongoing interplay of social, economic, and political forces that shape the physical form and social dynamics of New York City. Throughout the semester, students engage in a team research project, sometimes including Public Service Announcement Videos, to be presented at a model academic conference.”

Macaulay’s upper-level seminars encourage students to integrate course work and their own primary research, in a richly collaborative and supportive interdisciplinary setting. Recent topics include Sexuality and American Culture, Imagining the End of the World, The Future of Education, Religion and Public Policy, and Women and Global Public Policy Since the 1960s.

As for off-campus opportunities in New York City, Macaulay students benefit from special access to network with New York’s most dynamic firms.

“Macaulay students often use some of their $7,500 Opportunities Fund to develop customized programs that enable them to explore different professional paths, or to gain additional hands-on experience in fields they wish to pursue in graduate school or professionally after college.”

Examples of recent internships are New York Life, HBO, The New York Historical Society, The Earth Institute Center for Environmental Sustainability (EICES), NYU Langone Medical Center, BBC Worldwide Americas, The New York State Office of the Attorney General, US Trust, Free Arts NYC, The Department of Consumer Affairs (DCA), and Northwestern Mutual.

Over 90% of Macaulay students intend to study abroad. Again, they can use their Opportunities Fund, outside fellowships, and additional resources CUNY makes available to them to pursue a wide range of semester and year-long study abroad programs, at universities around the globe.

Students might analyze marine life in the Galapagos, study drama at Trinity College of Dublin, learn Arabic at Bosphorus University in Istanbul, or study mathematics at the City University of Hong Kong.

Other examples of recent study-abroad locations are the following: Argentina, Australia, Austria, Barbados, Brazil, China, Chile, Costa Rica, Cuba, Czech Republic, Denmark, Ecuador, Egypt, England, France, Germany, Greece, Guatemala, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Japan, Korea, Lithuania, Morocco, Netherlands, Puerto Rico, Russia, Singapore, South Africa, Spain, and Turkey. Macaulay students have studied on every continent with the exception of Antarctica.

Macaulay graduate, David L.B. Bauer of City College, became something of an undergraduate “brainiac” celebrity, who chose Macaulay over the Ivies after he won the Intel Science Talent Search as a high school student in 2005. A winner of Goldwater, Rhodes and Truman Scholarships while at Macaulay, Bauer focused on research in clinical medicine at the Wellcome Trust Centre for Human Genetics (WTCHG) at the University of Oxford, where he worked during his junior year at CCNY. Bauer is currently a DPhil candidate in clinical medicine at Oxford.

A second Rhodes scholarship was awarded to a Macaulay student in October, 2011 to Zujaja Tauqeer (Macaulay and Brooklyn College ’11). Zujaja, who graduated with a BA/MD, is studying the history of medicine in a two-year program at Oxford.

Faculty Productivity Requirements: A Challege for Honors

Public universities are increasingly subject to productivity measures as a means of justifying continuing revenue support, such as it is, from the states. One such measure is “credit hour productivity,” which represents the ratio of total student credit hours taught per faculty member.

For example, a faculty member who teaches large lecture classes will receive “credit” for teaching hundreds of student hours, while some faculty who teach small honors seminars may receive credit for hours earned by, say, 15 students. In many public universities, funding for departments and even larger divisions is based in part on the total number of credit hours that are taught.

Sometimes, credit hour productivity is also a factor in tenure and promotion evaluations, providing yet another source of pressure to apply the productivity model to instruction.

Unfortunately, this model is inimical to what is probably the strongest feature of honors education: small, interactive classes, similar to those at the best liberal arts colleges and elite private institutions.

Therefore, a big challenge for many honors directors is to find a way to persuade deans and department chairs to utilize weighted systems as a way of giving approximate productivity credit to faculty for teaching honors classes.

Many research institutions already weight their systems so that faculty who teach graduate courses, which typically feature small, seminar-sized classes, receive augmented credit for teaching the courses, based in part on the time and supervision required when working with advanced students who are engaged in research and in-depth writing or laboratory assignments.

Alternatively, some universities give the same productivity credit for teaching lower-division honors courses as they do for teaching upper-division courses, and also give the same credit for teaching upper-division honors as they do for teaching graduate courses.

In the end, the decision to use productivity weighting comes down to the willingness of the institution to acknowledge the value-added impact of honors programs to the university as a whole–and then reward that value by implementing sufficient productivity credits to induce faculty and departments to participate fully in honors education.

The absence of such support is, sadly, evidence that the students who choose a university because of the honors program are far more subject to the mass production model in higher education than they would ever expect to be.

In a broader sense, the inadequate support gives many critics of public universities, who often disparage research and excellence in the interest of this very same productivity, yet another victory on their way to reducing the quality and influence of public universities.

Tennessee Honors: Another Great Option in the Southeast

We have written previously about the Southeast, referring to it as the “land of great honors programs.”  Like some other programs in the region, the one at the University of Tennessee actually has two honors programs that are interrelated: the Chancellor’s Honors Program (CHP) admits about 420 extremely talented students each year, and another 15 extraordinarily fortunate students become Haslam Scholars, who receive the most generous support of any undergraduate scholars on campus.

While the CHP does not list a definite minimum set of requirements, the average freshman entrants score 32 on the ACT and have a 4.0 GPA.  This equates to about the top 10 percent of freshmen who enroll at UT.

The required curriculum for the CHP is 25 semester hours, including two courses in the freshmen year (total of 1 credit hour) and another seven courses in the remaining years (21 additional hours).  The final requirement is a 3-hour thesis or “approved substitute,” which can be within the department or related to an honors topic.  Continuation and completion in the CHP require a cumulative GPA of 3.25.

About 75 percent of freshmen honors students live in Morrill Hall, which, though not centrally located, features appealing double suites with one adjoining bath for only four students to share.  It does not appear to be the case, however, that only honors students can live in Morrill, so choosing the right roommate could be extremely important.

Haslam Scholars at UT (similar to other elite undergraduate scholars at Alabama and Georgia, for example) receive scholarship packages worth more than $17,000 a year–and out-of-state students receive a waiver that allows them to enroll at the in-state level.   Haslam Scholars also receive a free laptop, a grant ofg $4,500 for studying abroad, and special mentoring for research and thesis work.

The Haslam Scholarships are funded through a $5 million grant from the Haslam family.  While the university does not list specific requirements, the likelihood is that Haslam Scholars would need to have credentials approximating National Merit Finalists (in regard to test scores), extremely high GPAs, AP/IB results at the highest levels, and other evidence of superior accomplishment in leadership, service, and cultural activities.

Haslam Scholars must complete at least 28 semester hours of honors work, including 6 hours of research coupled with a presentation, and 3 hours of service or executive internships.

Haslam Scholars are essentially a part of the CHP as well, and are eligible to live in Morrill Hall and participate in CHP programs and activities.



New Mexico Honors: Interdisciplinary, Interactive

While all honors colleges and programs offer interdisciplinary courses and emphasize student interactions in small classes, the University Honors Program at the University of New Mexico does an excellent job of describing exactly how these best practices come together to develop students who are confident, engaged, and increasingly aware of their place in a complex world.

“Rather than simply piling on extra work, Honors courses are specially designed and crafted to be interdisciplinary,” the program site says. “Topics are examined a little more in depth than in normal undergraduate courses at the University. Extensive student participation and creativity form the foundations of every course. Enrollment is capped at 16 students. Interaction takes place in group activities and round-table discussions or presentations.”

The curriculum requires a minimum of 24 hours of honors credit, and it is, in fact, carefully designed.  First-year students take at least one 100-level honors “Legacy” course.

“Legacies incorporate history, literary works, philosophy and/or political theory, drama and/or poetry, art, music, dance and/or architecture, science, math and/or technology. Legacies deal with the development of ideas rather than definitive historical time.”

Next come 200-level courses.  These are cross-cultural topics, including Women, Africa, the Far East, the Americas, Medieval Europe, and the origins of mathematics and science. “These courses incorporate interdisciplinary explorations of specific topics with an emphasis on developing and strengthening skills important to success in Honors and undergraduate education, including oral and written communication skills, reading skills, critical and creative thinking, etc.”

The next series, 300-level courses, are an interdisciplinary exploration of specific topics designed to demonstrate the interconnectedness of academic disciplines. “Recent courses have focused on the significance of gender in myth and literature, bio-medical ethics, the nature and politics of nuclear energy, the origins of prejudice, arts across cultures, the existential imagination, and cross-cultural communication.”

At the 400 level,topics are more in- depth than those in lower-level courses, and students will have increasingly greater roles and responsibilities, the ultimate goal of the curriculum. “These courses afford enthusiastic and enterprising students the opportunity to craft a publishable paper or coordinate a collaborative mini-conference.”

Finally, senior options, earning six credit hours, can take the form of a thesis that can be interdisciplinary or within a discipline; or a senior teaching assistantship; or a senior colloquium involving a service learning project.

Another especially interesting option for honors students is to work on the honors publication, called Scribendi, Latin for “those which must be written.”  Ten to twelve honor students work on the magazine, which publishes creative and non-fiction work not only by students at UNM but also by students at any of the 127 members schools of the Western Regional Honors Council.  UNM honors students can receive credit for their work on the magazine.

Through the Conexiones Program, honors students can participate in more than a month of intensive Spanish-language study in Spain, in the cities of Trujillo and Salamanca. Students live with host families in Trujillo, “a city whose history and architecture represents in itself the history of Spain (from Iberians and Romans, Moors and Christians, to the famous Spanish nightlife, modern architecture and cyber cafés).”

“Students will attend classes in a 15th century restored convent, the site of the Fundación Xavier de Salas, an institution created with the purpose of studying and disseminating the theme of connections between Extremadura and the Americas.

“Weekly excursions are part of the program, including the visit to the medieval city of Cáceres and the Roman city of Mérida. Some highlights of the program are: a behind scenes tour of the ancient library at the University of Salamanca (one of the oldest in Europe), a day at a bull ranch in Salamanca, attendance at a performance of Classic Theater at the Roman Amphitheater of Mérida, a visit to the medieval town and monastery of Guadalupe and a day in the sister city of Alburquerque, with a tour through its medieval castle.”

The UHP at New Mexico began in 1957 with an enrollment of only 30 students; now the program has 1,300 students.  Admission requires a minimum ACT of 29 (SAT 1860) and a minimum GPA of 3.50.  Students must maintain a 3.20 GPA to remain in good standing.

UHP students enjoy priority registration, and many live in the Scholars Wing of the Hokona/Zia Residence Hall, home to Regents’ Scholars, Presidential Scholars, as well as UHP residents.  Hokona is a traditional, co-ed dorm, with mostly double rooms and corridor-style baths.  It is air conditioned and centrally located, very close to La Posada (LaPo) Dining Hall, the library, and buildings for economics and social sciences.


Univ of Oklahoma Honors College: Not Only about the Money

The University of Oklahoma at Norman is well-known for the generosity it shows to National Merit Finalists and other applicants of exceptional ability, and the McClendon Honors College at the university appears to be as generous while offering enhanced living and learning opportunities as well.

Although the honors program at OU goes back to 1962, a series of reorganizations that resulted in the Honors College did not occur until 1997.  We estimate that the college now enrolls approximately 2,000 students, placing it in the category of “large” programs with enrollments greater than 1,800.

The college requires a minimum SAT of 1330 or a score of 30 on the ACT, along with a GPA of at least 3.75 or a high school class rank in the top 10 percent. Freshman applicants must also submit a 400-500 word essay. Transfer students and those with more than 15 hours of credits at OU may apply if they have a college GPA of at least 3.40.

The honors college is unusual because of the extent of financial grants that it can bestow on especially talented students. Among the scholarships available (even to out-of-state students) through the OU Scholars office are the Award of Excellence Scholarship and the Regents Scholarship, each of which provides a tuition waiver of $2,500 per semester, up to eight semesters, for a total value of $20,000. The awards also provide up to $1,250 for summmer school tuition.

The Honor Scholars awards provide tuition waivers of $1,750 per semester for eight semesters, for a total value of $14,000. University Scholars can receive a $2,500 tuition waiver for one year.

As for non-resident National Merit Finalists, the term “free ride” comes to mind.  Here is what OU offers:

“The following scholarship package is guaranteed to every non-resident National Merit Finalist who names OU as his/her college of first choice with the National Merit Scholarship Corporation:

“Oklahoma Academic Scholars Programs $22,000

  • $2,750 per semester/$5,500 per year for four years to help offset the costs of fees, books, room & board
  • Funded by the Oklahoma State Regents for Higher Education
  • Funds will be deposited into billing account
  • Can be used toward any graduate/professional program at OU if funds remain after completion of undergraduate degree
  • Must maintain a 3.25 cumulative GPA and be enrolled full-time

“Non-Resident Tuition Waiver (estimated) $55,000

  • Waives 100% of non-resident tuition
  • May be used for five years (fall, spring and summer)
  • Can be used toward any graduate/professional program at OU if funds remain after completion of undergraduate degree
  • Must maintain a 2.8 cumulative GPA and be enrolled full-time

“Resident Tuition Waiver $10,000

  • $1,000 each fall and spring semester/$2,000 per year for five years
  •  Can be used toward any graduate/professional program at OU if funds remain after completion of undergraduate degree
  • Must maintain a 2.8 cumulative GPA and be enrolled full-time
  • National Merit Cash Stipend $5,000

But once the dollars stop swirling about our heads, the honors college itself has many advantages.  The curriculum requires about 25 hours of honors credit, including a thesis.  Honors students can choose to live in Boren Hall, where many honors classes are also held and where the honors college offices are housed.  Honors classes are generally limited to 22 students or less.

Boren Hall is a traditional double-room, corridor bath dorm, a part of Cate Center, which also has dining facilities.  Honors students may also choose to live in the Global Community, in Couch Center; in the National Merit residence in Walker Center; or in the Scholastic, Quiet Lifestyle, Co-ed Upperclass halls.  All but Boren appear to be suite-style.




Kansas State Honors Program: A Recent Edition, with Promise

The University Honors Program at Kansas State is very new by honors standards, having begun only six years ago, in 2006. During the 2011-2012 academic year, a total of 33 students graduated from the KSU program, indicating that it is one of the smallest public honors programs–at this point in its development.

There are signs of expansion, including the designation of Marlatt Hall as the location of the honors cluster floor, beginning in 2009.

“One of the goals I have for the honors program is to really develop a community,” Stephen Kiefer, director of the K-State Honors Program, said at the time. “Having them all living in proximity to one another is going to facilitate that goal enormously.”

Recently renovated at the time of its designation as the honors residence hall, Marlatt was chosen for the honors cluster floor because it is spacious, has both suite-style and traditional-style rooms, and is affordable, Kiefer said.

Admission to the honors program requires a minimum ACT of 28 and a high school GPA of 3.75 (weighted or unweighted). Applicants must also submit an essay or project along with one letter of recommendation. Students must maintain a 3.50 GPA to remain in good standing.

The honors curriculum is not yet as extensive as it is in many programs, requiring 15-16 honors credits for completion, including a thesis or a project. Honors students are, however, true partners in defining their college careers.

“As an Honors student,” the program site says, “you will have the opportunity to develop your personal program of study by working closely with the University Honors Program and your academic advisor. From the very outset of your involvement in the Honors Program, you will be an active partner in identifying important learning outcomes and how those will be best achieved.

“The goals of this process are twofold: they allow you to identify and fulfill your academic plans and they will provide you with the documentation of such accomplishments. This documentation will provide you with many of the tools necessary to succeed in your post-baccalaureate plans, whether they involve a job, professional school, or a graduate program.”

KSU has already established itself as a public university powerhouse when it comes to achieving prestigious awards. The university site states that “K-State ranks first nationally among state universities in its total of Rhodes, Marshall, Truman, Goldwater and Udall scholars in the last 25 years, earning K-State a place among the nation’s elite universities.”

Our own research shows that KSU would rank behind only Illinois, Penn State, and Virginia in the number of undergraduate Goldwater scholars in the STEM subjects, and would be tied with the University of North Carolina for the number of Truman scholars. We do not know how many of those awards have been earned by honors students since 2006.

The strongest academic departments at K-State are biological/agricultural engineering, atomic and molecular physics, industrial engineering, and veterinary medicine. The undergraduate engineering program as a whole is ranked number 66 in the nation.

Oregon State Honors College: Growing, Always Changing

Update April 2013:  OSU students have won five Goldwater awards valued at $7,500 for undergrad research, in the last two years, making the school one of the leaders in this important category.  In 2013, all three of the Goldwater winners were students in the honors college, along with a fourth student who earned an honorable mention.

The Oregon State Honors College in Corvallis will enroll about 850 total students this Fall, including 300 new arrivals, but it won’t be long until enrollment will increase to about 1,000, a number that seems close to ideal for many universities based on our work thus far.

The Honors College is one of several programs that we may include in an expanded edition of our book, A Review of Fifty Public University Honors Programs.

The minimum admission requirements for freshmen entrants are SAT 1820/ACT 27/unweighted GPA 3.75, but only about 54 percent of applicants are accepted; the actual averages for accepted students are SAT 2027/ACT 31/unweighted GPA 3.95.  The average GPA for transfer students is 3.83 for previous college work.

OSU is on the quarter system, and about 20 percent of the total credit hours applied toward graduation must be in honors courses or research/thesis.  The minimum requirement for freshmen entrants who will become honors scholars is 30 credits, including thesis.  The minimum requirement for transfers and upperclass students is 15 credits, qualifying them as honors associates.

Students on both tracks write a thesis and then can be eligible for the Honors Baccalaureate Degree, awarded jointly by the Honors College and the college of the student’s major.  All honors students must maintain a 3.25 cumulative GPA  at OSU to remain in good standing.

A key element of the honors curriculum is that it changes each year, not regarding total credit requirements but with respect to the courses and emphases determined by the honors faculty.

“The University Honors College creates an entirely new curriculum each academic year featuring some of OSU’s most inspiring teachers and serving many of OSU’s most talented and motivated undergraduates,” the web site says.

Class sizes are limited to 24 students for lower-division classes, and 12 students for upper-division courses.  All courses are taught by professors and not by teaching assistants.   Graduates of the OSU Honors College enjoy a 90 percent acceptance rate into graduate and professional schools.

Honors students are eligible for a limited type of priority registration: they register first among their peers in the same class group (as sophomores, they would register before other sophomores).

In the Fall of 2012, honors students may live in West Hall, a change from previous years, when they were assigned to McNary Hall on the east side of campus.  West Hall is located near a large residential community including five other major residence halls.  It is not far from business, engineering, and forestry buildings.

West Hall features suite style rooms, a shared kitchen, and a computer lab.  For each pair of rooms, there is a shared bathroom.  West Hall is also connected to the Marketplace West dining area, which includes at least seven theme-style cafes.  About two-thirds of incoming honors students will live in West Hall.

OSU is noted for having one of the best forestry schools in the nation, and other high-ranking disciplines are ecology, oceanography, microbiology, nuclear engineering, zoology, public health, food science, and pharmacy.

Along with the University of Oregon, OSU is considered a flagship university, and the schools receives more research funding than all other Oregon colleges combined.