Colorado State Honors: Well-structured, Good Housing and Food, Great Scholarships

Our planned post on updates and improvements to honors programs will appear in the near future, and we hope at least a few programs will provide information about new scholarship opportunities.  In the meantime, thanks to the transparency of the Colorado State site, we can report that there are some great opportunities for entering honors students there, even if they are out-of-state residents.

All students admitted to the honors program receive a $1,000 scholarship, and remain eligible for renewal through four years if they maintain program requirements.

But highly qualified OOS students are eligible for a $9,000 renewable scholarship, whichcovers about three-fourths of the OOS tuition and fees.  To be eligible, applicants must meet the February 1 priority deadline and have a 1300/ACT 29/ and at least a 3.8 GPA.

All National Merit finalists, Boettcher finalists and scholars, Monfort Scholars, National Hispanic Scholars, and National Achievement Scholars also receive this scholarship automatically if they apply by the February 1 priority deadline and list CSU as their first choice school.

The good news doesn’t end there.  OOS students with SAT 1230/ACT 27 and a GPA of at least 3.6 are eligible for a $7000 a year scholarship.

The regular application deadline for honors is March 1.  Admission is based on a combination of test scores and GPAs, allowing students with very high GPAs to be admitted with somewhat lower test scores.

The average SAT of admitted students is 1340, ACT 31, and weighted GPA 4.15

But admission is also likely with the following test/GPA combinations:

SAT 1310/ACT 30/ GPA 3.7;

SAT 1280/ACT 29/GPA 3.8;

SAT 1240/ ACT 28/ GPA 3.9;

SAT 1200/ACT 27/ GPA 4.0.

All also require a recommendation from a high school counselor, who will be contacted.

Automatic invitations are issued to students with the following combinations of test scores and GPAs:

SAT 1400/ACT 32/GPA 4.0;

SAT 1440/ACT 33/GPA 3.9;

SAT 1490/ACT34/ GPA3.8.

Once admitted, students can choose between two honors tracks.  Track 1 requires 13 hours of honors core classes and seminars; 6 hours of honors credit in the department, college, or major; and a total of 4 hours for honors research and thesis.

Track 2 is essentially an honors in the major track.  It totals 17 hours of honors credit, including the 1 hour freshman honors seminar, 12 hours in the major, and 4 hours for the thesis and research.

The strongest departments at CSU are biological and agricultural engineering 23rd in the nation; civil engineering, 37; environmental engineering, 41;  and overall engineering, 67. Chemistry ranks 45th, statistics 40, and all science departments are ranked number 82 or better in the nation.  Of special importance to pre-vet students is the very high ranking–number 3 in the nation–of CSU’s vet school.

Honors students have a great residential opportunity.  About 240 of the 360 new honors entrants each year can enjoy the amenities of the Honors Academic Village.  The residence hall features two-person suites with a private bath.  Immediately adjacent is one of the best campus dining facilities, Rams Horn Hall.  After freshman year, honors students may live in nearby Edwards Hall, an older facility with traditional rooms and corridor baths.



Transfer and current CSU must have 3.5







Value of College Degree vs. High School: Varies Greatly by State

While there is no doubt that competing in the workforce with a bachelor’s degree rather than a high school diploma is an advantage, the extent of that advantage varies greatly by state, according to a new study whose findings appear in Change Magazine.

The study, be researchers Matt Crellin, Patrick Kelley, and Heath Prince, finds that college grads in Connecticut aged 25-64 earn an average of almost $70,000 per year, while high school grads in the same age group earn an average of about $30,500, considerably less than half as much.

On the other hand, college graduates in Montana earn about $41,000 a year versus approximately $25,000 a year for high school grads, about 60 percent of what college grads make.

The national average in 2009 was $24,300 for high school graduates and $53,200 for those with bachelor’s degrees.

The states with the biggest advantage for college degree holders are Connecticut, New Jersey, Maryland, New York, Massachusetts, Virginia, California, New Hampshire, Illinois, Texas, Minnesota, and Delaware–all of which have an income difference that is higher than the national average.

The states with the least advantage for college degree holders are Montana, Idaho, South Dakota, Maine, West Virginia, New Mexico, Mississippi, Utah, Wyoming, and Oregon.

Of course this does not mean that degree holders from these and other states are limited to the earning levels in their own states.  But if states do not have employers that require large numbers of college graduates, they are at greater risk of losing home-grown college grads to other states.

Citing another study, the article in Change predicts that by 2018, some 63 percent of jobs in the U.S. will require a post-secondary credential, though not necessarily a bachelor’s degree.  The percentage of these jobs will vary, from 42 percent of jobs in West Virginia to 70 percent of jobs in Minnesota.





New Hampshire Honors College: Clarity in the Curriculum

As we review honors curricula we sometimes encounter so many options that we find it difficult to emerge with a clear impression of the requirements.  The curriculum for the University of New Hampshire Honors College is that rare combination of clarity and flexibility that can be readily understood.

Moreover, the curriculum is extensive, requiring 32 hours of honors credits for graduation if students pursue the University Honors Designation.  This option includes 16 hours of honors seminars, usually limited to 20 students, which also count toward general education requirements.  Then students go on to complete another 16 hours in Honors in Major courses, including at least 4 hours of which are the honors thesis.

This kind of clear integration between honors general education requirements and departmental specialization, including a thesis, strikes us as one of the most sensible ways to structure the honors curriculum.  Students who do not choose to receive the University Honors Designation simply go straight to the Honors in Major track when they reach upper-division status.

A typical first-semester freshman entrant should have an ACT/SAT of at least 29/1970, and rank in the top 10 percent (or equivalent) of her high school class.  Second-semester freshmen may also apply if they rank  in top 10 percent of their college; if students have a 3.4 college GPA but do not rank in the top 10 percent of their college, they may submit a personal essay and teacher recommendations to the honors advisor.

Honors students may apply to live in Hubbard Hall, a co-ed hall that houses about 250 students in traditional rooms with corridor baths.  Hubbard is not as close to some classes as other dorms, but it is still in a good location near Williamson and Christensen residence halls.  All three are very convenient to Philbrook Dining Hall, one of the major dining locations on campus.

Hubbard Hall is definitely the place for the most serious students on the UNH campus.  Here is what some of them say:

“The Hubbard Hall community is perfect for incoming freshmen; it allows them to be around other freshmen and some upperclassmen. Also, it provides a good balance where one can explore social things in a safe way, and still have a quiet place to live and study to come home to.”

“Hubbard is a nice dorm which has an environment that provides many social and academic opportunities for students who wish to make a bunch of new friends as well as maintain their grade point average.”

Among the best academic programs at UNH are earth sciences, history, sociology, and English.  The intellectual law program at the law school is one of the leading programs of its type in the nation.

Princeton Review: Virginia Tech, Penn State, Clemson Get High Marks for Happiness

The 2012 Princeton Review measures student satisfaction in a variety of areas, and shows that Penn State, Virginia Tech, and Clemson do extremely well when it comes to making students happy.  Please note that our list of satisfaction does not include the famous Princeton Reivew categories of best party schools, “reefer madness,” “don’t inhale,” and “got milk?”

Other public universities that made the top 20 lists in one or more categories are Kansas State, Mississippi, Auburn, Georgia, UT Austin, Florida, UC Santa Barbara, Virginia, Wisconsin, North Carolina, Washington, Binghamton, Indiana, Miami of Ohio, Ohio University, Purdue, Vermont, Washington State, NC State, Pitt, Michigan, and UMass Amherst.

The rankings listed in parentheses are national rankings of all colleges, public and private.

Virginia Tech: Career Services (18); Students Love These Colleges (3); Town-Gown Relations Are Great (4); Quality of Life (6); Food (2).

Penn State: Career Services (2); Students Love These Colleges (7); Best Quality of Life (18); Happiest Students (13).

Clemson: Career Services (5); Students Love These Colleges (8); Town-Gown Relations Are Great (1); Happiest Students (4).

Kansas State: Town-Gown Relations Are Great (2); Quality of Life (4); Happiest Students (8).

Mississippi: Town-Gown Relations Are Great (11); Happiest Students (12); Most Beautiful Campus (4).

Auburn: Town-Gown Relations Are Great (13); Quality of Life (19).

Georgia: Best Value (8); Food (15).

UT Austin: Best Value (10); Career Services (20); College City Gets High Marks (20).

Florida: Best Value (7); Career Services (6).

UC Santa Barbara: Students Love These Colleges (11); Happiest Students (3).

Virginia: Best Value (2); Financial Aid (2).

Wisconsin:  Best Value (5); College City Gets High Marks (19).

North Carolina: Best Value (1).

Washington: Best Value (9).

Binghamton: Best Value (4).

Indiana: Study Abroad (12).

Miami of Ohio: Food (18).

Ohio University:  Most Beautiful Campus (15).

Purdue:  Food (14).

Vermont: College City Gets High Marks (15).

Washington State: Town-Gown Relations Are Great (9).

NC State: Town-Gown Relations Are Great (16).

Pitt: Career Services (19).

Michigan: College City Gets High Marks (10).

UMass Amherst: Food (3).



LSU Honors College: Strong and Getting Stronger

In the last decade, the LSU Honors College has grown and improved, and with a recent emphasis on prestigious scholarships and an expanded honors residence hall, the college is a strong option in the South.

Now with about 1,200 students, the College is in our category of “smaller” programs–those with fewer than 1,800 honors students.  It appears that the recent trend in honors colleges is to establish residential scholars’ communities of 1,000–1,200 students.

Admission to the College is selective, with a “recommended” SAT of 1330 (ACT 30), plus an essay.  A minimum score of 660 on the SAT critical reading portion is also recommended.   An ACT composite score of 29 is acceptable if the English score is 31. The deadline to apply is November 15.

The Honors House Residence is located in West Laville Hall (renovated in 2010) and now in East Laville Hall, newly renovated and open to students in the Fall of 2012.  Both are located adjacent to the 459 Dining Commons and the French House, home of the College.  About 600 students can be accommodated in the halls, both of which have central air conditioning with individual room controls.  One important feature is that the halls are available to students for all four years of residence.  Although the baths are corridor style, each room has its own sink.

Next to the Honors House is the academic center of the Honors College, the French House, an  historic building resembling a French chateau, where small seminar classes are held, students meet with specialized advisors, and all Honors College events take place, ranging from classical concerts to Quiz Bowl tournaments.

The honors curriculum is substantial, requiring 32 hours of honors credit, including a thesis; an overall GPA of 3.5 is required for graduation.  (This overall requirement compares very favorably with those of the fifty honors programs we have formally evaluated.)  At least 6 honors hours must be in seminars, and at least 12 hours must be upper-division courses, including the thesis.

Students can earn “sophomore honors distinction” if they complete 20 hours of honors work in the first two years, including 6 hours of honors seminars.   Upper division honors distinction requires exemplary work in junior and senior courses along with an excellent honors thesis.

Honors credit may be earned in honors-only seminars; in small versions of regular classes, with an honors component; and in honors “option” courses, requiring the student to arrange individual instruction with a professor.  Honors students have priority registration for honors courses.

Since 2005, when LSU established the Office of Fellowship Advising within the Honors College, LSU students have won 13 Goldwater awards for undergraduate research in STEM fields, and have had 15 finalists for the Truman Scholarship for postgraduate studies.   LSU students also earned seven National Science Graduate Research Foundation grants in 2012.  The establishment of a fellowship office within the honors college or program is an important consideration for prospective students who have an interest in prestigious awards.

Honors students are also encouraged to travel and study abroad “to enrich their education and to gain a wider perspective on the future of this country. The Honors College sponsors summer study trips to China and to South Africa, where students learn foreign languages, engage with students from those countries and learn about their cultures.”


Forbes College Rankings 2013: A Mild Shift to Publics

The annual Forbes best college rankings have not been friendly to public colleges, but this year, because of changes in methodology, the rankings include six public institutions among the top 50 colleges, up from five in 2012 and only two in 2011.  If the service academies are included, the three major academies are also in the top 50.

The 2013 rankings continue a welcome trend on the part of the magazine that now yields a more sensible list with fewer wild variations.  A list of public universities in the top 100 appears at the end of this article.

Some observers of college rankings accept the Forbes position that the magazine’s rankings, put together by the Center for College Affordability and Productivity (CCAP), under the leadership of one of the most outspoken critics of public universities, Richard Vedder, are better than others because they focus only on “outputs” rather than on subjective data, such as academic reputation.

One of the main problems with the Forbes rankings has been their high variability from one year to the next.  It is surprising, for example, that the University of Wisconsin ranking would change from 316 (in 2011) to 147 (in 2012) and to 68 (2013).   Not to mention that it was ranked number 212 in 2010.  On the other hand, the continuing methodological changes at least are moving toward a more equitable consideration of the public institutions and appear to be indicative of more stability in the overall rankings.

In 2011 only the University of Virginia and the College of William & Mary barely cracked the Forbes top 50.  In 2012, the top 50 included UVA (36) William & Mary (40), UCLA (45), UNC Chapel Hill (47) and UC Berkeley (50).

For 2013, UC Berkeley has jumped all the way to number 22; UVA to 29; UCLA to 34; and UNC Chapel Hill to 38.

More indicative of the positive developments is that for 2013, the University of Michigan also appears in the top 50, at number 30, a big leap from 57 in 2012. (In 2011, Michigan ranked 93rd.)

Other public universities shared in the upward trend in 2013, with a total of 18 now ranked in the top 100.  Illinois has moved from 147 in 2011, to 86 in 2012, and now to 53 in 2013.  UT Austin, a particular target of Richard Vedder in recent years, has risen from 185 in 2011, to 104 in 2012, and to 66 in 2013.

The original Forbes methodology was clearly biased, using data from Who’s Who listings as one indicator.  Now the methodology appears to have settled into the following pattern:

–37.5% for post-graduate success, measured by salaries on, listings in “power” profiles, and winners of Nobel, Pulitzer, National Academy of Science, Guggenheim, MacArthur, and other awards, including Oscars, Emmys, Tonys, and Grammys;

–22.5% for student satisfaction, with two-thirds of the measure coming from and the other third from the percentage of students being retained after the freshman year;

–17.5% based on student debt load and loan default rates;

–11.25% based on four-year graduation rate;

–11.25% based on attainment of prestigious student awards, including Rhodes, Fulbright, National Science Foundation, and other scholarships, and on the percentage of graduates who earn PhD’s.

One interesting feature of the rankings is that they combine national research universities and liberal arts colleges into one large group.  This allows readers a direct rather than implied comparison, the latter being the option with the U.S. News rankings.  Therefore, while Stanford is ranked number 1 by Forbes this year, tiny Pomona College is ranked number 2.

Because Forbes has focused on four-year graduation rates rather than five- or six-year rates, renowned public engineering schools such as Purdue and Georgia Tech have risen gradually in the rankings but remain lower than they would be if six-year grad rates were used: Georgia Tech was 397 in 2011, improved to 135 in 2012, and now ranks 83 under the new methodology; Purdue ranked 311 in 2011; 195 in 2012; and now ranks 106.

A final comment: Forbes is applauded for not using subjective data, such as that for academic reputation.  Nevertheless, our own work has shown a significant correlation between academic reputation and Fulbright and NSF awards, and academic reputation and the percentage of bachelor’s students who go on to obtain a Ph.D., the latter a new metric for the magazine.  Academic reputation also has a positive correlation with graduation rates.  Therefore, the influence of academic reputation is present in the Forbes rankings, though indirectly, just as it is in our own rankings.

7–U.S. Military Academy

22–UC Berkeley

28–U.S. Naval Academy



31–U.S. Air Force Academy


38–UNC Chapel Hill

44–William & Mary



66–UT Austin




83–Georgia Tech


93–Penn State

96–UC Santa Barbara


99–UC Davis

STEM Majors: Faculty Reputation May Be Especially Important

From time to time we become mildly wonkish and write about the implications of some of our data, including information that we did not include in A Review of Fifty Public University Honors Programs.

Recently, we have been looking at correlations between faculty reputation and honors curricula on the one hand, and the attainment of prestigious scholarships, such as Rhodes, Truman, Goldwater, Fulbright, and National Science Foundation (NSF) graduate research grants on the other.

A significant correlation that stands out is that between faculty reputation and prestigious NSF grants, awarded for research in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics, and, to a lesser extent, research in the social sciences.  

We did not find that our data for honors curricula correlated significantly with the attainment of NSF grants.  This does not mean, however, that participation in honors programs is not important to STEM majors, for honors programs are the surest way to connect serious undergraduates with research opportunities supervised by high-quality faculty.  In addition, of course, honors curricula typically provide more scope and depth to the overall education of all honors students.

We also found a lesser but still significant correlation between faculty reputation and the attainment of Fulbright Student awards, given in a variety of disciplines.  Again, the correlation of these awards with curricula was minimal; but the same access to strong faculty mentors via involvement in honors, along with the broader honors education, still points to advantages in pursuing honors.

The impact of honors curricula is clear, however, when it comes to Truman and Goldwater awards, and when curricula are correlated with a metric that combines all prestigious scholarships (including Rhodes, Marshall, Gates, and Udall) except for NSF grants.  Honors curricula are a stronger factor than faculty reputation with respect to the combined scholars metric, but both curricula and reputation are important.

It is interesting that curricula correlate with the undergraduate Goldwater awards, also given for STEM research, but not with the NSF grants.  The impact of faculty reputation was minimal when correlated to Truman Scholarships.

So what is the “take home” message from all this number-crunching?   For STEM majors,  strong faculty along with honors research opportunities are probably as important as the general honors curriculum. Departmental honors, with a thesis requirement, are also important if the honors program does not require a thesis.



Hillsborough CC Honors Institute: The Beginning of Excellence

When the President and educators across the country emphasize the importance of community colleges, the message is usually that the two-year institutions are mainly important as a means of providing the advanced technical and vocational instruction that is so important  in today’s economy. Less is said about the critical role these institutions play in preparing students for high academic achievement at some of the best public and private universities.

Michigan. Cornell.  Georgia Tech. NYU.  Wisconsin.  Mt.Holyoke, Smith, UCLA, Northwestern, UNC Chapel Hill.  Columbia and Yale.   These and many other institutions are among those who have accepted the outstanding honors students of the Hillsborough Community College Honors Institute, which offers honors courses at five campuses in the Tampa area.

Under the longtime directorship of Dr. Lydia Lyons, a past president of the National Collegiate Honors Council (NCHC), the HCC Honors Institute has been the springboard to excellence for thousands of outstanding students who have gone on to obtain bachelor’s and graduate degrees, not only from most universities in Florida, but also from the schools listed above and many, many more.

There is a sound argument to be made that community college honors programs may even be the best way to graduate from a premier four-year honors program or a prestigious private college.

One big reason, according to Dr. Lyons, is that most community college students pay relatively little to attend school during the first two years; therefore, if they get accepted to a fairly expensive four-year school, even without a lot of financial aid, their total cost for four years is still much less than they would have paid if they had attended a four-year school from the outset.

Another reason is that there can be more support at the two-year schools.  “In our Honors Institute,” writes Dr. Lyons, “we are mindful of creating Honors students, not simply providing services for students….”

This does not translate, however, to indulgence.  Many of the Honors students “have come to understand that they had to apply themselves to be successful in their courses.”  For some of the most talented students, the Institute may be the first place that has required them to accept and, ultimately, to embrace this challenge.

This process of creation requires a faculty that is committed to traveling from one campus to another when it is necessary to do so, and a staff that is ready to nurture and support students through advising and mentoring, especially, perhaps, when the time comes to apply to the  four-year institution.

Dr. Lyons has established informal but effective relationships with scores of colleges around the country.  When a student wants to attend one of these schools, she is their advocate.  Examples of her success with this sort of outreach are the presentations that Institute students receive from outside representatives, including those from Columbia and Mt. Holyoke.

Dr. Lyons and her staff also provide counseling that helps students match their school choice with their majors, rather than just the “brand” of the four-year school.

But just as important in preparing Institute students is the extensive honors curriculum.  Completion of the honors curriculum requires 24 semester hours of honors credits–as many or more honors credits as are required by a lot of four-year honors colleges and programs.

Applicants must meet at least one of the following criteria to qualify for the Honors Institute:

  • High school GPA of 3.4 (unweighted) or higher -or-
  • SAT combined score of 1160 or higher -or-
  • ACT combined score of 26 or higher -or-
  • Top 10% of graduating class with SAT combined score of a minimum 1050, or a minimum ACT composite score of 25, or CPT score of a minimum of 90 in writing and a minimum of 92 in reading -or-
  • 12 hours dual enrollment with 3.8 GPA

As for the honors community, students from all campuses meet at the Dale Mabry Campus in Tampa for student association and board meetings and also use frequent service projects and film study groups to form closer associations.

The mission statement of the Institute says that “Honors students will be challenged to accept their moral responsibilities which include leadership, thoughtful self-governance, and service to others.”

“And we mean it,” says Dr. Lyons.