Fed Reserve Study Suggests Many Public Colleges Have Cut to the Bone

Critics of public higher education often allege that state colleges and universities are raising tuition and fees in order to support non-essential research and supposedly lazy professors who do not want to teach more classes.  But a recent report by the New York Federal Reserve provides evidence that a lot of public institutions made it through most of the last decade by cutting expenses as state funding declined, though many have now reached the point where tuition and private donations must offset the costs of educating increasing numbers of students.

The report also finds that the public funding cuts have caused tuition to rise at a faster rate at state colleges than at public colleges.  The severe recession is the main culprit.

“Before 2007,” the study reports, “changes in public institution tuition do not appear to vary closely with public funding. In fact, over the 2000-07 period, a 10 percent decline in state higher educational funding is associated with a 0.5 percent increase in public institution tuition. However, after 2007, the group of states with the most funding cuts…also has the highest growth in tuition in each year, with an average annual growth rate of 3.4 percent in tuition. Our analysis suggests that over this period, a 10 percent decline in public funding for [this group] is associated with an average annual increase of 3.1 percent in tuition at public institutions. This compares with an increase of 1.2 percent in public institution tuition for a 10 percent decline in public funding in our full sample over the same period (2007-11). That is, we observe an economically meaningful relationship between public funding and public institution tuition changes but mainly since the recession began and especially for the group of states with larger higher education funding cuts.”

The fact that public institutions raised tuition only 0.5 percent during a seven-year period when public funding declined by 10 percent and enrollment was increasing shows that most schools were able to offset the cuts with layoffs and other cost-saving measures.  But after seven years, the schools in states that cut funding the most no longer could look to efficiencies and still handle increasing enrollment.

“In the public discourse, federal funding is often blamed for driving up tuition,” the report says. “However, our analysis suggests that public schools are increasing tuition as a way to make up for decreasing state and local appropriations for higher education, and that deeper cuts in public funding may be associated with correspondingly greater tuition hikes. How much change in public institution tuition is caused by a 1 percent change in public funding is a question that is much harder to answer. The reason is that public institutions can make up for the shortfall in revenues from the states in many ways aside from raising the tuition price: they can lay off instructional, administrative, or other types of staff; or they may even eliminate specific programs from their academic curriculum. Finally, a state school may be inclined to accept a greater proportion of out-of-state students, who pay more in tuition than in-state students; however, additional analysis we conducted fails to find evidence of this over the years 2001-10.”

Although the authors–Rajashri Chakrabarti, Maricar Mabutas, and Basit Zafar–found no evidence that schools were accepting more out-of-state students during the decade covered by the study, it is a fact that by now many public colleges are forced to accept more of-of-state students in order to make up for funding shortfalls.

Texas Tech Honors College Offers Direct Paths to Law, Medical School

The Honors College at Texas Tech University is one of only a few honors programs that offer fast-track options to attend law or medical school at the same university, and the joint program between the honors college and the medical school even allows honors students to skip the MCAT before entering med school.

The joint Early Acceptance Program allows Honors College students to waive the Medical College Admissions Test (MCAT) and to apply early to the School of Medicine during their junior year.

“To be eligible for the Early Acceptance Program, you must be enrolled in the Honors College, have entered Texas Tech University as a freshman, maintain residency in the state of Texas, and acquired a composite score (earned in one test administration) of at least 1300 on the SAT or at least 29 on the ACT upon matriculation at Texas Tech University.”

“The Honors College and the Texas Tech School of Law have collaborated to create two exciting new opportunities for Honors students who plan to attend law school. The Early Decision Plan allows eligible students who intend to attend the TTU Law School to receive notice of their acceptance as juniors but complete their undergraduate degrees prior to entry into the law school. The Early Admission Program (“3+3 Plan”) allows eligible Honors Arts & Sciences students to enter law school prior to graduation after they have completed 100 hours of coursework. The “3+3″ program enables eligible students to complete both a baccalaureate and a doctor of jurisprudence in approximately six years.” [Emphasis added.]

Eligibility for the honors college as a freshman requires a minimum SAT score of 1200 or an ACT of 26  or a place in the top 10 percent of the applicant’s high school class to be considered for admission.  Admission is not, however, guaranteed with these credentials.  Applicants with International Baccalaureate diplomas are assured of admission.  Current students are also considered for admission if they have earned a 3.4 GPA.

The regular honors curriculum requires 24 hours of honors course work for freshman entrants, and 27 hours for students who enter later.  Six hours must be in upper-division courses, six must be in 3000-4000-level courses, and freshman entrants must also complete a first-year series.

In order to graduate with highest honors, students must also complete an additional six hours of research and thesis work.

The honors housing at Tech appears to be a strong option: students in Gordon Hall share two-bed suites that have private baths and that share a common living area with the adjoining suite.  Gordon hall as its own laundry, and the Fresh Market Cafe serves both Gordon and neighboring Bledsoe Hall.  Gordon Hall is on the east side of campus, closest to science and engineering classrooms and farther from business, English, foreign language, and philosophy classrooms.

ASU Barrett Honors Students Spend Summer at Sandia Labs

A recent Arizona State University engineering graduate and two current engineering students–all from Barrett Honors College–spent the past summer as interns at one of the United States’ most prominent national research centers.

Sandia Labs is especially important to homeland security research and development.  (Please see Maryland to Add Cybersecurity Honors Program in 2013 as a related post on how honors students can contribute greatly to cybersecurity and related efforts.)

Robert Fruchtman, Dominic Chen, and Bijan Fakhri worked for three months for the Sandia National Laboratories facility in Albuquerque, N.M., along with engineering student Michael Reeves.

Here’s the story from ASU’s Jessica Slater:

The U.S. Department of Energy laboratories (including a facility in California) focus on national defense projects applying science and engineering to support homeland security, counterterrorism and military operations, as well as security-related energy and climate research.

“Sandia’s work covers almost every area of engineering,” says Fruchtman, who also was an intern at Sandia in the summer of 2011. “They tackle really big problems, and you are surrounded by a lot of really smart people. So it’s a great experience.”

Fruchtman graduated from ASU in May after majoring in computer science in the School of Computing, Informatics, and Decision Systems Engineering, one of ASU’s Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering. He was also a student in ASU’s Barrett, The Honors College. He’s now pursuing a master’s degree in computer science at Purdue University.

At Sandia, the graduate of University High School in Tucson had opportunities to apply his education by assisting in projects involving technology used to process and analyze data provided by satellite observations.

Junior computer systems engineering major Fakhri and Chen, a junior majoring in computer science and mathematics – both Barrett honors students – worked in Sandia’s Center for Cyber Defenders.

Fakhri, a graduate of Horizon High School in Ahwatukee, assisted on projects to develop unclonable silicon wafers and speed up the performance of software-defined radio communications systems using digital signal processors.

Chen, a graduate of Desert Vista High School in Ahwatukee, helped with designing a system debugger for the Android smartphone platform, and piloting a Department of Homeland Security competition to develop secure voting machines.

“It was fun because it was very much a teamwork-oriented environment,” Fakhri says. “You could ask a question out loud in a room and soon there would be three people at your desk arguing about the best way to solve a problem.”

He expects some of what he learned at Sandia to be useful in his student researcher role with ASU’s Center for Cognitive Ubiquitous Computing (CUbiC), which focuses on design of devices to assist people living with perceptual or cognitive challenges. Fakhri is helping develop wireless devices to help stroke survivors regain motor control.

Chen will apply his Sandia experience to his work at ASU assisting faculty members with research in computer security and development of a mini-submersible device for exploring a lake in Antarctica.

Fakhri summed up what his fellow engineering students agree was the most valuable lesson gained from their Sandia internships: “I learned that I don’t know nearly as much as I thought I did.”


Maryland to Add Cybersecurity Honors Program in 2013

In association with the Northrup Grumman Corporation, the University of Maryland at College Park will launch the nation’s first honors program in cybersecurity aimed at producing highly capable graduates who can answer the demand of this important area of economic and national security.

The new curriculum track, called the Advanced Cybersecurity Experiences for Students (ACES) program, has received $1.1 million from Northrup Grumman to launch it and will receive matching corporate and university support.

According to the university, “ACES will engage a highly talented, diverse group of students–majors in computer science, engineering, business, public policy and the social sciences–in an intensive living-learning environment that focuses on the multifaceted aspects of cybersecurity and develops team-building skills.

“Students will take on an advanced, cross-disciplinary curriculum developed through industry consultation, and will interact directly with industry and government cybersecurity mentors. Student enrolled in the program will have the option of interning with Northrop Grumman and preparing for security clearance. ACES will produce skilled, experienced cybersecurity leaders highly sought by corporate and government organizations.”

The curriculum “will include general cybersecurity courses, as well as a variety of other topics, including cybersecurity forensics, reverse engineering, secure coding, criminology, and law and public policy. In year-long capstone courses, teams of seniors will apply their knowledge and skills in solving complex cybersecurity problems.”

Northrup Grumman has headquarters in nearby Falls Church, VA.  The university is extremely well-suited to partner with the company on the cybersecurity program because of its nationally recognized living/learning honors communities and its strong academic departments in cybersecurity-related subjects.

“UMD is one of only 6 universities in the world with top 25 programs in Computer Science, Engineering, Economics and Business, Natural Sciences and Mathematics, Physics, and Social Sciences, according to the Academic Ranking of Worldwide Universities.”

The program also offers a clear career path.  “Summer internships will augment coursework with real-world projects and develop a pipeline of talented students. Throughout, Northrop Grumman will provide guest lecturers, participate in an industry advisory board, pose real-world problems for students to solve, and provide advisors and mentors for capstone projects.”

Speaking of job “security,” see what Alex Fitzpatrick at Mashable.com has to say about the growing field of cybersecurity:

“Alec Ross, senior advisor for innovation at the State Department, has a piece of advice for students tasked with the nerve-rattling dilemma of choosing a college major.

“’If any college student asked me what career would most assure thirty years of steady, well-paying employment,” said Ross, ‘I would respond, ‘cybersecurity.’”

“That’s because cybersecurity is a field where the rules of the recession seem flipped: There’s plenty of jobs, but relatively few qualified applicants.

“The government needs to hire at least 10,000 experts in the near future and the private sector needs four times that number, according to Tom Kellermann, vice president at Trend Micro and former member of President Obama’s cybersecurity commission. Booz Allen Hamilton, a private security firm in Mclean, has hired nearly 3,000 cybersecurity experts in the past two years, and that trend is expected to continue.”

Currently, cybersecurity grads do not earn as much as those going into computer software design and computer engineering, but the pay is certain to increase with the ever-increasing demand.  The story by Fitzpatrick states that the average starting salary in 2009 was $55,000 a year, with many of the jobs now in the public sector.  The joint effort by UM and Northrup Grumman are an indication that the demand is now strong in the private sector as well.

UMass To Open Outstanding Honors Residential Complex in 2013

Another honors college is taking a giant step toward providing state-of-the-art honors residential housing to a greater number of students: The Commonwealth Honors Residential Complex at UMass Amherst will be one of the largest and finest honors residential communities in the nation when it opens in Fall of 2013.

The new complex in effect should move the Honors College into the top 20 in Honors Factors (which including residence halls and dining) among the 50 colleges and programs we plan to evaluate again in 2014.   The Honors College is among the larger programs in the country, and the size of the new residential complex is a good fit for a large program.

The complex will include 1,500 beds, including 600 for first-year students and 900 for upper-division students.  The central location is only five minutes from the library and very near a new recreation center.  The complex will also include nine classrooms and offices for the Commonwealth Honors College in buildings from four to six stories high, set in the midst of several courtyards.

The complex will have its own cafe, open 24/7, and is not far from multiple dining options in the Campus Center and Southwest Campus areas.

“Commonwealth Honors College currently serves about 3,000 students in 88 majors. It provides an intellectually challenging honors curriculum, creates a community of scholars and helps prepare future leaders by providing an academic avenue for highly motivated students to delve deeply into their studies. It is also the only such school in the region to provide a four-year honors course of study that includes a highly demanding six-credit honors capstone project. The college plans to gradually increase its incoming classes from 485 this fall to 600 per year.”

Priscilla M. Clarkson, dean of Commonwealth Honors College, said this new complex will improve an already excellent program. “Commonwealth Honors College is the premier honors college in New England serving the greatest number of students in the largest number of majors,” Clarkson said.  “This new complex will serve as a visible representation of the commitment of this campus to academic excellence and will help attract even more students to the program.”


Iowa Enhances Honors Curriculum for 2013

The University of Iowa Honors Program will implement significant changes to honors curriculum requirements, effective Fall 2013, and also require all honors students to accept a formal invitation to participate and then attend a comprehensive honors orientation.

The first 12 hours of the curriculum, the honors foundation or core, requires completion within the first four semesters and allows only one honors contract course to be counted toward the core requirement.  The emphasis is “building knowledge” in this first half of the curriculum.  All honors students must take at least one honors course in their first semester.

The second half, at least another 12 hours, is more experiential in its focus.  Honors students will have several ways to meet these requirements:

i.    Honors in the major (completely satisfies the second level requirement), which typically includes a thesis;

ii.   Mentored research (12 semester hours or the equivalent);

iii.  Study abroad for a minimum of two semesters (fall and/or spring) or the equivalent;

  • Single semesters of study abroad, including summer and between-semester experiences, may count for up to half of the second level requirement
  • Requires students to conduct/carry out an independent project while abroad and to submit a report on the project

iv.  Internships may count for up to half (6 semester hours) of the second level requirement;

  • In some cases, e.g. Engineering and Business, internships may count for the entire requirement (12 semester hours or the equivalent)
  • Requires students to conduct/carry out an independent project while interning and to submit a report on the project.

v.   Honors coursework (including graduate course work) may count for up to 6 semester hours.

Students who complete the new curriculum will be eligible to graduate with university honors, a distinction that entitles them to recognition at commencement and formal notation on their transcripts and diplomas.




U.S. News 2013 Rankings Even Tougher on Publics

The 2013 U.S. News rankings are out and, for the most part, the results are not kind to public universities, probably because the emphasis the magazine places on financial resources hits financially strapped state universities the hardest.   In An Alternative List of 2013 U.S. News College Rankings we analyze the rankings of the publics more closely, similar to our post How Much Do U.S. News Rankings Favor Private Universities?

For now we can say that the average drop in the rankings for the 50 universities whose honors programs we evaluated is about 2 places, with some schools falling 7, 8, or even 10 places in the rankings.  Of the 50 universities, a whopping 33 saw their rankings decline; 9 rose in the rankings; and 8 remained the same.  In such a difficult year, public universities that held their own or only lost one or two places were fortunate.

By far the most stunning improvement was by Stony Brook University, which improved from 111 to 92.  Were it not for this impressive 19-point rise, the average decline of the publics would have been even worse.

Along with Stony Brook, these universities rose in the 2013 rankings: Arizona, Binghamton, Florida, UC Irvine, UCLA, UC Santa Barbara, University at Buffalo, and Wisconsin.  UC Berkeley remained at number 21 and Michigan fell one spot to number 29.  In the post linked above, we argue that both are significantly underrated by U.S. News.

As we noted in the post linked above, we believe that U.S. News emphasizes a university’s financial well-being in ways that magnify the real impact of money on higher education.  Specifically, we suggest that the three magazine categories of financial resources, faculty resources, and alumni giving nudge the rankings toward wealthy private institutions.

Below are the 50 universities whose honors programs we evaluated, with their 2013 ranking listed first, following by their 2012 ranking:

Alabama–2013 (77); 2012 (75)

Arizona–2013 (120); 2012 (124)

Arizona State–2013 (139); 2012 (132)

Arkansas–2013 (134); 2012 (132)

Auburn–2013 (89); 2012 (82)

Binghamton–2013 (89); 2012 (90)

Clemson–2013 (68); 2012 (68)

Colorado–2013 (97); 2012 (94)

Connecticut–2013 (63); 2012 (58)

Delaware–2013 (75); 2012 (75)

Florida–2013 (54); 2012 (58)

Georgia–2013 (63); 2012 (62)

Georgia Tech–2013 (36); 2012 (36)

Illinois–2013 (46); 2012 (42)

Indiana–2013 (83); 2012 (75)

Iowa–2013 (72); 2012 (71)

Iowa State–2013 (101); 2012 (97)

Kansas–2013 (106); 2012 (101)

Maryland–2013 (58); 2012 (55)

Massachusetts–2012 (97); 2012 (94)

Michigan–2013 (29); 2012 (28)

Michigan State–2013 (72); 2012 (71)

Minnesota–2013 (68); 2012 (68)

Mississippi–2013 (151); 2012 (143)

Missouri–2013 (97); 2012 (90)

Nebraska–2013 (101); 2012 (101)

North Carolina–2013 (30); 2012 (29)

NC State–2013 (106); 2012 (101)

Ohio State–2013 (56); 2012 (55)

Oregon–2013 (115); 2012 (101)

Penn State–2013 (46); 2012 (45)

Pitt–2013 (58); 2012 (58)

Purdue–2013 (65); 2012 (62)

Rutgers–2013 (68); 2012 (68)

South Carolina–2013 (115); 2012 (111)

Stony Brook–2013 (92); 2012 (111)

Texas A&M–2013 (65); 2012 (58)

UC Davis–2013 (38); 2012 (38)

UC Irvine–2013 (44); 2012 (45)

UCLA–2013 (24); 2012 (25)

UC San Diego–2013 (37); 2012 (38)

UC Santa Barbara–2013 (41); 2012 (42)

University at Buffalo–2013 (106); 2012 (111)

UT Austin–2013 (46); 2012 (45)

Vermont–2013 (92); 2012 (82)

Virginia–2013 (24); 2012 (25)

Virginia Tech–2013 (72); 2012 (71)

Washington–2013 (46); 2012 (42)

Washington State–2013 (125); 2012 (115)

Wisconsin–2013 (41); 2012 (42)






New for 2013: Oregon’s Global Scholars Hall Has Most Room Options

In our frequent reviews of honors residence halls, we come across a wide variety of room configurations, with the most typical being the traditional shared double with corridor baths or a combination of traditional rooms with some suite-style rooms that allow four students in two adjoining rooms to share a common bath.

But the Global Scholars Hall at the University of Oregon offers not only these basic options but an amazing six additional options.  The hall will soon have its own dining facility, the Freshmarket Cafe, offering sushi, pasta, rice bows, deli sandwiches, special expresso drinks, and fresh produce.

The Clark Honors College at U of O ranked 24th out of 50 in Overall Excellence and 23rd in Honors Factors in our recent book, A Review of Fifty Public University Honors Programs.  The Global Scholars Hall was not yet open at the time of publication, and if it had been open, the Clark Honors College would have ranked even higher with a stronger score for housing.

Home to students in the Clark Honors College, College Scholars, and global language scholars studying Mandarin Chinese, Japanese, French, Spanish, or German.  Students in these groups must apply through their program for a place in the Global Scholars Hall.  There are classrooms and study facilities in the hall, which even has its own librarian.

Here are the room options in the 450-student hall:

1. Traditional double with in-room sink;

2. Enhanced single with in-room sink;

3. Double with its own bath;

4. Triple with three sets of furniture, in-room sink, and no private bath (the least expensive option);

5. Single with its own bath;

6. Four-person suite, featuring two double rooms with a shared bath between them;

7. Six-person suite with one bath, with a private hallway, common living area and furniture, and three double rooms;

8. Two-person suite with bath, where each student has a single room and both students share one bath.

The Global Scholars Hall is open for Fall 2012, but we include it as “new” for 2013 as well.




New for Fall 2013: Indiana’s Hutton Honors College Adds to Great Study-Abroad Rep

Already recognized nationally for its outstanding study-abroad program, Indiana University and Hutton Honors College have received two more recent gifts that will provide honors students with greater financial support for studying abroad.

A $500,000 gift for the Edward L. Hutton Foundation will provide needed funding for high-achieving students who seek international experiences but are challenged by difficult economic times.

“Given the current economy and the surge in costs for airfare, living expenses and program fees, this generous gift and the IU match couldn’t come at a better time,” said Matt Auer, dean of the Hutton Honors College. “We’re thrilled that a second generation of Huttons shares our passion for study abroad.”

With the new funding and match from IU, the Hutton International Experiences Program will enable 600 students annually to incorporate international experiences into their academic programs.

Another gift of $100,000, to be divided between HHC and the College of Arts and Sciences, has come from an alumnus, Devesh Shah, through a Goldman Sachs charitable giving program.  The funds will be used to support students studying abroad in developing nations, and to support those thriving academically who have financial needs.

Shah graduated in 1997 with an individualized major in applied mathematics in finance.  When he arrived at IU, he knew no one on campus, but among several university faculty who helped and mentored him, he included former Hutton Honors College Dean Julia Bondanella.

According to Hutton Honors College Dean Matt Auer, the Goldman Sachs Scholarship is open to any undergraduate who meets academic and financial requirements.

“Over the past few years, the Hutton Honors College has encouraged high-achieving IU undergraduates to ‘go off the beaten track’ when they travel abroad to study, intern and volunteer,” Auer said. “This generous gift from Devesh Shah and Goldman Sachs is in sync with our goal of promoting profound learning experiences and personal development opportunities in nontraditional locations worldwide.”

In 2011-2012, HHC provided almost $745,000 for overseas study and volunteer experiences, along with nearly $324,000 for grants for research and internships and approximately $15,000 through a student funding board for student-generated extracurricular programs.



New for Fall 2013: South Carolina Adds Courses and Staff

The Honors College at the University of South Carolina, ranked number one in our category of Honors Factors, now offers an extremely impressive choice of honors courses–a projected 464 courses for 2012-2013, up from about 300 in previous years.

In our recent book, A Review of Fifty Public University Honors Programs, the Honors College had the strongest overall curriculum ranking and was one of only a handful of honors colleges or programs that received the highest possible score for honors housing.

In order to provide advising and other services to support this range of courses, the staff size has grown from 18 to 20 and is in the process of growing to 22 in the next month or so.

The Honors College will provide over $200,000 in 2012-2013 to Honors undergraduates for research and travel.  This funding is in addition to resources that students can access through the undergraduate research office (available to all students).

And now the College offers priority registration for all classes for honors students, not just for honors classes.

The College also provides 100% of its students with some form of scholarship funding.