UT Austin Announces Significant Increase in Financial Aid

UT Austin President Gregory Fenves notified alumni and contributors on April 20 that new, four-year financial aid awards will begin in the fall of 2018 and be distributed to new UT students to help them graduate on time and with less debt. The need-based funds are for in-state students and will benefit almost 3,000 additional UT students per year.

“The Texas Advance Commitment (TAC)ensures that Texas students with family incomes of up to $100,000 (Adjusted Gross Income), who have financial need, will receive guaranteed gift aid,” Fenves said. “Eligible students with family incomes up to $30,000 will receive, at a minimum, enough aid to completely cover their full tuition costs.”

In 2016, UT Austin implemented a $15 million increase in financial aid that benefited thousands of current UT students. “This year, we will make that funding permanent,” Fenves said.

According to the TAC website, the amount of funding a student will receive will depend on how much their family AGI is, as well as how much financial aid they have already received through grants and other scholarships.

“For Texas families with an AGI up to $30,000, awards range from $300 to more than $11,000 per year to ensure that tuition is completely covered.

“For Texas families with an AGI between $30,000 and $100,000, award amounts will range from $300 to $2,000 per year depending on the student’s financial need to cover tuition.”

These are four-year renewable awards. To renew the award and remain eligible, a student must:

  • Submit a FAFSA or TASFA every year
  • Continue to have a family adjusted gross income of up to $100,000
  • Continue to have financial need, as demonstrated on the FAFSA or TASFA
  • Maintain a 2.0 GPA and remain in good standing

The most prestigious merit award at UT Austin is the full-ride Forty Acres Scholarship, provided to 14-18 outstanding applicants each year from a list of more than 50 finalists. About 90 percent of the finalists are from the state of Texas. Students in the UT Plan II Honors Program are well-represented.

The extremely competitive Business Honors Program and the Engineering Honors Program also have Forty Acres Scholars, and Engineering Honors also awards more than $5 million in merit scholarships on its own each year. Most of the honors programs at UT can grant a very  limited number of OOS tuition waivers.

Other recent aid initiatives include Completion Grants in varying amounts, awarded to students who are close to graduating but have unmet financial need that would keep them from finishing their degrees.

Impact Scholarships “recognize high potential students from across the state who are making an impact in their local community, who will make an impact on the Forty Acres, and who will make an impact in their communities when they graduate. More than 30 incoming 2018 freshmen were surprised with a $48,000 scholarship ($12,000 per year) to cover the cost of their tuition for the students’ four years at UT Austin.”
RaiseMe Collaboration

“UT Austin has collaborated with RaiseMe to encourage students to consider the university when they begin their college search. The RaiseMe UT Austin collaboration encourages students early in their high school careers to engage in activities to encourage college-going behaviors, while earning micro scholarships for college. This platform enables students to earn up to $2,000 ($500 per year) in scholarship dollars when they attend UT Austin.”

Florida Atlantic University Wilkes Honors College Is Full-on Honors

There is a special pleasure associated with writing about honors colleges and programs in the state of Florida, especially when the spring weather in the northwest still feels a lot like November. But if you were a student at Florida Atlantic University’s Wilkes Honors College, you could have walked out of your honors dorm in early spring, strolled across the street, and taken in a spring training game at the Roger Dean Stadium in Jupiter, Florida, home of both the St. Louis Cardinals and the Florida Marlins.

And if you happened to be a National Merit Finalist, you would be enjoying a full ride scholarship.

And if you wanted to take only honors classes, with honors students, and faculty dedicated to honors education, you could.

And if you wanted to go to the beach, well, darn, you’d have to drive 10 minutes or ride your bike almost a whole half hour to get to Juno Beach.

And if you wanted a private bedroom in a suite-style dorm, you would have one.

Or you could just head over to the shops and restaurants at Abacoa Village, less than a 10-minute walk away.

More than 50 years ago, colleges began offering honors “programs” and many of these offered a relatively small number of honors seminars and departmental honors courses, with the bulk of honors coursework required in the first two “gen-ed” years.

But in the last three decades honors programs have expanded, and now many universities have established honors colleges that offer special housing, advising, and an expanding array of courses. Even so, only a relatively small number offer their own honors degree or require more than 30 semester credits (or equivalent) in honors courses.

Of the honors programs and colleges that offer their own degrees, four are well-known: the Pitt Honors College, the South Carolina Honors College, the Virginia Echols Scholars Program, and the UT Austin Plan II Honors Program. Yet none of these require a student to take only honors courses to earn the honors degree, even though about a third of the total credits to graduate do come from honors courses.

Now, the Wilkes Honors College at Florida Atlantic University (or, to be precise, near FAU), not only offers its own degrees in a broad range of special majors but also provides honors-only courses to meet the full graduation requirements.

The WHC has its own faculty as well, and the college is actually located in Jupiter, Florida, about 40 miles north of the main FAU campus in Boca Raton.

Note: The WHC will receive a full rated review in the 2018 edition of our book, INSIDE HONORS, due out in the Fall.

“It is important to note that the Wilkes Honors College (WHC) of Florida Atlantic University (FAU) is a free-standing, liberal arts and sciences college” says WHC Dean Dr. Ellen Goldey, whose field is biology.  “WHC offers a four-year, all-honors curriculum, taught by its own faculty of thirty-seven full-time members, all of whom hold the highest degree in their field and represent the full range of liberal arts and sciences disciplines.

“Twenty-two other scholars and scientists hold affiliate faculty status in the College.  Requirements for the baccalaureate degree include three team-taught interdisciplinary courses, an internship or study abroad experience, and completion of a mentored senior thesis. With a student to faculty ration of 12:1, the WHC [with 424 students] offers the intimacy and close faculty attention of a private college, with access to all of the benefits and opportunities of a large public research university.”

Full completion of an “honors concentration” requires 111 credit hours of honors courses across four years, plus a 6-credit thesis. AP credits can count for up to 45 credit hours.

Students do not have traditional majors but choose pursue a major concentration: American Studies; Anthropology; Art; Biological Anthropology; Biological Chemistry; Biology; Business; Chemistry; Economics; English Literature; Environmental Studies; History; Interdisciplinary Critical Theory; International Studies; Latin American Studies; Law and Society; Marine Biology; Mathematics; Mathematical Science; Medical Humanities; Medical Science; Philosophy; Physics; Political Science; Pre-Med; Psychology; Spanish; Women’s Studies; or Writing.

Engineering and computer science are not offered at WHC, but students who spend the first two years at WHC can follow a pathway to engineering at the Boca Raton campus. Science and research are central to the mission of the college.

“The Senior Honors Thesis is required, so all students conduct original, mentored research, and many of our students conduct research for multiple semesters/years leading up to their thesis,” according to Dean Goldey.  “Multi-year research is especially common for our science students (who make up about 70% of our student population).  This is possible for a number of reasons unique to our campus: two world-renowned research institutes exist on our campus: the Scripps Research Institute – Florida, the only Scripps Institute outside of California, and the Max Planck Florida Institute for Neuroscience, the only Max Planck Institute outside of Europe.

“In addition, our campus houses FAU’s Brain Institute and Jupiter Life Science Initiative, each of which host top NIH-funded scientists.  Nearby is FAU’s Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institute, providing students interested in marine biology with remarkable research opportunities.  Therefore, our undergraduates have unprecedented access to working with scientists in all STEM fields.  As a result, since 2002, sixty-six publications, most of them in top-tier, peer-reviewed journals, have included a Wilkes Honors College student as a co-author.”  [Emphasis added.]

First- and second-year students are required to live in MacArthur Residence Hall I or II. Dining is across the street at the DH Dining Hall. Upperclassmen can also live in MacArthur.

The mean SAT score for current WHC students is 1280; the mean ACT is 29. The college has a very high honors completion rate (students who complete all honors requirements and graduate) of 82 percent. The four-year grad rate is 70%, far higher than most public universities.

“The Jupiter and Boca Raton campuses are linked by a shuttle service that operates throughout the day. The total undergraduate enrollment of FAU is 25,500 and the main campus also hosts a small Honors Program and some departments offer students the opportunity to earn honors I the major, but these programs are run separately from the Wilkes Honors College.”

Ten Qualities of a “Liberally” Educated Person

The University of Wisconsin-Madison has a long and proud history as a leader in public higher education. On the website of the Letters and Sciences (L&S) Honors Program at UW-Madison, Professor William Cronon, history professor, former Director of the L&S Program, and winner of the MacArthur Fellowship and the Bancroft Prize, describes the 10 qualities of a liberal education. He could as well have been describing the highest purpose of all honors colleges and programs. We repeat his words below:

1. They listen and they hear.

This is so simple that perhaps it doesn’t seem worth saying, but in our distracted and over-busy age I think it’s worth declaring that an educated person knows how to pay attention–to people and to the world around them. They work hard to hear what other people are saying. They can follow an argument, track logical reasoning, detect illogic, hear the emotions that lie behind both the logic and the illogic, and ultimately empathize with the person who is feeling those emotions.

2. They read and they understand.

This too is utterly simple to say, but very difficult to achieve, since there are so many many ways of reading in this world. An educated person is literate across a wide range of genres and media. They’re able to read and absorb the New York Times, including the front page, the arts section, the sports section, the business section, the Tuesday science section, and the editorials; they can read not just Time magazine but Scientific American, the New York Review of Books, Better Homes and Gardens, The National Enquirer, and the Reader’s Digest, they can enjoy reading popular fiction ranging from the latest bestseller or detective novel or comic book to a work of classic literature; and they’re engaged by works of nonfiction ranging from biographies to debates about current public policy to the latest discoveries of science. But skilled readers know how to read far more than just words. They know how to enjoy wandering through a great art museum, and are moved by what they hear in a concert hall; they recognize the extraordinary human achievements represented by contemporary athletes working in fields as diverse as tennis and gymnastics and football; they are engaged by classic and contemporary works of theater and cinema, and they find in television a valuable window on popular culture; they can wander through a prairie or woodland and recognize the creatures they encounter there, the meaning of the rocks, and the lay of the land; they can look out across a farmer’s field and know the crops they see there; they can appreciate good food whether they encounter it in a four-star French restaurant or the Pardeeville Watermelon Festival; they recognize fine craftsmanship whether in carpentry or plumbing or auto mechanics; and they can surf the World Wide Web. For an educated person, all of these are special forms of “reading,” profound ways in which the eyes and the ears and the other senses become attuned to the infinite wonders and talents that make up the human and the natural worlds. As with the other items on my list, none of us can possibly attain full competence in all these ways of “reading,” but the mark of an educated person is to be competent in many of them, and curious about all of them. Encountering the world as a fascinating and extraordinarily intricate set of texts to be read and understood: surely this is one of the most important marks of an educated person.

3. They can talk with anyone.

An educated person knows how to talk: they can give a speech, they can make people laugh, they can ask thoughtful questions, and they can hold a conversation with anyone they meet, whether that person is a high school dropout or a Nobel laureate, a child or a patient dying in a hospital, a factory worker or a farmer or a corporate CEO. Moreover, an educated person participates in such conversation not because they like to talk about themselves but because they’re genuinely interested in the other person. A friend of mine says that one of the most important things his father ever told him was that in having a conversation, his job was “to figure out what’s so neat about what the other person does.” It would be hard to imagine a more succinct description of this key quality of an educated person.

4. They can write clearly and persuasively and movingly.

What goes for talking goes for writing as well: an educated person knows the fine craft of putting words on paper.

I’m not talking about the ability to parse a sentence or compose a paragraph or write an essay. I’m talking about the ability to express what is in your mind and in your heart so as to get it across to the person who reads your words so as to teach, persuade, and move that person. I’m talking about writing as a form of touching akin to the touching that happens in a wonderfully exhilarating conversation.

5. They can solve a wide variety of puzzles and problems.

This ability to solve puzzles and problems bespeaks many skills. These include basic numeracy, an ability to handle numbers and to see that many problems which appear to turn on questions of quality can in fact be reinterpreted as subtle problems of quantity. These days a comparable skill involves the ability to run a computer, whether for word processing or doing taxes or playing games. I could go on, but the broader and more practical skills I’m describing here are those of the analyst, the manager, the engineer, the critic: the ability to look at a complicated reality, break it into pieces, and figure out how it works, with the end result of being able to do practical things in the real world. Part of the challenge in this, of course, is the ability to put reality back together again after having broken it down into pieces–for only by so doing can we accomplish practical goals without violating the integrity of the world we’re trying to change.

6. They respect rigor, not so much for its own sake but as a way of seeking truth.

This is to say, truly educated people love learning, but they love wisdom more. They can appreciate a closely reasoned argument without being unduly impressed by mere logic. They understand that knowledge serves values, and they strive to put these two–knowledge and values–into constant dialogue with each other. The ability to recognize true rigor is one of the most important achievements in any education; but it is worthless, even dangerous, if it is not placed in the service of some larger vision that renders it also humane.

7. They practice respect and humility, tolerance and self-criticism.

This is another way of saying that they can feel and understand the power of other people’s dreams and nightmares as well as their own. They have the intellectual range and emotional generosity to step outside their own experience and prejudices to recognize the parochialism of their own viewpoints, thereby opening themselves to perspectives different from their own. This quality of intellectual openness and tolerance is among the most important values we associate with liberal education. From this commitment to tolerance flow all those aspects of a liberal education that celebrate the value of learning foreign languages, exposing oneself to the cultures of distant peoples, learning the history of long-ago times, and encountering the many ways in which men and women have known the sacred and have given names to their gods. From a deep encounter with history and geography and culture comes a rich sense of how very different people are from each other and how much they share in common.

8. They understand how to get things done in the world.

In describing the goal of his Rhodes Scholarships, Cecil Rhodes spoke of trying to identify young people who would spend their lives engaged in what he called “the world’s fight,” by which he meant the struggle to leave the world a better place than one finds it. Learning how to get things done in the world in an effort to leave it a better place is surely one of the most practical and important lessons we can take from our education. It is fraught with peril because the power to act in the world can so easily be abused?but we fool ourselves if we think we can avoid acting, avoid exercising power, avoid joining the world’s fight. Not to act is to abandon to others our own responsibility for trying to make the world a better place, even in the face of what we know to be injustice. And so we study power and ask ourselves what it means to act rightly and wrongly in our use of power. We struggle to try to know how we can do good and avoid doing wrong.

9. They nurture and empower the people around them.

One of the most important things that tempers the exercise of power and shapes right action is surely the recognition that no one ever acts alone. A liberally educated person understands that they belong to a community whose prosperity and well-being is crucial to their own, and they help that community flourish by giving of themselves to make the success of others possible. If we speak of education for freedom, then one of the crucial insights of a liberal education must be that the freedom of the individual is only possible in a free community, and vice versa as well. It is the community that empowers the free individual, just as it is free individuals who lead and empower the community. The fulfillment of high talent, the just exercise of power, the celebration of human diversity: nothing so redeems these things as the recognition that what seem like personal triumphs are in fact the achievements of our common humanity.

10. They follow E. M. Forster’s injunction in the novel Howard’s End: “ONLY CONNECT.”

More than anything else, being an educated person means being able to see connections so as to be able to make sense of the world and act within it in creative ways. All the other qualities I’ve described here–listening, reading, writing, talking, puzzle-solving, seeing through other people’s eyes, empowering others, leading–every last one of them is finally about connecting. A liberal education is about gaining the power and insight and the generosity and finally the freedom and the wisdom to connect. If one could pick just one phrase that would answer the question of what it means to be a liberally educated person, surely this would be it: “Only connect.”

Changes in Dept Rankings 2014-2018

In other posts and pages we compare the public and private university academic departmental rankings and list those along with U.S. News overall rankings for the universities. It is often the case that a university’s overall ranking is sharply at odds with its departmental rankings.

In this post we will list the changes in the aggregate academic department rankings for 61 public and private universities during the 2014–2018 time frame. In doing so we hope to give readers some idea whether a given university is trending up or down in the reputation of its academic offerings. A high aggregate ranking indicates that a student could have more options for a major or have the ability to change from one highly-ranked major to another that is also strong. Strong departments in public universities are especially important to honors students because they can take better advantage of the strong department via mentoring and smaller classes.

Academic departments are ranking by university academicians and administrators across the nation. Like any other rankings based on reputation, these are inherently subjective. On the other hand, few individuals are more keenly aware of the personnel changes in their professions or disciplines than members of the academy, whose careers often rely on their own recognized accomplishments, usually by means of publishing or patenting their work.

Our own approach is subjective in that we have chosen to rank only 15 academic disciplines, and most are ranked only at the graduate level. These are biology; business (undergrad); chemistry; computer science; earth sciences; economics; education; engineering (undergrad); English; history; mathematics; physics; political science; psychology; and sociology.

Not every university has ranked programs in all 15 disciplines. In such cases, we only count the ranked disciplines, and the average is based only on those; in other words, their is no penalty if a university does not offer, say, engineering.

In rare cases, a university did not have a ranked department in 2014 but did in 2018. In the list below, the rankings for Emory and Georgia Tech only include departments that were ranked in both years. For example, the history department at Georgia Tech broke into the rankings in 2018 at number 114; this was good in a sense, but the ranking, not present in 2014, had a negative impact.

There are four other special cases. We did not begin tracking Boston College and the University of Rochester until recently, so we do not have a 2014 aggregate ranking for their departments. But because their current aggregate ranking is among the top 60, we included them in the 2018 column. NYU, Carnegie Mellon, and Boston University have been tracked since 2016, so their rankings cover only a two-year period.

Although many universities below had meaningful changes in the aggregate departmental rankings (+2.0/-2.0) during the period, the mean change was only .414. Example: University A had an aggregate departmental ranking of 24.62 in 2018 (very high) but increased only .22 over the 2014 ranking of 24.40.

But University B had an aggregate ranking of 53.65 in 2014 but improved to 49.86 in 2018, a significant change.

The universities below are listed in order of their 2018 aggregate department ranking. Those with an improvement of 2.0 or greater are in bold; those with a decline of 2.0 or greater are in italics.

University 2013-14 2018-19 Chg + or –
Stanford 2.71 1.93 0.78
MIT 4.58 2.73 1.85
UC Berkeley 3.13 3.20 -0.07
Caltech 5.63 4.71 0.92
Princeton 5.77 5.38 0.39
Harvard 5.57 5.71 -0.14
Michigan 9.47 9.40 0.07
Columbia 10.85 10.23 0.62
UCLA 12.86 10.86 2.00
Yale 12.00 10.92 1.08
Chicago 11.92 11.67 0.25
Wisconsin 12.73 12.93 -0.20
Cornell 11.64 13.79 -2.15
UT-Austin 14.27 14.47 -0.20
Penn 18.53 16.73 1.80
Northwestern 19.00 17.86 1.14
Illinois 19.33 20.07 -0.74
Duke 22.38 20.23 2.15
Johns Hopkins 19.36 21.93 -2.57
Washington 21.67 22.20 -0.53
North Carolina 25.80 23.79 2.01
Minnesota 23.07 24.20 -1.13
NYU* 27.13 25.00 2.13
Georgia Tech 32.78 25.40 7.38
UCSD 23.29 25.93 -2.64
Ohio State 25.47 26.40 -0.93
Penn State 25.93 27.27 -1.34
Virginia 32.47 27.40 5.07
Brown 27.08 27.62 -0.54
Carnegie Mellon* 26.55 27.73 -1.18
UC Davis 30.57 28.14 2.43
Maryland 27.40 28.80 -1.40
Indiana 29.07 29.93 -0.86
Rice 33.83 31.92 1.91
WUSTL 29.08 32.29 -3.21
UC Irvine 34.31 32.53 1.78
Colorado 37.00 33.20 3.80
UCSB 35.64 35.21 0.43
USC 37.73 35.27 2.46
Vanderbilt 33.29 35.57 -2.28
Emory 33.00 38.86 -5.86
Purdue 40.33 40.27 0.06
Texas A&M 43.80 41.60 2.20
Michigan State 43.20 42.13 1.07
Arizona 38.20 43.00 -4.80
Rutgers New Bruns 43.87 43.87 0.00
Pitt 46.00 45.40 0.60
Notre Dame 52.23 45.43 6.80
Arizona State 47.27 45.67 1.60
Stony Brook SUNY 47.08 46.46 0.62
Massachusetts 52.14 48.67 3.47
Florida 44.00 48.57 -4.57
Boston University* 50.20 48.67 1.53
Boston College no data 50.27
Iowa 46.93 50.27 -3.34
Oregon 49.36 51.21 -1.85
Dartmouth 48.86 51.38 -2.52
Rochester no data 52.00
Virginia Tech 57.58 52.31 5.27
Georgetown 59.33 53.75 5.58
Illinois Chicago 58.07 59.80 -1.73

Will Florida Become the New Mecca for National Merit Scholars?

A few flagship universities–Oklahoma and Alabama, for example– are well-known for the generous merit scholarships, most of which provide the largest awards to national merit scholars or students with very similar qualifications. Now there are several other major players in this game, and all are in the state of Florida, home to several colleges on the rise in national rankings.

In March, Gov. Rick Scott, who is often at odds with higher ed professionals, signed Senate Bill 4. The bill passed the senate with unanimous support in mid-January.

Florida State has risen from 101st in U.S. News rankings for 2011 to 81st in the 2018 rankings.

The bill expands the full-ride Benacquisto Scholarship to include not only in-state National Merit and National Achievement Scholars but also out-of-state winners of these awards.

For out-of-state National Merit Scholars, the award is “equal to the institutional cost of attendance for a resident of this state minus the student’s National Merit Scholarship. Such student is exempt from the payment of out-of-state fees.”

The value of the award for in-state students at the University of Florida is $21,210 per year. For out-of-state students, it is $43,448 per year.

The bill provides $124 million to fund these and other merit awards in 2018-2019 alone. Here is a summary:

Expands merit-based state gift aid for high-performing students:

  • Reinstates full funding of the Bright Futures Florida Academic Scholar award at 100 percent of tuition and fees, plus $300 in fall and spring semesters to cover instructional materials and other costs, beginning in this 2017-2018 academic year and guarantees funding for 2018 summer term tuition and fees for Bright Futures Florida Academic Scholar awards.
  • New provisions of the legislation this year reinstate funding for the Bright Futures Florida Medallion Scholar award at 75 percent of tuition and fees for fall and spring semesters, beginning in fall semester of the 2018-2019 academic year and guarantee funding for 2019 summer term tuition and fees for Bright Futures Florida Medallion Scholar awards.
  • Expands Benacquisto Scholarship awards (full cost of attendance) to recruit out-of-state National Merit Scholar award winners.

“Senate Bill 4 ensures universities remain accountable to Florida taxpayers by refining university performance expectations to incentivize and reward state university performance excellence and recognition in academics, instruction, research, and community accomplishments and achievements,” according to a press release from the Florida senate.

Florida lawmakers have also designated “preeminent” and “emerging preeminent” universities. These universities must meet targets for graduation, retention, and post-graduation employment. Florida and Florida State were the first preeminent universities, and the University of South Florida has now moved from emerging preeminent to preeminent. The University of Central Florida will be next.

According to USF, “The designation will bring not only more prestige but more funding for the university. UF and FSU each received $17.3 million as pre-eminent universities this year, while USF and the University of Central Florida each received $8.7 million as ’emerging’ pre-eminent schools.”

The extra funds are used to elevate the quality and recognition of the universities by hiring eminent faculty members, improving grad and retention rates, and funding STEM programs. The University of Florida, for example, has risen from 58th in the 2011 U.S. News rankings to 42nd in the 2018 rankings. Florida State, meanwhile, has moved from 101st to 81st in the same time frame.