International Rankings Engineering and Tech: Top 70 US Universities

Although rankings of international universities are not especially important for some academic disciplines, rankings of engineering and technology are of significant interest because so many U.S. companies who employ graduates in these fields have extensive international contacts, including multiple office facilities abroad.

Whether you are working for an American engineering or tech company at home or abroad, you will have colleagues from across the globe. At least one measure of your credibility with them could be based on the worldwide prominence of your alma mater.

Below are the top U.S. universities in engineering and technology, according to the Times Higher Ed rankings. The schools are listed in numerical order according to their U.S. ranking with their international ranking alongside. After the top 100 in the world, the rankings begin to group in increments of 25 or 50. World rankings up to 250 are included.

UNIVERSITYUNITED STATESINTERNATIONAL
NAMERANKRANK
Caltech11
Stanford11
Harvard33
MIT46
Princeton57
UCLA69
Georgia Tech69
UC Berkeley814
Carnegie Mellon916
Michigan1017
Yale1120
UT Austin 1222
Illinois1323
Cornell1426
UCSB1528
Columbia1633
UCSD1734
Purdue1835
Northwestern1936
Penn2037
Johns Hopkins2138
UW Madison2244
USC2345
Duke2449
Washington2550
Penn State2651
Rice2752
Ohio State2855
Texas A&M2855
NYU3065
Virginia Tech3171
UC Davis3280
Brown3382
Maryland3483
Arizona State3584
UC Irvine3584
Minnesota3786
UC Riverside38101-125
Colorado38101-125
Umass38101-125
Michigan State38101-125
NC State38101-125
Tennessee38101-125
Boston University44126-150
Case Western44126-150
Colorado School of Mines44126-150
UNC Chapel Hill44126-150
Notre Dame44126-150
Rutgers New Brunswick44126-150
Vanderbilt44126-150
University at Buffalo SUNY51151-175
UC Santa Cruz51151-175
Dartmouth51151-175
Delaware51151-175
Drexel51151-175
Northeastern51151-175
Arizona57176-200
Binghamton SUNY57176-200
Florida57176-200
UT Dallas57176-200
Uconn61201-250
Florida International61201-250
Houston61201-250
Indiana61201-250
Iowa State61201-250
Kent State61201-250
Missouri Inst of Tech61201-250
Nebraska61201-250
New Jersey Inst of Tech61201-250
Stony Brook SUNY61201-250
Tulsa61201-250
Virginia61201-250

 

U.S. News 2020: Dept Rank vs Academic Rep vs Overall Rank Plus Social Mobility

The post is by editor John Willingham.

Yes, the title of this post is a mouthful. For years now, I have kept an updated list of the departmental rankings that U.S. News publishes so that I can add them to the biannual profiles I do of honors programs. When the 2020 rankings came out, I wanted to see whether there was any clear relationship between the departmental scores and the academic reputation scores. Then I compared the latest reputation scores with those published in 2015 to see how much had changed. Finally, the table below also includes changes in university rankings and the most recent rankings for social mobility.

(I would welcome comments on this post. Please email editor@publicuniversityhonors.com.)

It appears that the social mobility metric has had some impact, especially if the ranking is very strong, as in the case of many UC campuses and Florida institutions. There is no clear relationship between departmental scores and academic reputation scores. Departmental rankings do have a modest relationship to the overall U.S. News rankings, but there are many inconsistencies. Academic reputation scores do seem to show some “grade inflation” since 2015; often this is the case even when the U.S News ranking has dropped significantly.

The table below includes data for 100 public and private universities.

The cumulative rankings that I do for 15 academic disciplines requires some explanation. U.S. News only ranks graduate programs for most departments. Here are the disciplines for which I have cumulative departmental rankings, using the most recent data (2018): biological sciences; business (undergrad); chemistry, computer science; earth sciences; economics; education; engineering (undergrad);English; history; mathematics; physics; political science; psychology; and sociology.

Not every university has a ranked department in each of the 15 disciplines. I averaged departmental rankings for every university that had at least six ranked departments. For universities with, say, fewer than 12 ranked departments, the total ranking will be artificially high because only the best departments are ranked and I cannot include unranked departents. Most universities have 12-15 departments that are ranked, and so the overall average will be more useful for them. And some of the universities with a small number of ranked departments are specialized, such as Georgia Tech and Caltech. Clearly, even ranking only six or seven departments for those schools and getting a strong result is not misleading.

Universities with fewer than 10 departmental rankings: Colorado School of Mines; Georgia Tech; Miami Ohio; American; Brigham Young; Caltech; Dartmouth; Drexel; Fordham; Georgetown; and RPI.

It should be said that universities with relatively low departmental rankings can legitimately receive high rankings because of other meaningful factors, such as grad and retention rates and class size. Some excellent universities do not have an especially strong research focus or a lot of graduate programs. Dartmouth is one prominent example.

The universities below appear in rank order of their 2020 academic reputation, according to U.S. News.

UNIVERSITYAvg Dept RankDept RankRep ScoreRep RankRep ScoreRep DifUS NewsRank Dif2020 Rank  
NAME15 Disciplines 2018Ordinal2020202020152020 v 2015Rank 20202015-2020Soc Mobility
Harvard5.7164.914.9020186
Stanford1.9314.914.9061241
MIT2.7324.914.9034241
Princeton5.3854.914.80.110186
Yale10.9294.854.8030285
UC Berkeley3.224.764.7022-270
Columbia10.2384.764.60.131138
Caltech4.7144.764.60.112-2345
Johns Hopkins21.93194.764.50.2102241
Chicago11.67114.664.606-2335
Cornell13.79134.664.50.117-2224
Penn16.73154.664.40.262241
Duke20.23174.5134.40.110-2254
Brown27.62284.5134.40.1142224
Michigan9.474.5134.40.1254291
Northwestern17.86164.5134.30.294251
Dartmouth51.38574.4174.20.212-1303
UCLA10.8694.3184.20.120313
Carnegie Mellon27.73294.3184.20.1250303
Georgia Tech33.7374.3184.20.1297224
Vanderbilt35.57404.3184.10.217-1291
Virginia27.4274.2224.3-0.128-5328
Rice31.92334.22240.2172204
Georgetown53.75614.22240.224-3241
Notre Dame45.43474.2223.90.315-1322
North Carolina23.79214.1264.10291165
UW Madison12.93124.1264.10461297
WUSTL32.29344.12640.119-5381
Emory45.82494.12640.121-1200
UT Austin14.47144.12640.1485134
NYU25234313.80.2293115
Illinois20.07173.9324.1-0.248-6186
Washington 22.2203.9324-162-14176
USC35.27393.9323.9022-3147
UC Davis28.14303.9323.80.139-19
UC San Diego25.93243.9323.80.137021
William & Mary69363.8373.70.140-7354
Ohio St26.4253.8373.70.1540254
Purdue40.27413.8373.60.2575270
Tufts73.8783.8373.60.229-2328
UC Irvine32.53353.8373.60.23663
Florida48.67523.8373.60.2341434
Penn State27.27263.7433.60.157-9348
Maryland28.8313.7433.60.164-2322
Minnesota24.2223.7433.60.170-1251
Boston College50.27543.7433.60.137-6270
Texas A&M41.6423.7433.60.170-296
Indiana29.93323.7433.60.179-3303
Case Western72.91773.7433.50.240-2214
Boston Univ48.67523.7433.50.2402270
Colorado 33.2363.7433.50.2104-16359
Virginia Tech52.31603.7433.40.374-3322
Wake Forest98.75933.6533.50.1270360
Brandeis63.92683.6533.50.140-5138
UC Santa Barbara35.21383.6533.50.13469
Arizona43443.6533.50.11173195
Georgia 63653.6533.40.25013159
Tulane90.77893.6533.40.24013365
Pitt45.4463.6533.40.2575335
George Washington76.92833.5603.5070-19322
Iowa50.27543.5603.5084-13335
Michigan St42.13433.5603.50841241
RPI62623.5603.40.1402270
Rochester52593.5603.40.1294159
Col School of Mines74.83793.5603.30.2844303
U of Miami85.69873.5603.20.357-9270
Northeastern67.85723.5603.20.3402254
Rutgers43.87453.4683.4062859
Syracuse69.33753.4683.30.154490
Oregon51.43573.4683.30.11042214
Kansas63.87673.4683.30.1130-24377
UMass Amherst48.57513.4683.20.26412186
Arizona St45.67483.4683.20.211712147
Clemson89.6883.4683.20.270-8348
Lehigh106.67983.3763.3050-10270
Stony Brook46.46503.3763.20.191-324
Iowa St50.27543.3763.20.1121-15270
Connecticut69.47763.3763.10.264-6265
Auburn94.36923.3763.10.2107-4380
Tennessee76.77813.3763.10.21042138
SMU109.6993.37630.364-6360
Florida St68.8733.37630.3573880
Missouri76.87813.2833.3-0.1139-40354
Baylor103.09943.2833.2079-8297
American105.83963.2833.10.177-6176
Delaware76.54803.2833.10.191-15360
Miami Oh94.11913.2833.10.191-15369
NC State67.09703.2833.10.18411224
Nebraska67.33713.2833.10.1139-40303
Brigham Young80.22843.28330.277-15291
Utah60.87633.28330.210425186
Fordham105.83963.1923.2-0.174-16351
UC Riverside64.33693.1923.1091221
Alabama124.911003.19230.1153-65377
UC Santa Cruz59.71623.19230.18412
Drexel105953.19230.197-2270
Oklahoma83.4853.19230.1132-26328
Washington St84.5863.19230.1166-28176
George Mason93.67903.19230.1153-25125
UIC63.53663100301321714
MEAN SCORES/RANKS49.9083503.77247.713.6610.10256.96-2.51229.38

 

 

What Are the Differences Between an Honors and a Non-Honors Undergraduate Education?

At last, there is a major study that goes a long way toward answering this important question.

Dr. Art Spisak

Making good use of the increasing data now available on honors programs and their parent institutions, two honors researchers have recently published a major paper that compares honors students and non-honors students from 19 public research universities. Out of 119,000 total students, a total of 15,200 were or had been participants in an honors program.

The study is extremely helpful to parents and prospective honors students who rightly ask how an honors education differs from a non-honors education: How will participation in an honors program shape and differentiate an honors student? Will an honors education be the equivalent of an education at a more prestigious private college?

The authors of the study are Dr. Andrew Cognard-Black of St. Mary’s College of Maryland and Dr. Art Spisak, Director of the University of Iowa Honors Program and former president of the National Collegiate Honors Council (NCHC).The title of their paper, published in the Journal of the National Collegiate Honors Council, is Honors and Non-Honors Students in Public Research Universities in the United States.”

Dr. Andrew Cognard-Black

Here are the major findings:

Feelings about the undergraduate experience: “In their undergraduate experience, students in the honors group reported a more positive experience, on average, than those in the non-honors group.” Both groups attended classes with similar frequency, but honors students reported greater activity in the following areas:

  1. finding coursework so interesting that they do more work than is required;
  2. communicating with profs outside of class;
  3. working with faculty in activities other than coursework;
  4. increasing effort in response to higher standards;
  5. completing assigned reading;
  6. attending to self care, eating, and sleeping;
  7. spending more time studying;
  8. performing more community service and volunteer work;
  9. participating in student organizations;
  10. and, while spending about the same time in employment, finding on-campus employment more frequently than non-honors students.

Participation in “high-impact” activities: These experiences contribute to undergraduate success and satisfaction as well as to higher achievement after graduation. Some of these are restricted to upperclassmen, so the study concentrated on participation by seniors in high-impact activities, including undergraduate research, senior capstone or thesis, collaborating with a professor on a project or paper, studying abroad, or serving in a position of leadership.

“Those [students] in the honors student segment of the senior sample had markedly higher cumulative college grade point averages.” The cumulative GPA of the honors group was 3.65; for the non-honors group it was 3.31. “A grade point average of 3.31 is located at the 38th percentile in the overall distribution within the study sample, and a grade point average of 3.65 is at the 69th percentile.” The authors found that the very significant difference was “particularly impressive” given that the high school GPAs of honors and non-honors students did not vary so significantly. Honors students were also 14% more likely to have served as an officer in a campus organization.

Students in the honors group were 77% more likely to have assisted faculty in research projects, 85% percent more likely to have studied abroad, and 2.5 times more likely to have conducted undergraduate research under faculty guidance.

Intellectual curiosity: Honors students expressed a statistically significant but not dramatically greater degree of intellectual curiosity; however, their intellectual curiosity was aligned with the “prestige” of an academic major. The study did not measure whether this attachment to prestige reflected a desire for greater intellectual challenge or for higher salaries associated with many such majors. (Or both.) Both groups placed similar emphasis on the importance of high pay after graduation and on career fulfillment.

Diversity: The study found that African American students were only 52% as likely to be in an honors program as they are to be in the larger university sample. Latin American students were 58% as likely. These figures may be due in part to the fact that, as a group, the 19 research universities “are located in states that are somewhat more white than the nation as a whole, but most of the discrepancy can be attributed to the fact that Research 1 universities do not, in general, have enrollments that are especially representative of ethnic and racial minorities.” On the other hand, LGBQ, transgender, and gender-questioning students “appear to be slightly over-represented among honors students.”

Low-income and first generation participation: These students “are significantly and substantially under-represented in the honors group.” Pell Grant recipients are 30% less likely to be in honors than in the non-honors group; and 40% of first-generation students are less likely to be in the honors group.

Test scores and HSGPA: There was a difference between honors and non-honors students, but it was not dramatic. “Regardless of which test score was used, the honors group had scores that were about 10% higher, on average.” (In our ratings of honors programs, we have found that honors test scores were about 17% higher, based on actual honors scores and the mid-range of test scores in U.S. News rankings.) The average high school GPA for the honors group was .11 points higher than for the non-honors group.

The study used data from the 2018 Student Experience in the Research University (SERU) survey for 2018. Although the study only used data from Research 1 universities that comprise only 3% of all colleges and universities in the nation, R1 universities enroll 28.5% of all undergraduates pursuing four-year degrees.

Research centered on honors education is increasingly important: An estimated 300,000-400,000 honors students are enrolled in American colleges and universities today.

 

 

 

 

Are Apartment-Style Residences Really Better than Traditional Corridor Dorms?

Although a recent study suggests that traditional dorms with hall baths might be better than new apartment-style residence halls in promoting strong connections and higher GPAs, the study does not take into account the positive impact that living/learning programs provide in the newer residences.

The study, summarized in an Inside Higher Ed article, found that the first-semester, first-year GPAs of African American students at an anonymous liberal arts college in the South were higher (2.3 vs 1.9) for students in traditional dorms. The same was true for white students but the improvement was minor (2.9 vs 2.8). The four-year study involved 5,538 students, including 800 African American students.

Accepting the premise that more social interaction enhances a sense of belonging and that this leads to improved academic performance, the study seems to favor traditional dorms that guarantee a high degree of social contact. But the idea that students in apartment-style (or suite-style) residence halls live in relative isolation does not fully consider that in newer honors living/learning residence halls, most of which are suite-style, students not only associate with a ready-made cohort of similar residents but they have a full range of honors programming available to them.

These include honors social activities within the dorm; faculty and outside speakers for honors students; access to in-depth research and faculty support; honors study-abroad programs; and smaller classes in the first year.

Non-honors living/learning communities such as those, notably, at Michigan State University, provide subject-area or cultural themes that bring students together in their residence community.

It is also true that traditional residence halls can offer living/learning programs. A  better way to analyze the impact of traditional and suite-style dorms on student socialization and academic performance would be to compare GPAs between students in traditional living/learning dorms and students in suite-style dorms with living/learning programs.

A few honors colleges and programs have purposely built new residences that are traditional in design, based on the premise that they are more effective in promoting collegiality and a sense of belonging. For parents and prospective students, especially those looking at honors programs, it would be a good idea to consider the programming and the design and amenities of residence halls, in the order of importance to you.

The Inside Higher Ed article did not report on the types of programming in the residence halls involved in the study. The link to the actual study states that a $43 payment is required for access, so the full details are not reported here either

Goldwater Scholarships Are a Big Deal–and a Bigger Deal Going Forward!

Great news for undergraduates in STEM fields: The Barry M. Goldwater Foundation has more than doubled the number of annual scholarships it awards to sophomores and juniors who have outstanding potential to do research. Along with the Truman Scholarship, generally awarded to college juniors, the Goldwater Scholarship is the most prestigious undergraduate award. It is also closely linked to success in achieving prestigious post-graduate scholarships.

More good news: 252 of the Goldwater Scholars in 2019 are young women.

UConn Goldwater Scholars 2019

UConn Has Four Goldwater Scholars in 2019

In previous years, only a few public universities had three or more Goldwater Scholars in a given year; the maximum allowable is four scholarships. In 2018, seven public universities had three or more scholars. In 2019, the number increased to 40 public universities.

“From an estimated pool of over 5,000 college sophomores and juniors, 1223 natural science, engineering and mathematics students were nominated by 443 academic institutions to compete for the 2019 Goldwater scholarships. Of students who reported, 241 of the Scholars are men, 252 are women [493 total], and virtually all intend to obtain a Ph.D. as their highest degree objective. Sixty-two Scholars are mathematics and computer science majors, 360 are majoring in the natural sciences, and 74 are majoring in engineering. Many of the Scholars have published their research in leading journals and have presented their work at professional society conferences.”

In 2018, the foundation awarded only 209 scholarships.

“Scholarships of up to $7,500 a year are provided to help cover costs associated with tuition, mandatory fees, books, room and board. A sophomore who receives a Goldwater Scholarship will receive up to $7,500 in each of his/her junior and senior years. A junior who receives a Goldwater Scholarship will receive up to $7,500 in his/her senior year.”

“Many of the Scholars have dual majors in a variety of mathematics, science, engineering, and computer science. Scholars have impressive academic and research credentials that have garnered the attention of prestigious post-graduate fellowship programs. Goldwater Scholars have been awarded 92 Rhodes Scholarships, 137 Marshall Awards, 159 Churchill Scholarships, 104 Hertz Fellowships, and numerous other distinguished awards like the National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowships.”

The public universities with four Goldwater Scholars in 2019 are listed below:

Colorado State
Connecticut
Georgia
Georgia Tech
Maryland
Massachusetts Amherst
NC State
Ohio State
Oregon State
Penn State
Pitt
Iowa State
Montana State
North Texas

Those with three awards in 2019 are below:

Alabama
UAB
Arizona
Arizona State
Arkansas
Clemson
Indiana
Iowa
Kansas State
Kentucky
LSU
Michigan
Nebraska
Oklahoma
Oklahoma St
Oregon
Rutgers
South Carolina
Stony Brook
UCLA
Utah
UC Riverside
Virginia
Virginia Tech
Washington St
Wisconsin

 

The New College Board ‘Adversity Score’ Explained

The College Board has developed a new data-driven tool designed to give college admissions officers the ability to evaluate test scores in light of an applicant’s educational, social, and economic background. The effort is the Board’s latest attempt to offset criticism that its tests favor the affluent, Asian students, and white students.

The new tool could also increase Latino and African American enrollment without the specific consideration of race or ethnicity, otherwise known as affirmative action, an approach that the Supreme Court might soon disallow.

So far, 50 colleges have been using the tool; it will expand to 150 later this year and be available to all schools in 2020.

The tool utilizes 15 factors (listed below) and provides a spreadsheet for admissions officers to use in analyzing the factors in relation to scores.

The new approach is certain to draw criticism, however. Students who live in relatively affluent neighborhoods, attend strong high schools, and enroll in advanced placement courses will receive low “adversity scores” and may find themselves relatively less likely to be admitted to some colleges.

Another issue: the data is based mostly on census block and other federal data, not on individual financial information. A wealthy white student might live in a gentrified neighborhood with inaccurate data indicating that it is still a lower income area. Similarly, a disadvantaged student might live just inside a census tract with high median income stats. Students will not receive a copy of the score–another area of controversy.

Students who attend highly competitive high schools in states with automatic admission based on high school class standing, such as Texas, already find it relatively harder to graduate in the top 6th or 7th percentile of their class. They are admitted “holistically” if they are not in the top percentiles; low adversity scores might narrow their chances even more. Or  help them…who knows?

On the other hand, if the new tool on its own can lead to the higher enrollment of students now benefiting from automatic admission, Texas might be able to abandon the rule altogether.

High School Information–Four Factors

  • Average senior class size;
  • Average percentage of students taking the SAT;
  • Average freshman SAT score at colleges attended by SAT-taking graduates of the applicant’s high school;
  • Percentage of students at the high school who participate in the free and reduced-price lunch program.

High School AP Opportunity–Four Factors

  • Number of unique AP courses taught in that high school;
  • Percentage of the senior class who took at least one AP exam;
  • Average number of AP Exams taken by graduates who sat for at least one exam;
  • Average AP scores across all AP Exam takers and exams.

High School Percentiles–One Factor

  • The 25th, 50th, and 75th old SAT percentiles on Critical Reading, Math,
    and Math + Critical Reading scores for graduates.

Neighborhood and High School Context–Six Factors

  • Undermatch Risk–Academic undermatch occurs when a student’s academic credentials substantially exceed the credentials of students enrolled in the same postsecondary institution.
  • Crime Risk–The Crime Risk represents the likelihood of being a victim of a
    crime–not the likelihood of committing a crime.
  • Family Stability–Family stability is a combined measure based on the proportion of two-parent families, single-parent families, and children living under the poverty line within each neighborhood, or across the neighborhoods of past students attending that high school.
  • Educational Attainment–Educational attainment is a combined measure that looks at the pattern of educational attainment demonstrated by young adults in the community. ESL participation.
  • Housing Stability–Housing stability is a composite measure that includes vacancy rates, rental versus home ownership, and mobility/housing turnover, again based on aggregate population statistics.
  • Median Family Income — Median family income is based on weighted data from the Census/ American Community Survey.

Overall context is a weighted average of the individual metrics listed above. College admissions officers receive (1) bar graphs showing the applicant’s SAT score relative to others who share the applicant’s overall percentile of neighborhood
adversity and high school adversity and (2) the average freshman SAT score of entering students at the colleges that these respective groups of students attended.

Decision Day Is Almost Here. “Start where you are. Use what you have. Do what you can.”

You have already made big decisions about your life, some at least as important as choosing a college. You are not a finished person (no one is while they are alive) but you are a “started” person. You have failed, succeeded, worked hard or not worked hard enough; learned from your mistakes or not learned much at all; taken care of your mind and body or done them damage; and suffered from events beyond your control.

You have probably experienced more of life than most people would suspect. Now you are here. Heed the words of the late tennis star Arthur Ashe: “Start where you are. Use what you have. Do what you can.”

“Now” is mid-April and “Here” at hand is your next big decision if you are among the declining majority who do not make college decisions early.

Advice about what to do now is abundant. Net cost. Distance from home. Strength in your major field. Reputation, ranking. Where do your parents want you to go? Where are your friends going? Your current romantic interest, if any?

But let’s go back to Arthur Ashe. “Start where you are.” Figuring this out can be difficult. Be honest with yourself. You know your grades, your test scores, your recommendations, your likely major. But is that data science major your choice or someone else’s? Are you really prepared for it? How about premed? Do you want people to say, “Look at her, she’s a physician?” Or do you want to do what a physician actually does, after a decade of extremely hard work? Computer science. Do you want to write computer code or get paid to write computer code that you don’t care about? You love your parents, and they love you; but do you want to do what they believe would be best for you or what you truly want to do?

If you choose a STEM field, think about the math involved, the usually strict major requirements, the sometimes narrow career options. Your parents want you to have a good life, and in recent years our culture has increasingly defined such a life as one with a highly remunerative career. Be honest but be prudent about the connection between college and career. If you love history, literature, or philosophy, be assured that those disciplines reflect the best of humanity and that your love of them speaks well of you. Be proud of this profound connection. But this country and the whole world have changed. Attend to the change; minor or double major so that you have a reasonably secure future. And proceed with confidence that your work in the humanities will be as big a part of that secure future as your more vocational minor.

Are your parents hard-pressed for money? Are you a late bloomer? Start at a less selective college, at lower cost, and work hard. A strong start can make up for a lot of setbacks. Point yourself in the right direction. The rest will follow.

“Use what you have.” Having lived more broadly than many people would believe you have lived, you know what you are most afraid of, hurt by, devoted to, strongest at, or confident of. If you are confident in math, you might want to zero in on that subject or hold on to that wonderful ability while pursuing something different. If you are terrified of speaking in front of people, are you willing to see this as an obstacle you now have but are determined to overcome or does the fear reflect a deep-seated and authentic introversion that could lead to artistic or scientific achievement at the highest level without confronting the fear directly? Using what you have requires you to understand that what you assume is a deficiency might turn out to be your own kind of strength.

“Do what you can.” A math deficiency, a fear of public speaking, a loathing for English grammar–they might stand in your way, but be patient. Don’t sell yourself short because you aren’t good at everything. Few people are outstanding in a wide range of endeavors. Some of these people were not outstanding in much of anything until they saw an opening, a way to go forward with just enough confidence or hope to move to the next step. In college, it is often the right instructor leading the way through a subject the student disliked or feared. The student earned a tough B. In the next difficult class she got an A minus. Then an A. Then she did it again. Then it was something that she just did.

If being realistic about starting where you are leaves you in, say, a regional public university that is not among the “public Ivies” or is not well known outside of your own state, doing what you can may still yield astonishing results. In recent years students from Youngstown State, UW-Eau Claire, and the University of Tennessee-Chattanooga have gone on to win Rhodes Scholarships. Did they have to transfer to Princeton in order to be chosen for this most prestigious award? No, they stayed where they were, used what they had to the utmost, and did the very best that any student, anywhere, could do.

Here’s Why We Don’t Use Test Scores in Rating Honors Programs

The following post is from site editor John Willingham.

In the aftermath of the “Varsity Blues” college admissions scandal that included cheating on entrance exams, three social scientists recently weighed in on the continued importance of those same examinations, arguing that “No one likes the SAT” but “It’s still the fairest thing about admissions.”

“It has become a mantra in some quarters to assert that standardized tests measure wealth more than intellectual ability or academic potential, but this is not actually the case. These tests clearly assess verbal and mathematical skills, which a century of psychological science shows are not mere reflections of upbringing. Research has consistently found that ability tests like the SAT and the ACT are strongly predictive of success in college and beyond, even after accounting for a student’s socioeconomic status.”

For years, U.S. News has used test scores and selection rates as ranking data for the annual “Best Colleges” report. The publication has slightly reduced the impact of test scores in recent editions.

Below I will explain why we do not include test scores as a metric and argue that, for honors and non-honors students, other factors are more important in predicting success. (High school GPA is certainly a major factor; but since almost all honors students have high GPAs, I do not discuss the impact of GPA in this post.)

In their published scholarly work, the authors argue that test scores by themselves correlate very strongly ( r= -.892) with the annual U.S. News Best Colleges rankings for national universities even though the test scores count for only 7.75 percent of the total ranking score. (The authors do not cite the impact of test scores on other ranking factors such as graduation and retention rates, which together account for 22 percent of the total ranking score.)

Our own work for the past eight years, however, shows that test scores do not have a similar correlation to quantitative assessments of honors programs. In our publications we list minimum and average admissions test scores for all programs we rate, but we do not count the scores alone as a rating factor.

Here’s why we do not use test scores as a measure: The factors that make for an excellent honors program are primarily structural. The major building blocks are the credits required for honors completion; the number of honors class sections offered, by type and academic discipline; the availability of priority registration and honors housing; the size of honors class sections; and the number of staff to assist students.

So, don’t the test scores drive the university graduation rates of honors program entrants, just as they do in elite colleges? The answer is not so much; the correlation is r= .50

Admittedly, it is probably difficult for a student with, say, a 1050 SAT score to succeed in an elite college or in most honors programs. But within a fairly large range of SAT scores (~1280-1510), the opportunities for success are more often present given a conducive structure. With every biannual review of honors data, I find great pleasure in discovering outstanding honors programs that are not housed in highly- ranked and extremely selective universities. The golden nuggets of excellence in higher education are scattered much farther and wider than many would have us believe.

I am strongly opposed to the numerical ranking of colleges or their honors programs, whether or not test scores are included in the methodology. I ranked honors program one time, in 2012, and regret doing so. Yes, I have data that allows me to numerically differentiate the total rating scores earned by honors programs. But anyone who wants to provide some kind of assessment of colleges or programs needs to do so with the assumption that their methodology is subjective and imperfect. Ordinal rankings based on distinctions of one point or fractions of a point give readers a veneer of certitude that a qualitative difference exists even if it (often) does not.

Although we do not rank honors programs, we do place them in one of five rating groups, a process that is similar to rating films on a five-star basis but based on quantitative rather than completely subjective data. The seven honors programs in the top group in 2018 (out of 41) had average SAT scores (enrolled students) ranging from 1280 to 1490, a sizable range.

Honors completion rates are something of an issue these days. An honors completion rate is the percentage of first year honors entrants who complete at least one honors program graduation requirement by the time of graduation from the university. About 42 percent of honors students do not complete honors requirements before graduation, although a very high percentage of honors entrants (87 percent) do graduate from the university.

The seven honors programs with honors completion rates of 75 percent or higher in our 2018 ratings had average SAT scores ranging from 1340 to 1510; the mean for this group was 1420. The mean SAT for the 31 (of 41) programs that provided completion rates was 1405, not much lower. And another seven programs with mean SAT scores of 1420 or higher had completion rates below 58 percent, the group mean.

The mean SAT score for all 41 rated programs was 1407; the mean SAT for the top seven programs was only one point higher at 1408.

It is clear, at least with respect to honors programs, that average SAT scores are not the best predictors of program effectiveness. What does this mean for the value of test scores nationwide, if anything?

I think it means that for students who are in the 1280 to 1500 SAT range, success depends as much or more on mentoring, smaller interdisciplinary sections, student engagement, course availability, community (including housing), and advising support than it does on test scores.

The good news here is that even for students who are not in honors programs, high levels of achievement are accessible to students who do not begin college with extremely high test scores, although non-honors students will probably have to assert themselves more in order to benefit from the strongest attributes of their university.

 

 

 

Are Public Honors Programs Shifting too Much Toward ‘Experiential Learning’?

The following post is by site editor John Willingham.

For more than six years I have been fortunate enough to receive large amounts of data from public university honors colleges and programs. The data I received for the 2018-2019 edition of INSIDE HONORS pointed toward a trend in honors education: the partial substitution of experiential learning for traditional academic coursework.

First, what is experiential learning?

Students can earn credit (or “points” or “units”) for the following: doing internships, studying abroad, or conducting mentored research; publishing in journals and making presentations at conferences; applying for national awards (Truman Scholarships, Goldwater Scholarships, etc.); serving on honors committees and in other student groups, and engaging in leadership training; obtaining certification or experience in promoting diversity, social innovation, and group problem solving; and for participating in the many types of “service learning,” usually involving participation in community or university volunteer activities.

Internships, mentored research, and study abroad have long been components of many honors programs; they often carry course credit. (Some of the activities listed above do not award course credit but only points for honors completion.)  Since the Great Recession, internships are increasingly important for practical reasons. The same can be said for some training or experience in collective problem solving. Sometimes the latter can take the form of group projects that have a vocational focus (entrepreneurship, engineering); other group projects take a turn toward solving social problems.

So it is clear, at least to me, that part of the focus on experiential learning is a response to changing economic conditions. And the experiential options all appear to have laudable purposes. I believe advocates of experiential learning when they say their programs are “high impact” and can teach lifetime lessons to students. The question is not whether experiential learning is worthwhile but, rather, how much of it is appropriate? Thus far, the trend toward experiential learning appears to be centered almost exclusively in public university honors programs.

I reviewed honors requirements for 40 public university honors programs, many of them in flagship institutions, along with the same number of honors programs in private universities of approximately equivalent reputation. Of the public honors programs, eight have implemented or increased the impact of experiential learning toward honors completion in the last two years. But only one private university honors program has done so.

Note: Below please see the public and private universities I reviewed for experiential learning emphasis. Those in bold have notably increased experiential learning in their honors programs during the past two years. This does mean that, in each instance, experiential learning is necessarily over-emphasized. Some of the programs have retained at least one honors completion option that requires extensive academic coursework.

As recently as two years ago, I observed only two or three public honors programs that featured the emphasis on experiential learning that I see today.

If the trend continues, it could redefine the meaning of public honors education and further differentiate that education from what is offered by private universities in ways that might not appeal to many parents and students. After all, “going to college” has meant earning academic course credits in seminars and the disciplines, with participation in campus groups or volunteer work being left up to the students.

Elite private universities, most of which do not have honors programs, continue to follow the traditional model. Internships and studying abroad are common, sometimes for academic credit; but participation in other activities is based on student choice.

Most public honors programs have promoted themselves by promising the equivalent of an elite college education within a large public research university. I call this the standard hybrid model for honors colleges and programs. Thus far, the elite college part of the hybrid has been grounded in academic coursework.

While it is fully justifiable to augment academic coursework with some experiential opportunities, providing experiential honors credit (but sometimes not course credit) for one-fourth or more of the total honors completion requirement could result in a hybrid within a hybrid: some honors programs will continue to offer mostly traditional academic courses and others will ratchet up experiential learning.

Where experiential learning is prominent, the result will be less academically focused. How will parents and students react to this? They are often trying to decide between elite private colleges, which still emphasize coursework, and honors programs, some of which are becoming more experiential.

Here are some pros and cons regarding this trend:

Pros of Experiential Learning…

A reflection of the public service mission of university (one reason for current absence of experiential learning in private honors programs?)

Personal growth for students through broader engagement outside of the classroom

A stimulating way for students to apply learning outside the classroom

An enhancement to career prospects

An antidote to the self-focused culture around us

Less costly to staff and fund; no teaching faculty involved

 

Cons of Experiential Learning…

Distraction from core and major requirements

Complaints from students, parents based on above, and on confusing completion options

Challenges of finding meaningful opportunities

More staff to support experiential activities

Less time for academic electives

Duplication of university-wide or other readily available experiential opportunities

Of greatest concern here is the last “Pro” listing: “Less costly to staff and fund; no teaching faculty involved.” How tempting it must be to administrators to offer honors credit without having to beg and borrow faculty and classroom space. If this becomes the primary factor in shifting from academic coursework to experiential learning, the trend could accelerate and have a profound impact on public honors education.

To remain competitive with private colleges and universities, public honors programs should continue to be enhanced academic programs at their core, seeing their central mission as providing highly talented students a top-flight education, often in-state, and almost always at lesser cost than private university alternatives. When experiential learning accounts for more than about one-fourth of honors requirements, the core mission is likely to be compromised.

Public University Honors Programs

Alabama
Arizona
Arizona St
Arkansas
Auburn
Clemson
Connecticut
CUNY
Washington
Colorado St
Delaware
Florida
Florida St
Georgia
Georgia St
Houston
Indiana
Iowa
South Carolina
Kansas
Kentucky
LSU
Maryland
Massachusetts
Miami Univ
Minnesota
Mississippi
Missouri
Montana
UT Austin
NJIT
New Hampshire
New Mexico
North Carolina CH
Oklahoma
Oklahoma St
Oregon
Oregon St
Penn St
Purdue

Private University Honors Programs

USC
Syracuse
Boston Univ
SMU
Northeastern
Villanova
Miami Fl
George Washington
BYU
Fordham
American
Baylor
TCU
Univ of San Diego
Howard
Loyola Chicago
Marquette
Univ of Denver
Clarkson
Drexel
RIT
Saint Louis
Tulsa
Dayton
DePaul
Duquesne
Seton Hall
Catholic
La Verne
Hofstra
Mercer
Adelphi
St. John’s
Seattle Pacific
Pace
Suffolk 
Carnegie Mellon
Widener
NYU
Lehigh
Notre Dame

Talk About Rigorous: New UT Austin Honors Program in Computer Science AND Business

Unlike most universities, UT Austin does not have one overarching honors college or program but, instead, offers 10 honors programs that vary according to academic emphasis:

  1. Canfield Business Honors Program
  2. Engineering Honors Program
  3. Turing Scholars Program (computer science)
  4. Dean’s Scholars Program (scientific research)
  5. Health Science Scholars
  6. Polymathic Scholars (science plus interdisciplinary)
  7. Human Ecology Honors (family studies and relationships)
  8. Plan II Honors (core and multidisciplinary, one of the oldest and most distinguished programs in the nation)
  9. Liberal Arts Honors (LAH) (core liberal arts);
  10. and, recently, the Computer Science and Business (CSB) joint honors program.

(Here is an excellent “inside” guide to UT’s honors programs.)

“Texas CSB provides a rigorous four-year undergraduate curriculum aimed at preparing students for top technology careers. The Texas CSB offers distinct benefits for students looking toward careers in today’s tech-focused business world. University leaders anticipate that it will attract high-achieving students with strong quantitative and technical skills from across the nation. The program is a particularly attractive opportunity for aspiring entrepreneurs and for students interested in data and marketing analytics, financial engineering, and leadership roles in tech companies.”

Rest assured that the selection process is extremely rigorous. The CSB will have to approximate the standards of the Turing Scholars Program and the Business Honors Program. “Turing denies 85% of valedictorian applicants. That means it’s especially important that you demonstrate a breadth and depth of commitment in computer-related activities.” The average SAT for the BHP is north of 1500; the same is true for CSB. Only about 12% of applicants gain admission to the BHP.

Turing Scholars at UT Austin

“Our top-ranked faculty push students to think outside the box and learn the varied business and computer science disciplines,” according to the website. “The curriculum is comprised of 44 classes, taken with 30-40 students, exposing students to all facets of business and computer science.

Most students in the CSB will have to take about 17 credits each term and enroll in at least one summer session to complete the program in four years. The CSB curriculum alone appears to be almost full-time.  Here is a link to a sample course sequence for all four years.  It is not for the faint-hearted.

Below is a list of courses required of CSB students.

Computer Science Courses

Discrete Mathematics for Computer Science (CS 311H)

Algorithms & Complexity (CS 331H)

Data Structures (CS 314H)

Computer Organization & Architecture (CS 429H)

Principles of Computer Systems (CS 439H)

Matrices or Linear Algebra (M 340L/SDS 329C)

Introduction to Probability & Statistics (SDS 321)

Computer Science Upper Division Electives

 

Math Requirements

Advanced Calculus Sequence (408C and 408D)

or

Traditional Calculus Sequence (408N, 408S, and 408M)

Business Courses

Business Communications (BA 324H)

Financial Accounting (ACC 311H) and Managerial Accounting (ACC 312H)

Introduction to Information Technology Management (MIS 301H)

Statistics & Modeling (STA 371H)

Corporate Finance (FIN 357H)

Operations Management (OM 335H)

Organizational Behavior (MAN 336H)

Introduction to Marketing (MKT 337H)

Business Law (LEB 323H)

Innovation & Entrepreneurship (MAN 327H)

General Management & Strategy (MAN 374H)

Microeconomics (ECO 304K)

Macroeconomics (ECO 304L)

Human Behavior (ANT/PSY/SOC)

Business Upper Division Electives

In addition, students must complete the university core curriculum, including courses in government, history, and composition.