Gallup and Purdue Study: Well-being for Grads Requires More than Income

What is most important about the “college experience”?  Good grades, of course.  But a recent report finds that the most important elements can be more difficult to measure.

Most parents and prospective students place an understandable emphasis on the employment and graduate school placement prospects for the graduates of a particular institution, but The Gallup Purdue Index of Well-Being makes a powerful argument that the long-term well-being for college grads is largely the result of the degree of engagement they have in the workplace, and not just the amount of money they earn.

Given the high cost of college, the Report assumes that the benefits of graduation should go beyond high starting pay and include the enjoyment of a well-lived life.  Gallup and Purdue do not discount the value of financial rewards but place them in a broader qualitative context.

The Report measures and describes the college experiences that lead to more fulfilling workplace engagement and a greater sense of well-being in the following areas:

  • Purpose–enjoying work and being motivated to do your best.
  • Social Well-Being–having love and support in your life.
  • Financial Well-Being–having sufficient financial resources to reduce stress and enhance security.
  • Community Well-Being–working within the local community, enjoying where you live, pride in the community.
  • Physical Well-Being–feeling well enough to do good work and enjoy life.

So what are the college experiences that promote engagement in the workplace and a sense of well-being in the above areas?

Students who believed that their college was a great fit for them (regardless of size and selectivity), who had professors who showed interest and made their subjects exciting, and who believed that their school prepared them well for life after college had the greatest degree of workplace engagement.

The Report demonstrates that the type of college makes little difference in workplace engagement and overall well-being, except that for-profit colleges do not promote a high degree of well-being and engagement.  The differences between public and private not-for-profit colleges, and between highly selective and less selective colleges, were minimal.  The most important elements were what students were doing in college and how they were experiencing their activities, rather than the elite or non-elite status of the school.  This finding seems to enforce what most college admissions counselors say: the most important thing for the student is finding the best fit.

More specifically, college experiences that promote engagement and prepare students for life after college are these:

  • Professors and mentors who provide inspiration, excitement, encouragement, and commitment.
  • Internships, preferably paid at some point, that directly connect university learning with the outside world.
  • Extracurricular activities, including social and special interest clubs, that directly connect learning with social engagement.
  • Long-term projects of a semester or more, including theses and capstone projects, which associate education with “deep learning” and not merely with rushed preparation for exams.
  • On-campus residence.
  • Minimal student loan debt, which is directly related to financial well-being.

The Report suggests that parents and prospective students should make direct inquiries about the best professors in the student’s proposed field of study and their availability; undergrad research programs and the means of gaining mentors; the availability of internships, including some that are paid; the presence of clubs or social groups that align with the student’s interests; and the opportunities for “deep learning” and the ways students can be aware of them and seize the opportunities.

One further implication of the Report is that a dramatic increase in online instruction would seriously diminish the advantages and a residential college experience can have for future workplace engagement and well-being.

In conclusion, we will note that many public honors colleges and programs make all of these elements more accessible, or even a part of their completion requirements.  Many require an honors thesis; they all provide opportunities for social engagement with serious students; most have connections to undergrad researchers and mentors; and most connect their students with small classes and top professors.  In addition, most have special honors residence halls and enhanced opportunities for financial aid, including non-need-based merit aid.


The Academic Reputation Ranking in U.S. News: What It Means for Honors Students

Editor’s Note: This post was updated on August 15, 2017, to include new honors class size averages based on our most recent data.

In a previous post, Based on Academic Reputation Alone, Publics Would Be Higher in U.S. News Rankings, we write that many public universities have a reputation in the academic community that is much higher than their overall ranking by U.S. News.  In this post, we will summarize the reasons that prospective honors students and their parents might consider paying more attention to academic reputation than to other factors in the oft-cited rankings.

(Another related post: Alternative U.S. News Rankings: Lots of Surprises.)

First, these are factors to consider if the state university’s academic reputation is much stronger than its overall ranking:

1.  The overall rankings penalize public universities for their typically larger class sizes, but the average honors class size in the 50 major honors programs we track is 26.3 students, much smaller than the average class size for the universities as a whole.  Most of these honors classes are lower-division, where the preponderance of large classes is often the norm. First-year honors seminars and classes for honors-only students average 19 students per section.  Result:  the relatively poor rating the whole university might receive for class size is offset for honors students.

2.  The overall rankings hit some public universities hard for having relatively low retention and graduation percentages, but freshmen retention rates in honors programs are in the 90% range and higher; meanwhile six-year grad rates for honors entrants average 89%–much higher than the average rates for the universities as a whole.  Result: the lower rates for the universities as a whole are offset for honors students.

3.  All public universities suffer in the overall rankings because U.S. News assigns ranking points for both the wealth of the university as a whole and for the impact that wealth has on professors’ salaries, smaller class sizes, etc.  This is a double whammy in its consideration of inputs and outputs separately; only the outputs should be rated.  Result: the outputs for class size (see above) are offset for honors students, and the wealth of the university as an input should not be considered in the first place.

4.  For highly-qualified students interested in graduate or professional school, academic reputation and the ability to work with outstanding research faculty are big advantages. Honors students have enhanced opportunities to work with outstanding faculty members even in large research universities, many of which are likely to have strong departmental rankings in the student’s subject area.  Result: honors students are not penalized for the research focus of public research universities; instead, they benefit from it.

5.  Many wealthy private elites are generous in funding all, or most, need-based aid, but increasingly offer little or no merit aid.  This means that families might receive all the need-based aid they “deserve” according to a federal or institutional calculation and still face annual college costs of $16,000 to $50,000.  On the other hand, national scholars and other highly-qualified students can still receive significant merit aid at most public universities.  Result: if a public university has an academic reputation equal to that of a wealthy private elite, an honors student could be better off financially and not suffer academically in a public honors program.

But…what if the academic reputation of the public university is lower than that of a private school under consideration?   In this case, the public honors option should offer the following offsets:

1. The net cost advantage of the public university, including merit aid, probably needs to be significant.

2.  It is extremely important to evaluate the specific components of the honors program to determine if it provides a major “value-added” advantage–is it, relatively, better than the university as a whole.  Typically, the answer will be yes.  To determine how much better, look at the academic disciplines covered by the honors program, the actual class sizes, retention and graduation rates, research opportunities, and even honors housing and perks, such as priority registration.

Kiplinger Best Value Colleges 2015: The Honor$ Angle

In the past, we have listed the Kiplinger Best Value universities without much additional comment.  The Kiplinger methodology emphasizes a “quality” side in relation to the “cost” side of a university.  The quality side includes selectivity, retention, and four-year grad rates, while the cost side takes tuition, fees, merit aid, need-based aid, and post-graduation debt into account.

For 2015, Kiplinger presents a single list approach to compare private and public universities.  The list uses out-of-state tuition for state schools in order to provide an allegedly “apples to apples” comparison with private colleges and universities, which of course have the same listed tuition and fees for students from anywhere in the country.  The Kiplinger list also emphasizes need-based aid, and many of the best scholarships for honors students are merit-based.  (Kiplinger also lists best value public colleges separately.)

For highly-qualified prospective honors students, the Kiplinger list is misleading, because (a) most students going to public universities are in state and (b) many honors students who go out of state receive tuition offsets or merit aid that reduce the costs used by Kiplinger.  As we point out below, many private elites do not provide any merit aid, only need-based aid.  Families with relatively good incomes will find that even with all need-based aid provided by the private elite university, a typical family with a good income will still have to pay about $16,000 to $22,000 a year in out of pocket costs, and up to more than $50,000 a year if the family income is in the $200,000 range or higher.

So…if you’re the parent of a prospective honors student who is considering either an in-state or out-of-state public university, your cost assessment for purposes of comparison with the private elites must go beyond the Kiplinger data and include an evaluation of all merit-based (i.e., not need-based) aid offered to outstanding honors applicants.  While it’s true that National Merit Scholars and Semifinalists are often especially favored by public universities, it is also true that honors students who are not national scholars are also strong candidates for other types of merit aid.

Here are some examples:

The Kiplinger report for 2015 lists Princeton University as the number one best value in the nation.  With the cost of one year at Princeton now at $59,165, Kiplinger accurately states that Princeton provides 100% of need-based aid for all students.  Recall that need-based aid is the amount left over after the expected family contribution (EFC) has been calculated.  But the average amount that still remains to be paid by a family for the year at Princeton, after the school takes care of all need-based aid, is still about $21,982. (This would be about what a family of four with an adjusted gross income of $137,500 would have to pay, given savings of $50,000.)

The University of Arizona is not even listed among the 300 Kiplinger best value colleges in the nation, but an out-of-state national scholar/honors student at the UA Honors College would receive $30,000, against the $43,800 cost of tuition, fees, room and board, and miscellaneous expenses, leaving $13,800.   This is a four-year savings of about $32,000 versus Princeton.  An in-state national scholar would receive $20,000, compared to in-state costs of $18,300—in other words, a “full ride”—amounting to a savings of about $87,000 compared to Princeton.  Bear in mind that qualifying for a national scholarship is generally a lower requirement in terms of test scores than Princeton would require.

An out-of-state honors student and national scholar at the Joe C. and Carole Kerr McClendon Honors College at Oklahoma University can receive a whopping $120,000 in merit aid over four years (another full ride), which also includes funding for study abroad.  In-state national scholars receive $66,000, a full ride that also includes funding for study abroad.  Yet OU is ranked 196th among all 300 colleges by Kiplinger.

Other honors colleges that provide full ride merit scholarships are the University of Alabama Honors College, the University of Kentucky Honors Program, and the Sally McConnell Barksdale Honors College at Ole Miss.  Many others also provide very generous merit aid based on combinations of test scores and high school gpas.  Penn State’s excellent Schreyer Honors College provide ALL its freshmen with a $4,000 merit award, which is renewable for all four years.

So do you have to be a national scholar to receive the kind of financial aid that would lead you to choose a public honors program over an elite private university?

Consider that 95% of students at Arizona State’s outstanding Barrett Honors College receive merit aid—but 40% also have need-based aid on top of (not in place of) merit aid.  The number of national scholars who can receive merit aid from ASU is uncapped=no limit.  Most national scholars, in-state or out-of-state, receive tuition waivers or offsets to go along with any need-based aid.

About 90 students in the highly selective and excellent University of Georgia Honors Program are eligible for a Foundation Fellowship, which “approximates the full cost of attendance and supplies a generous set of enrichment funds to support study abroad, internships, undergraduate research, etc.”  Another 20-30 honors students receive the Ramsey Honors Scholarship that provides about 75% of the amount of the Foundation Fellowship.   The honors director reports that “the majority of these funding opportunities are directly attributable to the fact that the Honors Program has its own, very active fundraising office.”  The minimum test score requirements for these awards are generally lower than those for national scholarships.

Below are the public universities that have the best value, according to Kiplinger, in terms of in-state costs.  Please note that this list does not include any additional merit awards for honors students.

North Carolina


UC Berkeley



William & Mary





NC State

New College Florida

UT Austin

Ohio State

UC Santa Barbara

Georgia Tech


Truman State

New Mexico Institute of Mining and Tech

James Madison

Florida State

College of New Jersey

SUNY Geneseo

Texas A&M

Best Value-Added Honors Programs 2014

Part of our rating of honors colleges and programs involves a statistical comparison of the honors rating to the perception of the university as a whole.  The “perception” baseline is the U.S. News ranking of the university, although we certainly do not believe that the magazine ranking is accurate or definitive when it comes to many public universities.

On a scale of 5, here are the comparative ratings for 11 honors programs that provide the most significant “value-added” component to the universities of which they are a part:

Arizona State, Barrett Honors College: U.S. News University Ranking=2.5; Honors Rating=5.

Mississippi, Sally McDonnell Barksdale Honors College: U.S. News University Ranking=2.0; Honors Rating=4.5

Texas Tech Honors College: U.S. News University Ranking=2.0; Honors Rating=4.5

Univ of Arkansas Honors College: U.S. News University Ranking=2.5; Honors Rating=4.5

Ohio University Honors Tutorial College: U.S. News University Ranking=2.5; Honors Rating=4.5

Oregon State, University Honors College: U.S. News University Ranking=2.5; Honors Rating=4.5

South Carolina Honors College: U.S. News University Ranking=3.0; Honors Rating=5.0

Kansas (KU) Honors Program: U.S. News University Ranking=3.5; Honors Rating=5.0

Oregon, Clark Honors College: U.S. News University Ranking=3.0; Honors Rating=4.5

Oklahoma State Honors College: U.S. News University Ranking=2.5; Honors Rating=4.0

Temple University Honors Program: U.S. News University Ranking=3.0; Honors Rating=4.5

“Don’t Send Your Kid to the Ivy League”–Our Response

In one of the most popular pieces ever posted by The New Republic, “Don’t Send Your Kid to the Ivy League,” former Yale professor William Deresiewicz sharply criticizes the elite education offered at Ivy League and other prestigious universities for producing graduates who have become efficient cognitive machines rather than passionate and creative thinkers with a deep understanding of themselves and the world.

“Our system of elite education manufactures young people who are smart and talented and driven, yes, but also anxious, timid, and lost, with little intellectual curiosity and a stunted sense of purpose: trapped in a bubble of privilege, heading meekly in the same direction, great at what they’re doing but with no idea why they’re doing it,” he writes.

“Is there anything that I can do, a lot of young people have written to ask me, to avoid becoming an out-of-touch, entitled little shit?  I don’t have a satisfying answer, short of telling them to transfer to a public university.  You cannot cogitate your way to sympathy with people of different backgrounds, still less to knowledge of them.  You need to interact with them directly, and it has to be on an equal footing….”

(In fact, Deresiewicz also emphasizes that private liberal arts colleges, apart from the most selective, can still provide an education that invites students to move beyond their proven but allegedly narrow channels to success.)

Our position is not anti-Ivy League—but if Deresiewicz has a point about the class and cultural “bubble” of elite institutions, we believe that there is a middle path that offers highly-talented students a combination of rigorous, smaller classes within the context of large, truly diverse universities. Public university honors programs vary in the “elite” status conferred upon honors students, but in all cases honors students mix extensively with non-honors students, spending two-thirds to three-fourths of their class time with them, often in upper-division sections in which the majority of students are more focused and mature.

In some cases, prospective students look at public honors programs as a backup if they do not get into their dream school–an Ivy, Stanford, MIT, Chicago, Vanderbilt, etc.  Aside from lower costs and somewhat less demanding entrance requirements (some are very high, however), public honors programs can also be appealing across state lines because of the tuition waivers and merit awards that many of them offer.  A student in New York state, for example, can look to many excellent public honors options in warmer climates, as well as programs in New York and in neighboring states.

But again, if Deresiewicz is making a valid point with his criticisms, what some students consider as a backup choice–public honors programs–could in the long run turn out to be the best choice.

At the core of Deresiewicz’s polemic is his concern that the intense, instrumental focus on gaining admission to elite universities has forced talented students into narrow paths at increasingly early ages.  By the time the students reach their dream schools (if they ever do so), many have set aside what they would have loved to learn in favor of what they have had to learn, or perhaps master is the better word. Once in place at Harvard, Yale, or MIT, according to Deresiewicz, they associate with others mostly like themselves, brilliant young people for whom thinking is not for nourishing the truest self but for pushing the self along an almost predetermined path.

“But it is only through the act of establishing communication between the mind and the heart, the mind and experience, that you become an individual, a unique being—a soul,” Deresiewicz writes. “The job of college is to assist you to begin to do that. Books, ideas, works of art and thought, the pressure of the minds around you that are looking for their own answers in their own ways.” [Emphasis added.]

One of the best things about the large public universities in which honors programs function is that diversity–and not only racial or gender diversity, but true class diversity—guarantees that there will be thousands of students with every perspective imaginable.

Some honors students and certainly many of their non-honors classmates are first or second generation college students who have to work at real jobs while they are going to school, or have to commute and thus deal with their parents and siblings at the same time they are being transformed by their learning.

Even if some honors students in the most selective public university programs have been as over-focused as the typical Ivy student on learning for admissions’ sake, these honors students will still spend much of their time with honors and non-honors students for whom learning has retained its edge—challenges to long-held beliefs, excitement in discovery, thrill in eventual accomplishment.

These are students who have not been jaded by years of stair-stepping their way into elite programs, but who have, out of necessity or adherence to an independent streak, taken a more circuitous and individualistic path. Having been less consumed by the college preparation grind along the way, they are more likely to be transformed by the college experience itself, a process that can be contagious.  If Deresiewicz is right, they will be the students who find at least some of “their own answers in their own ways,” or, even better, find that the search for answers never ends.

Dear Congress: Don’t Plunder the Current Pell Grant Surplus

Editor’s note: The following post is by Kate Tromble and Mandy Zatynski, writing for The Equity Line.

The Congressional Budget Office’s (CBO) 2014 estimates tell us one important thing about the Pell Grant program: It is sustainable — and it can stay that way if Congress manages its money well.

The 2014 budget estimate, released this week, forecasts surpluses for the Pell Grant program this year and next year — $7.7 billion and $3.6 billion, respectively. But that’ll only last so long: By 2016, Pell Grants will see a funding gap of a little less than $1 billion, according to estimates. (That’s a lot less than last year’s projections, which projected an almost-$6 billion funding gap.)

The new numbers mean, first and foremost, that the naysayers can stop screaming that we need to cut, reimagine, or reconfigure the Pell Grant program. The program isn’t costing as much as anticipated, the economy is getting better, and Congress is managing its higher education spending — at least as far as Pell Grants go — wisely.

But the new projections also mean Congress must continue to choose wisely. Rather than using the Pell surplus to fund other initiatives, as it likes to do, Congress needs to save for the future. By storing those billions away, Congress can avoid that funding gap and continue giving thousands of hard-working, low-income students the financial support they need to afford college.

Merit Aid: Publics that Fund at least 50% of Freshmen Tuition and Fees

Thanks to the availability of a 2012 NY Times Table on Merit Money, we have identified the public universities that meet two criteria for providing non-need based merit aid to students: (1) at least 10 percent of freshmen receive the merit aid and (2) the merit aid covers at least 50 percent of the cost of in-state tuition and fees. (It is likely that many of the universities listed below also provide excellent merit aid for highly-qualified out-of-state students.)

The merit aid is not limited to National Merit Scholarships.  For information regarding those scholarships, please see Best Major Universities for National Merit Scholarship Funding and PSAT National Merit Qualifying Scores and SAT Equivalencies, by State.

After identifying the universities that meet the two criteria listed above, we then ranked and scaled them.  Finally, we weighted the results so that the dollar amount of merit aid counts for two-thirds of the total.  We weighted the results in this way because the 10 percent threshold for freshmen receiving aid is already high.

Here are the public universities with the best merit aid for in-state students:

1. Alabama–108% tuition and fees; 27% of freshmen

2. College of Charleston–104% tuition and fees; 23% of freshmen

3. Mississippi–100% tuition and fees; 24% of freshmen

4. Alabama Huntsville–92% tuition and fees; 27% of freshmen

5. SUNY Plattsburgh–91% tuition and fees; 28% of freshmen

6. Truman State–78% tuition and fees; 41 % of freshmen

7. LSU–91% tuition and fees; 25% of freshmen

8. UT Dallas–98% tuition and fees; 12% of freshmen

9. Arizona State–91% tuition and fees; 19% of freshmen

10. Maryland Baltimore Co–87% tuition and fees; 16% of freshmen

11. Idaho–79% tuition and fees; 23% of freshmen

12. Alabama Birmingham–76% tuition and fees; 25% of freshmen

13. Nebraska–75% tuition and fees; 25% of freshmen

14. Indiana–81% tuition and fees; 18% of freshmen

15. Arizona–73% tuition and fees; 23% of freshmen

16. Auburn–71% tuition and fees; 24% of freshmen

17. UT Permian Basin-65% tuition and fees; 28% of freshmen

18. South Carolina–53% tuition and fees; 37% of freshmen

19. New College Fla–51% tuition and fees; 36% of freshmen

20. Southern Miss–72% tuition and fees; 11% of freshmen

21. Mississippi State–56% tuition and fees; 24% of freshmen

22. Ohio State–53% tuition and fees; 24% of freshmen

23. Connecticut–60% tuition and fees; 11% of freshmen

24. Georgia State–55% tuition and fees; 14% of freshmen

25. Colorado State–56% tuition and fees; 12% of freshmen

26. Cincinnati–53% tuition and fees; 15% of freshmen

27. Kansas State–51% tuition and fees; 15% of freshmen

28. Texas A&M–53% tuition and fees; 10% of freshmen

Also notable are the following:

Michigan–46% of tuition and fees; 46% of freshmen

Purdue–75% of tuition and fees; 9% of freshmen





Kiplinger Best Value Universities 2014: Biggest Gainers Among Publics

In this post, we are analyzing the Kiplinger Best Values in Public Colleges rankings for 2014 to determine which universities have improved significantly over the 2103 rankings.  Improvement can mean that more financial aid is available, or that costs have been trimmed, or that quality has improved–all useful for prospective students and parents.

We like to reinforce the annual Kiplinger Best Values in Public Colleges report because of its sensible combination of cost and quality metrics based on generally sound methodology.  For 2014, the emphasis on cost is 45 percent, and on quality it is 55 percent. Thus the basic Kiplinger equation is: relatively low cost and relatively high quality=”best value.”

Cost includes tuition rates and financial aid that offsets those rates to yield low net cost relative to quality.  The cost metric also rewards colleges that have low student loan numbers.

The quality metric includes test scores and acceptance rates; the number of those accepted who actually enroll; student to faculty ratio; and four-year graduation rates.  It is possible for a university to have a tuition increase but still rise in the Kiplinger rankings because of offsetting improvements on the quality side or an increase in financial aid.

Once again, UNC Chapel Hill is rated number 1 in best value among public universities, both for in-state and out-of-state students. The University of Virginia is number 2 in both categories, and the University of Florida is number 3 in the in-state category.

Other big news is that 26 of the public universities listed in the top 100 for best value in 2014 also improved their position by 4 or more places in just one year.  Another 6 universities broke into the top 100 this year.  All 32 will be in bold type below. 

The universities that are new to the top 100 (versus the 2013 list) are Utah, Mississippi, Texas Tech, Georgia State, SUNY Fredonia, and SUNY Plattsburgh, all of which are now among the top 100.

These universities rose 10 or more places in 2014: Northern Iowa, Iowa State, Missouri Inst of Science and Tech, LSU, Wisconsin La Crosse, Oklahoma State, and Ohio State.

The list of the top 100 best value public universities follows, with the in-state ranking first, the out-of-state ranking next, and the increase over 2013 (in-state), if any:

North Carolina–2014 in state (1), out of state (1)

Virginia–2014 in state (2), out of state (2)

Florida–2014 in state (3), out of state (7)

William & Mary–2014 in state (4), out of state (4)

UCLA–2014 in state (5), out of state (5)

Michigan–2014 in state (6), out of state (11), +5

Maryland–2014 in state (7), out of state (14)

Wisconsin–2014 in state (8), out of state (10), +5

UC Berkeley–2014 in state (9), out of state (11)

Georgia–2014 in state (10), out of state (13), +5

New College Florida–2014 in state (11), out of state (42)

Truman State–2014 in state (12), out of state (9), +7

Washington–2014 in state (13), out of state (18), +4

UC San Diego–2014 in state (14), out of state (17)

Binghamton–2014 in state (15), out of state (4)

North Carolina St–2014 in state (16), out of state (15), +5

Texas A&M–2014 in state (17), out of state (32)

UC Santa Barbara–2014 in state (18), out of state (21)

Florida State–2014 in state (19), out of state (23), +7

SUNY Geneseo–2014 in state (20), out of state (3)

UT Austin–2014 in state (21), out of state (36), +6

James Madison–2014 in state (22), out of state (29)

UC Irvine–2014 in state (23), out of state (28)

North Carolina School of the Arts–in state (24), out of state (25)

Connecticut–2014 in state (25), out of state (22)

Ohio State–2014 in state (26), out of state (24), +11

Virginia Tech–2014 in state (27), out of state (31)

N. Carolina Wilmington–2014 in state (28), out of state (26), +4

Stony Brook–2014 in state (29), out of state (20)

Appalachian State–2014 in state (30), out of state (35), +6

Clemson–2014 in state (31), out of state (39)

Delaware–2014 in state (32), out of state (30)

Georgia Tech–2014 in state (33), out of state (46)

College of New Jersey–2014 in state (34), out of state (8)

South Carolina–2014 in state (35), out of state (45)

UC Davis–2014 in state (36), out of state (30)

Indiana–2014 in state (37), out of state (63)

Illinois–2014 in state (38), out of state (27), +5

UT Dallas–2014 in state (39), out of state (58), +21

Purdue–2014 in state (40), out of state (51), +11

Delaware–2014 in state (41), out of state (57), +5

Central Florida–2014 in state (42), out of state (60)

Cal Poly San Luis Obispo–2014 in state (43), out of state (34)

Minnesota–2014 in state (44), out of state (12)

Pitt–2014 in state (45), out of state (19)

New Mexico Inst Mining & Tech–2014 in state (46), out of state (54)

Rutgers–2014 in state (47), out of state (37)

St. Mary’s Maryland–2014 in state (48), out of state (38)

SUNY New Paltz–2014 in state (49), out of state (33)

Alabama–2014 in state (50), out of state (72)

Univ at Buffalo–2014 in state (51), out of state (47)

UC Santa Cruz–2014 in state (52), out of state (65)

Penn State–2014 in state (53), out of state (41)

Miami Ohio–2014 in state (54), out of state (48)

South Florida–2014 in state (55), out of state (55)

Iowa–2014 in state (56), out of state (86)

Wisconsin La Crosse–2014 in state (57), out of state (49), +16

North Carolina Asheville–2014 in state (58), out of state (70)

Missouri–2014 in state (59), out of state (68), +7

College of Charleston–2014 in state (60), out of state (69), +8

Mary Washington–2014 in state (61), out of state (61)

Iowa State–2014 in state (61), out of state (64), +23

Salisbury Md.–2014 in state (62), out of state (44), +9

Northern Florida–2014 in state (63), out of state (64)

Oklahoma–2014 in state (64), out of state (71), +5

Ramapo–2014 in state (65), out of state (43)

Arkansas–2014 in state (67), out of state (79)

Tennessee–2014 in state (68), out of state (82)

Utah–2014 in state (69), out of state (96), not in top 100 in 2013

Mass Amherst–2014 in state (70), out of state (53)

Northern Iowa–2014 in state (71), out of state (80), +24

George Mason–2014 in state (72), out of state (90)

LSU–2014 in state (73), out of state (99), +17

SUNY Oneonta–2014 in state (74), out of state (52)

Vermont–2014 in state (75), out of state (75)

San Diego State–2014 in state (76), out of state (66)

West Chester–2014 in state (77), out of state (62)

Mississippi–2014 in state (78), out of state (84), not in top 100 in 2013

Oklahoma State–2014 in state (79), out of state (88), +14

Auburn–2014 in state (80), out of state (85)

M0. Inst Science & Tech–2014 in state (81), out of state (81), not in top 100 2013

Colorado School of Mines–2014 in state (82), out of state (82)

Nebraska–2014 in state (83), out of state (89)

Christopher Newport–2014 in state (84), out of state (56)

Univ of Science & Arts Okla–2014 in state (85), out of state (83), +6

Towson State–2014 in state (86), out of state (73)

Texas Tech–2014 in state (87), out of state (91), not in top 100 in 2013

Maryland Balt County–2014 in state (88), out of state (77)

SUNY Purchase–2014 in state (89), out of state (59)

Colorado–2014 in state (90), out of state (98)

Minnesota Morris–2014 in state (91), out of state (50)

Cal State Long Beach–2014 in state (92), out of state (87)

Western Washington–2014 in state (93), out of state (74)

Univ of North Georgia–2014 in state (94), out of state (94)

Georgia St. Col & Univ–2014 in state (95), out of state (97), not in top 100 in 2013

Cal St Poly Pomona–2014 in state (96), out of state (93)

SUNY Fredonia–2014 in state (97), out of state (67), not in top 100 in 2013

SUNY Plattsburgh–2014 in state (98), out of state (78), not in top 100 in 2013

UC Riverside–2014 in state (99), out of state (95)

Oregon–2014 in state (100), out of state (100)

U.S. News: Major Public Universities with Highest Freshman Retention Rates

Although the annual U.S. News college rankings are a cause of considerable controversy, the magazine is a source of excellent information.  One useful metric is that for freshman retention–the percentage of entering freshmen who return for the sophomore year.

The freshman retention rate can be somewhat misleading, however, because many of the leading universities also have the most selective admissions requirements, making academic success much more likely.  Another reason the rate can be misleading is that the nation’s elite private universities not only have the highest-qualified students, as measure by test scores and high school gpa’s, but also provide generous financial support that makes it unnecessary for students to work or drop out of school.

Yet this makes high freshman retention rates in public universities all the more impressive, especially when some of these schools achieve high retention rates even though they are not among the most selective in their admissions.  (This is especially so when tuition, fees, and cost of living are above average.)  Delaware, Michigan State, Penn State, Pitt, Ohio State, UC Santa Cruz, and Washington are examples.  Florida and Florida State also have impressive retention rates, but they also offer strong academics along with very low tuition costs.

Below please see the list of the public universities with the best freshman retention rates.  We will list the retention percentage, followed by the percentage of students accepted.

UC Berkeley–97% retention rate, 18% acceptance rate

UCLA–97% retention rate, 22% acceptance rate

North Carolina–97% retention rate, 28% acceptance rate

Virginia–97% retention rate, 30% acceptance rate

Florida–96% retention rate, 44% acceptance rate

Michigan–96% retention rate, 37% acceptance rate

William & Mary–95% retention rate, 32% acceptance rate

UC San Diego–95% retention rate, 38% acceptance rate

Georgia Tech–94% retention rate, 55% acceptance rate

UC Irvine–94% retention rate, 42% acceptance rate

Maryland–94% retention rate, 47% acceptance rate

Ohio State–93% retention rate, 64% acceptance rate

Connecticut–93% retention rate, 45% acceptance rate

Washington–93% retention rate, 59% acceptance rate

Florida State–92% retention rate, 54% acceptance rate

Penn State–92% retention rate, 54% acceptance rate

Rutgers–92% retention rate, 41% acceptance rate

Texas A&M–92% retention rate, 60% acceptance rate

Delaware–92% retention rate, 57%  acceptance rate

Pitt–92% retention rate, 56% acceptance rate

UT Austin–92% retention rate, 47% acceptance rate

Virginia Tech–92% retention rate, 70% acceptance rate

Binghamton–91% retention rate, 43% acceptance rate

Michigan State-91% retention rate, 71% acceptance rate

North Carolina State–91% retention rate, 50% acceptance rate

Clemson–90% retention rate, 58% acceptance rate

Stony Brook–90% retention rate, 42% acceptance rate

UC Santa Cruz–90% retention rate, 61% acceptance rate

Minnesota–90% retention rate, 50% acceptance rate






New Washington Monthly Rankings: A Strong Resource for Families Earning $75,000 or Less

The new Washington Monthly rankings, like those in previous years, measure the “contribution to the social good” of universities–but this year’s rankings also include a “Best Bang for the Buck” list that ranks institutions according to their net cost to families with incomes of $75,000 or less.

The best bang measure also reflects the best deals for a family’s first time, full time college students.  The magazine may have added the measure in anticipation of President Obama’s higher ed policy announcements, which propose rewarding institutions that perform best in graduating lower income students who receive federal loans, without incurring high default rates.

Washington Monthly has for some time taken a dim view of the U.S. News rankings, and in the recent issue alleges that the U.S. News list is based on “crude and and easily manipulated measures of wealth, exclusivity, and prestige.”  In our view, the U.S. News rankings are useful in some ways, but we strongly agree that they over-emphasize the financial resources of the universities they evaluate, with the result that public institutions are generally underrated.

Below are the top 50 national universities that yield the best bang for low- and middle-income families, according to Washington Monthly.  In parentheses, we will also list a university’s overall ranking by the magazine in the national universities category.  The overall ranking considers the percentage of Pell grant recipients; the graduation rate; the graduation rate in relation to the predicted rate given the number of low-income students; and the loan default rate, which must be no more than 10 percent.

A school’s overall ranking also reflects the dollars brought in by research, B.A. to Ph.D. progression; science and engineering Ph.D.s granted; faculty honors; ROTC and Peace Corps participation; community service requirements; and use of federal work-study funds.  Thus a school’s overall ranking could be enhanced by its academic and research achievements, but also by high ratings in the other areas.

Please note that only the top 284 schools out of more than 1,500 reviewed have a published overall ranking; therefore, some of the schools below will not have a ranking in parentheses.

1. Florida (24)

2. Georgia (60)

3. North Carolina (14)

4. North Carolina State (38)

5. Texas A&M (3)

6. San Diego State (192)

7. Arizona State (49)

8. Indiana (127)

9. Washington (13)

10. Florida State (70)

11. East Carolina (171)

12. Central Florida (211)

13. Utah State (44)

14. Vermont (167)

15. UC Riverside

16. UC Berkeley (5)

17. Oklahoma State (142)

18. Minnesota (56)

19. UC Irvine (84)

20. Arizona (66)

21. UCLA (10)

22. UCSD (1)

23. Michigan State (30)

24. Utah (103)

25. UC Davis (23)

26. Purdue (33)

27. UC Santa Barbara (27)

28. Iowa State (96)

29. Michigan Tech (64)

30. Rutgers at Newark (150)

31. UC Santa Cruz (65)

32. UT Austin (18)

33. SUNY Albany (110)

34. Nebraska (113)

35. Binghamton (174)

36. SUNY Buffalo (204)

37. Illinois (19)

38. Nevada Reno (175)

39. Rhode Island (240)

40. South Dakota State (207)

41. Oregon (128)

42. Washington State (145)

43. Oklahoma (165)

44. Missouri Science and Tech (59)

45. Kansas (75)

46. Western Michigan (123)

47. Illinois State (248)

48. La Verne

49. Oregon State (108)

50. Bowling Green (157)

Please see the Washington Monthly site for the full list of big bang for the bucks universities.