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.

 

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Princeton Review: Indiana, Iowa State, Michigan, UT Austin “Great Schools” for Business Majors

The 2015 edition of the Princeton Review takes the most popular college majors and then matches them with the 20 leading universities for those majors, as determined by student surveys and by advisers that the Review uses to assist with the rankings.

Four public universities–Indiana, Iowa State, Michigan, and UT Austin–made the top 20 lists for all three business-related majors covered by the Review: Accounting, Business/Finance, and Marketing.

In addition, James Madison University, the University of Houston, Michigan State, and Miami University made the top 20 lists in at least two of the business-related fields:

James Madison and the University of Houston–accounting and marketing; Michigan State–accounting and business/finance; and Miami University–business/finance and marketing.

Fifteen additional public universities made one of the top 20 lists:

Clemson, College of Charleston, Penn State, Temple, Texas A&M, Illinois, and UT Dallas–accounting.

Arizona State, Christopher Newport, CUNY Baruch, CUNY Brooklyn, Florida State, Portland State, Ohio University, and UC Berkeley–business/finance.

Central Florida, South Florida, and Mississippi–marketing.

 

 

 

 

 

So Just How Big Are Those Honors Classes, Anyway?

In another post, Honors College, Honors Program–What’s the Difference?, we noted among other things that the average honors class size in public honors colleges is about 19 students per section, and in public honors programs it is about 22 students per section.  These averages are for all honors courses only, not for all courses an honors student might take on the way to graduation.

The averages above include data for the many smaller honors seminars, often interdisciplinary rather than discipline-focused.  The average class size for seminars is in the 14-19 student range.  Please bear in mind that seminars often count for gen ed requirements, and their small size is a big advantage, aside from the advantages of their interdisciplinary approach.

But what about honors class size averages for sections in the major academic disciplines?   Partly in preparation for our new book, we took took the honors sections from 16 of the public universities we will review in the book and then calculated the actual enrollment averages in each section.  The academic disciplines we included were biology and biochemistry; chemistry; computer science and engineering; economics; English; history; math; physics; political science; and psychology.  The honors colleges and programs included three of the largest in the nation, along with several smaller programs.

Given the perilous state of the humanities, it is no surprise that the smallest classes are in English and history, while the largest are in computer science, chemistry, biology, and political science.

Here are the results of our recent analysis:

Biology–63 sections, average of 38.6 students.  (Bear in mind that many intro biology classes are not all-honors and are generally much larger, 100 or more, with separate weekly honors discussion sections, each with 10-20 students.  Same for into chemistry.)

Chemistry–33 sections, average of 40.3 students.

Computer Science/Computer Engineering–18 sections, average 54.3 students.

Economics–49 sections, average of 31.2 students.  (This is in most cases a significant improvement over enrollment in non-honors class sections.)

English–110 sections, average of 19.4 students.  This does not include many even smaller honors seminars that have a humanities focus.

History–58 sections, average of 16.2 students.  This likewise does not include many even smaller honors seminars with a humanities/history emphasis.

Math–44 sections, average of 24.7 students.  Most of the math sections are in calculus, differential equations, linear algebra, topology, vector analysis.

Physics–30 sections, average of 25.5 students.  Again, many honors programs do not offer honors classes in intro physics, so a student could still have large non-honors classes in that course.

Political Science–19 sections, average 34.4 students.  The striking point here is the small number of polysci sections offered–just over 1 per program, per semester on average.  The major has become extremely popular, so many sections outside of honors could be quite large.

Psychology–60 sections, average 28.9 students.  Another popular major, but more class availability in general.

A Methodology Change: We Will Have More Expansive Data for Prestigious Scholarships

All college ranking “systems” receive criticism based on the criteria they use, and our own efforts to evaluate honors colleges and programs have received a fair share of that criticism.

One component of our rating system is a measure of each university’s attainment of prestigious awards, such as Rhodes, Marshall, Truman, and Goldwater scholarships.  The criticism of this metric is based on the indisputable fact that not all of these awards are won by honors students.  But our view is that probably most of them are won by students who have either been in a core honors program at some point or who have at least been involved in departmental honors.  In addition, we believe that prospective honors students need to know what their prospects might be for winning one of these awards for themselves.  (We also will continue to have a second major ranking section that excludes the metric for prestigious scholarships and emphasizes only honors-specific factors.)

With that said, we agree that we have been too narrow in the scholarships we measure, and we have come to believe, based on our updated analysis, that in the first edition of our book the honors programs at a few institutions, most notably at the University of Maryland, Illinois, UCLA, and Rutgers were underrated, in part because of the scholarships we emphasized at that time. Accordingly, after months of research, we will expand the awards we use in calculations for the next edition of our book.  Awards in bold will be new additions.

Rhodes, Marshall, Gates Cambridge, Churchill, Truman, Udall, Goldwater, Fulbright*,
National Science Foundation (NSF) Graduate Research Grants, Boren, and Gilman. 

*Fulbright Student awards will now be counted for the three most recent years, as will Boren awards.  Fulbrights will not be adjusted for the size of the institution as was the case in the first edition.  Gilman scholars will be counted on a percentage basis.

The fact is that we have come to realize that only a very few public universities–or private universities, for that matter–excel in the attainment of all the awards listed above.  To maintain that the awards most familiar to the public, such as Rhodes, Marshall, and Truman scholarships, should trump lesser known awards would be to discount the strong impact of undergraduate awards (Goldwater, Udall, Boren, Gilman) and their important relation, in some cases, to undergraduate research.   Expanding the awards will also broaden the field of competition for our expanded list of programs, now 75 versus only 50 covered in the first edition.

 

Michigan, ASU, Rutgers, UT Austin Lead in 2013-2014 Fulbright Student Awards

The major research universities with the most Fulbright Student Award winners for 2013-2014 have been announced, and Michigan, Arizona State, Rutgers, and UT Austin are the leaders among public institutions.

Over the last four years, Michigan, Arizona State, and Rutgers lead all public universities, followed by North Carolina, Maryland, Washington, and UT Austin.

Fulbright scholarships are for work in foreign countries and cover a broad range of disciplines.  They, along with National Science Foundation Research Grants, are among the most prestigious awards for graduating seniors and beginning graduate students.

Below are the leading universities, public and private, for Fulbright Student Awards for 2013-2014.   We will list the university name, number of awards, and the number of applicants this year for awards.  Note that there is little correlation between the size of a university and the total number of applicants or the number of awards.

Harvard: 39 awards/234 applicants

Michigan: 32 awards/151 applicants

Arizona State: 26 awards/60 applicants

Princeton: 26 awards/82 applicants

Northwestern: 23 awards/106 applicants

UT Austin: 22 awards/70 applicants

Columbia: 21 awards/107 applicants

Yale: 21 awards/106 applicants

Cornell: 20 awards/67 applicants

Chicago: 20 awards/98 applicants

Boston College: 19 awards/85 applicants

UC Berkeley: 18 awards/62 applicants

Duke: 16 awards/54 applicants

Ohio State: 16 awards/72 applicants

Stanford: 16 awards/75 applicants

Penn: 16 awards/81 applicants

Maryland: 15 awards/41 applicants

Rochester: 15 awards/32 applicants

William & Mary: 14 awards/53 applicants

North Carolina: 14 awards/91 applicants

Georgetown: 13 awards/50 applicants

Tulane: 13 awards/52 applicants

Colorado: 13 awards/42 applicants

Pitt: 13 awards/51 applicants

Fordham: 12 awards/44 applicants

UC San Diego: 12 awards/25 applicants

Washington U: 12 awards/43 applicants

Johns Hopkins: 11 awards/54 applicants

NYU: 11 awards/49 applicants

Penn State: 11 awards/54 applicants

San Diego State: 11 awards/47 applicants

Washington: 11 awards/77 applicants

 

 

 

U.S. News 2014 Rankings: Lots of Changes for Public Universities

The U.S. News Best Colleges edition for 2014 is out, and the somewhat obscure changes in the magazine’s methodology this year have wrought many changes in the rankings of major public universities.

The 2013 rankings were especially unkind to public universities; the new rankings show gains by 23 of the 50 schools we follow most closely, while 19 declined and 8 remained the same.

Colorado, Penn State, Stony Brook, Vermont, and Indiana made the most dramatic gains.   The new rankings mark the second year in a row that Stony Brook has made a big leap, now ranking 82, versus 111 only two years ago.

What we do know about the changes in methodology probably explain the perhaps surprising fall of two public elites, UT Austin and Washington.  The new methodology places more emphasis on grad and retention rates, and these two schools likely did not better the expectations set by the magazine in these categories or actually fell below projected levels.  It is also possible, though less likely, that other schools performed much better in these categories than they did in 2013.

The magazine has not been forthcoming about possible changes in the weight given to academic reputation.  Both these schools have scored extremely well in that category in recent years, so a reduction in the weight of that category would hurt their rankings.

Alabama, Binghamton, Arizona State, and UC Irvine also fell by at least five places in the 2014 rankings.  It is important to keep in mind that very small statistical changes can result in a ranking difference of 4-6 places.

Below are the 50 universities we follow, showing by the symbols (-, +, or +) whether they fell, stayed the same, or gained in the rankings.  We also list each school’s rankings for a three-year span: 2012, 2013, and 2014.  Schools with gains of five or more places are listed in caps.

-Alabama—2014 (86); 2013 (77); 2012 (75)

+Arizona—2014 (119); 2013 (120); 2012 (124)

-Arizona State—2014 (142); 2013 (139); 2012 (132)

+ARKANSAS—2014 (128); 2013 (134); 2012 (132)

-Auburn—2014 (91); 2013 (89); 2012 (82)

-Binghamton—2014 (97); 2013 (89); 2012 (90)

+CLEMSON—2014 (62); 2013 (68); 2012 (68)

+COLORADO—2014 (86); 2013 (97); 2012 (94)

+CONNECTICUT–2014 (57); 2013 (63); 2012 (58)

=Delaware—2014 (75); 2013 (75); 2012 (75)

+FLORIDA–2014 (49); 2013 (54); 2012 (58)

+Georgia—2014 (60); 2013 (63); 2012 (62)

=Georgia Tech—2014 (36); 2013 (36); 2012 (36)

+ILLINOIS—2014 (41); 2013 (46); 2012 (42)

+INDIANA—2014 (75); 2013 (83); 2012 (75)

-Iowa—2014 (73); 2013 (72); 2012 (71)

=Iowa State—2014 (101); 2013 (101); 2012 (97)

+KANSAS—2014 (101); 2013 (106); 2012 (101)

-Maryland—2014 (62); 2013 (58); 2012 (55)

+MASSACHUSETTS—2014 (91); 2012 (97); 2012 (94)

+Michigan—2014 (28); 2013 (29); 2012 (28)

-Michigan State—2014 (73); 2013 (72); 2012 (71)

-Minnesota—2014 (69); 2013 (68); 2012 (68)

+Mississippi—2014 (150); 2013 (151); 2012 (143)

=Missouri—2014 (97); 2013 (97); 2012 (90)

=Nebraska—2014 (101); 2013 (101); 2012 (101)

=North Carolina—2014 (30); 2013 (30); 2012 (29)

+NC STATE—2014 (101); 2013 (106); 2012 (101)

+Ohio State—2014 (52); 2013 (56); 2012 (55)

+OREGON—2014 (109); 2013 (115); 2012 (101)

+PENN STATE—2014 (37); 2013 (46); 2012 (45)

-Pitt—2014 (62); 2013 (58); 2012 (58)

-Purdue—2014 (68); 2013 (65); 2012 (62)

-Rutgers—2014 (69); 2013 (68); 2012 (68)

+South Carolina—2014 (112); 2013 (115); 2012 (111)

+STONY BROOK—2014 (82); 2013 (92); 2012 (111)

-Texas A&M—2014 (69); 2013 (65); 2012 (58)

-UC Davis—2014 (39); 2013 (38); 2012 (38)

-UC Irvine—2014 49); 2013 (44); 2012 (45)

+UCLa 2014 (23); 2013 (24); 2012 (25)

-UC San Diego—2014 (39); 2013 (37); 2012 (38)

=UC Santa Barbara-2014 (41); 2013 (41); 2012 (42)

-University at Buffalo—2014 (109); 2013 (106); 2012 (111)

-UT Austin—2014 (52); 2013 (46); 2012 (45)

+VERMONT—2014 (82); 2013 (92); 2012 (82)

+Virginia—2014 23); 2013 (24); 2012 (25)

+Virginia Tech—2014 (69); 2013 (72); 2012 (71)

-Washington–2014 (52); 2013 (46); 2012 (42)

-Washington State—2014 (128); 2013 (125); 2012 (115)

=Wisconsin—2014 (41); 2013 (41); 2012 (42)

 

U.S. Has 24 of Top 50 Engineering and Tech Universities in the World

According to the Times Higher Education World University Rankings, the U.S. is home to 24 of the top 50 engineering and technology universities in the world.

It is also notable that 13 of the 24 U.S. institutions are public universities.  The United States also has the top four schools on the Times list.

“The 2012-2013 Times Higher Education World University Rankings’ Engineering and Technology table judges world class universities across all of their core missions – teaching, research, knowledge transfer and international outlook. The ranking of the world’s top 50 universities for engineering and technology employs 13 carefully calibrated performance indicators to provide the most comprehensive and balanced comparisons available, which are trusted by students, academics, university leaders, industry and governments.”

Here are the U.S. universities on the list, along with their rank:

1. Caltech

2. Princeton

3. MIT

4. UC Berkeley

5. Stanford

7. UCLA

9. Georgia Tech

13. UT Austin

15. Carnegie Mellon

16. Northwestern

17. UC Santa Barbara

18. Cornell

19. Michigan

20. Illinois

21. Columbia

26. Penn

30. Rice

34. Washington

36. UC San Diego

41. Wisconsin

42. Purdue

45. Minnesota

48. UC Davis

49. Duke

 

The End of Affirmative Action in College Admissions: Bad for the Middle Class?

If the recent Supreme Court decision in Fisher v. The University of Texas at Austin ultimately leads to a prohibition on using race-conscious factors in college admissions, one counter-intuitive result could be that middle-class applicants of all races may find it more difficult to get into selective public institutions.

Currently, UT Austin is required to allocate 75 percent of its freshmen spaces to students who graduate in the top 8 percent of their high school classes (2013-2014 academic year).  The remainder of the places may be filled with some consideration given to an applicant’s race, along with many other factors, including socioeconomic status.

Many of the students who are automatically admitted through the top 8 percent formula come from minimally desegregated high schools in poor urban and rural areas of the state, so the automatic formula is a proxy for increasing the enrollment of minority students, many from Dallas, Houston, and the Rio Grande Valley.   About 37 percent of the automatic admits are minority students.

The second group–the 25 percent who do not have to be in the top 8 percent of their high school classes–includes a much higher proportion of students who come from more rigorous high schools.  The “holistic” process utilized to admit these students emphasizes test scores, high school gpa, quality of the high school, leadership, extracurricular activities, work, etc., along with special factors, including race.  But only about 22 percent of holistic admits are minority students.

The interesting thing about the holistic process is that, even though a smaller percentage of minorities are admitted this way, the socioeconomic status of these students is higher, meaning that they “diversify diversity” by including minority students from all socioeconomic levels in the university population.  Aside from being a way to counter racial stereotypes that may be held by white students, these minority students also pay more of the costs of attending UT Austin.

Many high-achieving students of all races also gain admission through the holistic process.  Students at demanding high schools may not rank in the top 8 percent, but many have high SAT scores and even have gpas that are higher than many of the automatic admits.  (The average SAT scores of holistic admits in a recent year was 1902, but for automatic admits the average was 1812.)

For legal purposes, the automatic admission process is considered “race neutral,” and so would likely be allowed to continue if “race conscious” plans are eventually disallowed.  But since the automatic plans are proxies for using race, and because they are also proxies for admitting lower-income students, the use of automatic admission practices alone would leave less room for many high-achieving students of all races who come from strong schools in middle class or high income districts.

The admission of more low-income students will all place greater demands on the ability of the universities to provide financial support to middle-class students.

The University of Colorado at Boulder has experimented with a more sophisticated admissions system that provides “boosts” to applicants who have some degree of disadvantage coupled with evidence of over-achievement.  Highly-qualified applicants who are not disadvantaged are not penalized, yet the boosts for other applicants will still yield a student body with more lower-income students.  Again, added pressure on financial resources is one result.

The Colorado plan is a laudable attempt to increase access, promote diversity, and avoid overt racial considerations.  The point of this article is not to criticize these goals but only to point out the possible impact that the changes in college admissions could have on the middle class.

So in the end, while some non-minority families might complain about what they see as favoritism in current race-conscious practices, the change to race-neutral options might make it even more difficult for middle-class students to gain entrance to selective schools and receive some financial assistance in the process.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Honors Colleges vs. Honors Programs: NCHC Survey of Smaller Institutions

The leadership of the National Collegiate Honors Council (NCHC) has completed a survey of more than 400 honors colleges and programs, many of them at smaller institutions.  The average total enrollment at the colleges surveyed is 6,484.  The average size of the 50 larger state universities we surveyed was much larger, just under 25,000 students.

NCHC President Rick Scott, Dean of the Schedler Honors College at the University of Central Arkansas, released the report.

As we found earlier in the post Honors Colleges vs. Honors Programs, honors colleges tend to have a greater “value added” impact on large universities that are not as selective as some of their counterparts.  For example, UVA, UNC Chapel Hill, Michigan, and UT Austin do not have honors colleges, and their strong “value” is often validated by external rankings and other measures. 

All these universities have strong honors programs, but the extent to which they add value to the universities as a whole is less than the impact of honors colleges on less selective schools. The Barrett Honors College at Arizona State, for example, is a powerful value added feature for the university as a whole.

Most of the two-year and four-year colleges in the NCHC survey are not highly selective.  Therefore, it is not surprising to us that the NCHC survey did in fact show a significant difference in the size and positive impact of honors colleges at these school versus the impact of honors programs.

What this means for prospective students who are looking at honors options offered by smaller or less selective colleges is that, in general, the schools with honors colleges will have stronger honors components, especially in several extremely important categories.

Size–In smaller institutions, the size of the honors component can be especially important.  The survey showed that the average size of responding honors colleges was 814 students, but only 292 students for honors programs.  By contrast, in our evaluation of fifty large university honors colleges and programs, there was only a very slight difference in the relative size.

Staff–The survey found that honors colleges had an average of 4.9 full-time employees, while honors programs had only 1.2 FTEs.

Advising–In the very important area, 77 percent of honors colleges had their own advisers, and only 44 percent of honors programs did.

Prestigious Scholarships–Guidance for outstanding students applying for Rhodes, Truman, Goldwater and other awards was available in 45 percent of the honors colleges but in only 16 percent of honors programs.

Honors Housing–83 percent of honors colleges offered honors residence choices, but only 46 percent of honors programs did so.

Living/Learning Options–Again, 73 percent of honors colleges had living/learning communities, but only 33 percent of honors programs did.

Curriculum–Here, 73 percent of honors colleges also offered departmental honors, while 59 percent of honors programs did so.

Internships–Honors colleges offered much stronger opportunities for internships, 44 percent versus only 22 percent for honors programs.

 


We’re Considering a New Edition–Nominate a Regional University!

Our current publication, A Review of Fifty Public University Honors Programs,
is going to be updated, possibly as soon as the latter part of 2014 if all goes according to plan.

That plan is for the second edition to include evaluations of 100 public honors colleges and programs, although we will use a two-tiered approach for the new edition.  One tier will likely include most of the 50 institutions that we reviewed in the 2012 edition. (A few might not be included, while some new ones are likely to be added. The selection process for this tier will be one reason for the minor changes.)

The other tier will cover regional public university honors colleges and programs.  A few of these have already been profiled on this site (please see, for example, Western Kentucky Honors College: Regional Excellence, International Impact and East Tenn State Univ: Exemplary Honors Coordination).

For regional universities to be competitive, the honors curriculum should be strong and comprehensive.   Although the examples above signal their regional nature by their very names, there are certainly other, similar schools that do not have similar “regional” names.

We have several of these institutions in mind already, but we are open to suggestions, preferably from the senior staff of a prospective honors college or program, on a confidential basis.  One important element in our consideration of universities for both tiers will be the extent to which a college or program is inclined to be reasonably cooperative and forthcoming with data that meet our category requirements.

(Please contact editor@publicuniversityhonors.com to make inquiries or to suggest an honors college or program for inclusion.)

In particular, we need accurate data for six-year graduation rates, freshman honors entrants only (not honors completers), and data showing the percentage of honors students who study abroad for at least one full summer term or longer.

Although we will look very closely at curricula and honors housing ourselves, these are two categories that can be clarified through dialogue.  As we did for the 2012 edition, all universities will receive advance copies of both their narrative profiles and statistical data prior to publication.  This was a very effective means of obtaining the best information in 2012, at least from the programs that participated in the dialogue.

One critical improvement over 2012 is that there will be a firm, detailed, and uniform questionnaire sent to selected programs–none of that “evolving” stuff that characterized our first, tentative effort.  We are open to suggestions for ways of making the questionnaire as effective as possible.

We hope to hear from you soon!

John Willingham, Editor