Top Honors Programs, Honors Components Only

So, what do we mean by “honors components only”?

In our latest book of honors program ratings, we listed the honors programs and colleges that received an overall five “mortarboard” rating. One component of the rating model used in order to determine the leading programs is prestigious scholarships–the number of Rhodes, Marshall, Truman, Goldwater, etc., awards earned by students from each university as a whole.

In most cases, honors programs at these universities contribute most of the winners of these awards, but not in all cases. So while the prestigious scholarship component is worth including, we do not want it to override the 12 other rating components used in the ratings. These components are “honors only” because they do not include awards earned by non-honors students of the university as a whole.

Therefore, we decided to do a separate rating, one that is not included in the new book, INSIDE HONORS. The new rating uses only the 12 components listed below. Farther down,  you can see whether the prestigious scholarship component had a major impact on the overall ratings of top programs.

Those 12 additional components are…

  • Curriculum Requirements
  • Number of Honors Classes
  • Number of Honors Classes in 15 Key Disciplines
  • Extent of Honors Enrollment
  • Average Class Size, Honors-only Sections
  • Overall Average Class Size, All Sections
  • Honors Graduation Rate-Raw
  • Honors Graduation Rate-Adjusted for Test Scores
  • Student to Staff Ratio
  • Type and Extent of Priority Registration
  • Honors Residence Halls, Amenities
  • Honors Residence Halls, Availability

Below is a comparison of the honors programs that received a five mortarboard OVERALL RATING (left side) and those that receive the same rating for HONORS COMPONENTS ONLY (right side), all listed ALPHABETICALLY.

Arizona St Clemson
Clemson CUNY Macaulay
CUNY Macaulay Georgia
Georgia Houston
Houston Kansas
Kansas New Jersey Inst Tech
New Jersey Inst Tech Oregon
Oregon Penn St
Penn St South Carolina
South Carolina Temple
UT Austin UT Austin

It is notable that the overlap is almost identical: Arizona State is not on the second list, while Temple is not on the OVERALL list but is on the HONORS COMPONENTS list.

We must add that Temple barely missed a five mortarboard overall rating, while ASU was similarly close to making the honors components list.

Leading Programs, by Size of Honors Enrollment

The average honors enrollment among the fifty universities under review is just under 1,800 students. Honors colleges and programs that invest the time and resources into sustaining excellence for so many students deserve special recognition. Below is a list of larger honors programs with more than 1,800 students. These programs have performed well in one or more of these categories: honors curriculum, honors retention and graduation rates, and prestigious scholarships, such as Rhodes, Marshall, Truman, and Goldwater awards. Please review our Methodology page to achieve a better understanding of the lists below.


1. University of Michigan, LSA Honors Program
2. Arizona State University, Barrett Honors College
3. University of Georgia, Honors Program
4. Penn State University, Schreyer Honors College
5. University of Minnesota, Honors Program

Universities with smaller honors programs (fewer than 1,800 students) can focus on developing and sustaining an extremely high degree of excellence within the much larger university as a whole. Competition for places in these programs may be almost as difficult as earning a place at an elite private institution. Though smaller than the mean size of all programs under review, most of the colleges and programs listed below have enrollments greater than 1,000 honors students.

1. University of Virginia, Echols Scholars Program
2. UT Austin, Plan II Honors Program
3. University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Honors Carolina
4. University of Washington, University Honors Program
5. University of South Carolina Honors College

Revised April 4, 2012.