Growth in Honors Colleges Aided by Large Donations

Not only are new honors colleges and programs being created at universities across the nation, but, increasingly, large donations are enhancing the opportunities at programs already in existence.

One of the largest gifts ever came last year, when benefactor Tom Lewis and his wife, Jan, donated $23 million to develop the Lewis Honors College at the University of Kentucky.

The University of Akron has received a $3 million gift from Dr. Gary and Pamela Williams for the Honors College, which was renamed in their honor.

The announcement was made at a ceremony that included appreciative thank-yous from students who stood on steps as the couple descended.

The gift will be used to fund grants for students to study abroad and undertake research.

The couple have long supported what is now the Dr. Gary B. and Pamela S. Williams Honors College, and have also donated to other programs since they graduated from UA in 1968.

“We are enormously grateful that the Williamses are demonstrating their belief in and support of the University and the Honors College in this manner,” President Scott Scarborough said in a statement. The couple’s cumulative commitment of more than $10 million in giving will help advance the continued growth and expansion of the college, officials said.

The couple, who met as undergraduates, said in a statement that the university “has been and remains an important part of our lives. We appreciate the opportunity to provide this support and look forward to the great successes that we know participating students will achieve in the years ahead.”

Enrollment in the Honors College has increased 30 percent in the last five years to 1,937 in 2015.

While many faculty members at the University of Montana have struggled with cuts, there is good news for the Davidson Honor College, where a new $1.5 million gift will allow the hiring of two new specialized professors and a full time career development coordinator. Davidson Honors College President Brock Tessman has more details.

“We are going to bring in at least two full time teaching, research, and mentoring fellows,” Tessman said. “So starting next summer we will unveil a fully developed career development program. This will be staffed by a full time program coordinator. Which will be taking them all the way from a resume critique to interview prep to landing that first internship.”

During it’s 25th anniversary celebration this past weekend, The Davidson Honors College received the gift from the Davidson family that comes with a chance to bring even more staff into the program.

“The Davidson’s have also issued a challenge grant  as part of this gift,” Tessman said. “It is an open offer, and that means they will match dollar- for-dollar any additional gifts that come in to support this program and that will be up to two additional fellows.”

The UNLV Honors College received a $1 million boost to their scholarship program.

The gift was from the Bennett Family Foundation to support scholarships for entering freshmen and upperclassmen starting next fall.  This money will provide scholarship support to more than 150 Honors College students over the next four years.

Enrollment in the Honors College has nearly doubled from less than 300 in 2012 to over 500 today. The gift was made in an effort to maintain the college’s growth by offering compelling financial aid packages. This will allow the Honors College more of a capacity to recruit, support, and retain Nevada’s academic talent.

“Our students often say that the Honors College was the deciding factor in their choice to attend UNLV,” Marta Meana, the dean of the Honors College, said. “These students raise the academic standards and ultimately improve the quality of the entire university.”

The money will also fund a new mentorship program that will ensure new students will learn the ropes of college life and academic success from upperclassmen. The Bennett Family Foundation has contributed more than 10 million dollars to UNLV over the years.

University of Central Arkansas alumni and philanthropists Rush & Linda Harding have pledged $500,000 to benefit the Norbert O. Schedler Honors College.

Rush ’76 and Linda Harding ’82 have a long history of support and service to the institution.

In 2002, the Hardings established the Holloway-Hicks Scholarship to benefit African-American students. In 2004, they gave more than $1.4 million to UCA, which was the single largest gift in university history at that time. Those funds were used to support student scholarships and to construct Harding Centennial Plaza, a signature landmark on the campus.





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.