Public honors colleges may become the next winners in our new reality. They offer a small residential college educational experience and the resources that you can only find at a larger school. As I mentioned in my previous post on creative colleges, the winners are going to be the schools that manage price or prove that they will offer better teaching. Public honors colleges are an attempt at both.
When I started Educated Quest the first public honors college that I visited was at Indiana University of Pennsylvania IUP). The Robert E. Cook Honors College (picture above) welcomes about 100 new students each year. It sometimes takes a few more if there’s room in the honors residence hall. Cook students get a small college educational experience, receive a four-year scholarship and have access to an Achievement Fund. Core classes here have 20 students. There are other academic benefits that you could not get at a small college. IUP has more than 140 majors and minors. You will not see that many at a liberal arts school.
With over 8,000 undergrads, about a third living on a nice campus, IUP has a relatively large student body. But it’s nothing like Penn State-University Park, Pitt or Temple. The Cook community is very small. But it has its own residence hall as well as a learning community in suite-style housing .. If you’re a good student, bright enough to get into a school like Drew, Juniata or Gettysburg, but costs are a concern, check out Cook. Do a good job on the application, and you will be a very competitive position for admission. A New Jersey or Pennsylvania resident would pay less to be at Cook, than s/he would pay to go to Rutgers or Penn State.
IUP was not the first school to open an honors college. Nor is it the most selective university to have one. But it sets a standard for winners in this new reality. It’s inexpensive, personal, residential and it has a very fair admissions process. There are really good state schools that have a residential honors college. But you might need an Ivy-like profile to get in. Interested in Penn State’s Schreyer Honors College? You’ll find the application as challenging as anything you would see from an Ivy. If you get in, you might want to consider turning down some Ivies, especially the two largest: Cornell and Penn. The Schreyer education will be better.
Suppose you are a New Jersey or Pennsylvania resident. You have a transcript that can get you into Rutgers-New Brunswick or Penn State-University Park. But you cannot get in their public honors colleges, and you don’t have the money for out-of-state tuition. Where should you look? There’s a few options,, depending on where you’re willing to go for an education. Here’s four examples:
Arizona State University’s Barrett Honors College is the largest honors community in the country with over 7,200 students. While admissions are test-mandatory, the average SAT was a 1340 and the average ACT was a 29. The average GPA was just below 3.9, about the middle of a class at Penn State or Rutgers. Using the Arizona State Scholarship Estimator, I learned that a student with these numbers would qualify for the President’s Scholarship at $15,500. That drops tuition and fees below the in-state charges at the home state school!
The University of Maine not only has an Honors College; it also has a tuition and fee program called Flagship Match. New Jersey and Pennsylvania residents who choose UMaine will pay no more than the in-state charges for Rutgers or Penn State. UMaine’s Honors College is small, with fewer than 900 students. But the university is small too, with fewer than 9,500 undergrads. An SAT score of 1250 or higher or an ACT of 27 or better combined with a high GPA should make a typical Rutgers or Penn State admit a competitive candidate for the Honors College.
The University of Rhode Island (URI) invites accepted students with a 3.8+ GPA regardless of test scores, to become part of their residential Honors Program . URI is the 12th most popular school among New Jersey residents who choose to leave the state for college. This program has 700 undergraduates. That’s sounds like a small community, but URI is small for a state university with 14,500 undergrads. No more than 20 students are permitted to enroll in the introductory honors courses. Upper-level honors courses are capped at 15 students. The larger Presidential Scholarships at $15,000/year make this school a great value.
West Virginia University’s Honors College has 2,700 undergrads. That’s about the same number as liberal arts colleges such as Franklin & Marshall and Gettysburg. It’s also more than ten percent of the student body of the university. Basic admissions requirements for the Honors College are a 3.7 GPA, an SAT of 1230 or ACT of 26. If you meet them and apply to the university, you get an invitation to apply to the Honors College. The academic and student life benefits are worth it. Generous scholarships make the experience less expensive than the home state university.
As a college admissions advisor it’s my job to help you find opportunities such as these. Honors college students who work their way through to the finish line are winners in any time. But they really stand out as winners in the new reality called COVID-19.
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