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Public Universities’ Small Honors Colleges

Looking for a small college feel in a bigger university setting?

Looking for smaller classes with professors who are invested in you and your growth as a student?

Looking to have less debt when you graduate?

Looking to attend a college where you know you will make many connections without being overwhelmed by the competition to make them?


In my effort to find a good fit for my students, I attend different conference sessions and visit places that are not the same old colleges and universities. Most recently, I was able to attend a session of the rising trend of public universities’ development of elite Honors programs; and, for the right students, I think they are worth a much closer look than I have considered in the past.

These Honors programs are often the perfect balance between the fun rah-rah college experience and an intense intellectual environment that students are looking for as the search for the perfect match. However, besides this balance there are a few other factors at work that help to make sense if why these are such a great addition to many students’ lists:

  1. The education is an elite one. Often these Honors programs include signature courses, Honors contracts, special access to all courses and seminars, special housing, and special access to research and internship opportunities. Of course, all Honors programs do not just say that their classes are smaller, but they also guarantee it. Of the ones I have looked at there is never a class larger than twenty-five. What is most important to keep in mind is that many of the students who choose these programs are among the most elite from their state and those from out-of-state are often even more qualified because they have had to meet an extremely high bar in order to be considered.
  2. Public universities are much less expensive and most Honors programs offer many financial incentives to those accepted. In these times of growing economic uncertainty, it is vital for all families to consider a host of options. This is the best of both worlds: an excellent educational experience at a public university price.
  3. Professors are truly invested in your education. While I have always liked to assume that all professors are “in it” for the same reason, this is simply not the case. However, in an Honors program the professors have been hand picked to teach there because they have proven that teaching is their focus. As a result, students in these programs develop close relationships with their teachers that result in all sorts of obvious benefits from good relationships to excellent research opportunities and terrific internships.

Here are some links to Honors Program at Public Universities with which I am especially impressed:

Rutgers University

Clemson’s Calhoun Honors College

University of Kentucky

University of Michigan

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