Honors Colleges, Dual Enrollment and Majors

Apologies for my recent absentee-ism. Between our (hopefully) last college visit and my nephew’s wedding, it’s been a busy couple of weeks here!

Our hopefully last college visit was with both kids at our in-state flagship school. My son loved it; it’s where he was already intending to go and the visit really confirmed that, as well as increasing his excitement about being there next fall. Looking at it from his perspective, the visit increased my happiness about the circus-free nature of attending UofO. For example, to be admitted to the business school as a junior, a student is required only complete all prereqs during freshman and sophomore year and maintain a GPA of at least 3.0. No additional application required; no wondering as an applicant if he’ll have access to his desired major. One thing I found fascinating: among the business school presentations was one by a student who had decided, based on his experience there, not to pursue sports marketing as a career path. (For those unfamiliar with the University of Oregon, it’s sometimes referred to as “Nike U” because of the close ties to Nike, and it has a very successful sports marketing program.)

So, two big checks in the plus column for our in-state public: Access to desired majors at a point in the student’s college career when they are able to make a more informed decision, and honesty about popular majors and career paths. Wow!

Two other topics came up that are pertinent to a lot of public schools:

Honors colleges: These can be a great option for kids who want the elite, small school approach on a public school budget. Public University Honors compares mean SAT/ACT scores among elite privates and elite public honors colleges, along with 6-year graduation rates, here. As you can see, the numbers are fairly similar. However, honors colleges may be structured in different ways and it’s important to know what you might be getting. There may be specific honors classes that make up a portion of the student’s general ed requirements and are limited to students within the honors college, “honors contracts” which basically have the honors college students completing additional coursework within a regular course, or mixed courses that may be open to all students but taught at a higher level. The other side of honors colleges is often mentoring and career/internship placement services that go far beyond what “regular” students receive. The flip side of honors colleges is that there is often a surcharge. UofO, for example, charges an additional $900 per quarter to offset the cost of smaller class sizes within the honors college.

Dual enrollment: In a dual enrollment setup, the student is enrolled at both a 4-year public university and a community college. The student can live on campus at the 4-year school and participate in student activities as a student, but takes some or all classes at the local community college. There are several advantages to this: First, obviously there is a cost savings to taking classes at a community college vs a 4-year public. Second, dual enrollment generally has coordinated advising between the community and 4-year college and therefore is more likely to lead to on-time graduation than a community college stint that’s not coordinated with a 4-year program. Third, these programs allow the student to participate in student life such that they are more likely to succeed socially, which is often a factor in ensuring continued attendance through graduation. If this might be appealing to your student, you should check with your high school guidance counselor or with the schools themselves to ensure that you are signing up so as to minimize cost. For example, Oregon offers up to two years of free community college through Oregon Promise, and many other states have similar programs, but there is a specific signup process that dual enrollment students need to go through to ensure that they are eligible for Oregon Promise (which is likely the case in other states as well).

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