National Collegiate Honors Council


Date of this Version



Published in Journal of the National Collegiate Honors Council, Fall/Winter 2015, Volume 16, Number 2.


Copyright © 2015 by the National Collegiate Honors Council.


At a time when higher education is more expensive than ever and the value of the liberal arts has been called into question, it might seem paradoxical to argue that honors—generally offering its students’ large merit scholarships and small classes—is an asset to the university. However, the prestige of a university benefits both from the high test scores and GPAs of honors students at admission and from the national scholarships or professional and graduate school acceptances awarded them upon their graduation. In addition, universities benefit financially from the high retention rate of honors students. For example, at Loyola, the six-year graduation rate is almost 30% higher for honors students than for the general population. Moreover, not just affluent students are being retained. A distinguishing feature of Loyola’s honors program is that, although over 24% of our honors students are the first in their families to attend college, first-generation status is not a factor in graduation rates, probably because the benefits of holistic attention that are standard features of honors—small class sizes, sustained relationships with advisors and professors, themed living, community engagement—are also important factors in improving retention for first-generation students.