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Honors Program sees rising retention and graduation rates

UC Honors Program's experiential focus brings double-digit increases in retention, triple-digit increases in graduation rates.

Experience. Reflect. Integrate. Transform.

These watchwords spotlight the University of Cincinnati’s Honors Program mission, which might best be likened to ‘academics in action.’

“Most honors programs nationwide focus on rigorous academics and maintaining a certain grade point average. But we combine the rigorous academics with individualized experiences that drive toward the individual student’s goals and aspirations,” states Debbie Brawn, UHP director.”

It’s a mission and a vision unified with the university’s strategic direction, Next Lives Here, and the Bearcat Promise made to incoming students that they will graduate with a diploma in one hand and a career plan in the other.

“It’s about far more than harder course work. The tough classes and seminars are intentionally integrated into rich experiential opportunities with one goal – developing students into global citizen-scholars who lead innovation efforts toward solving the world’s complex problems,” adds  Brawn.

It’s a program that takes learning to the extreme, such as

“Our honors students are uniquely talented and motivated to learn,” says Kristi Nelson, executive vice president for academic affairs and provost. “By providing enriching real-world experiences both inside and outside the classroom students can create personalized and innovative learning pathways that challenge them academically, expand their worldview, and lead them toward their desired future

UHP by the numbers

  • Average ACT score of incoming students: 33.1
  • Number of first-year students enrolled this fall: 303
  • Number of total UC students enrolled this fall: 1,452
  • Percentage who study abroad: 68 percent
  • Number who graduated last year: 281
  • Increase in retention since 2012: 20 percent
  • Increase in graduation rates since 2012: 102 percent
A student holds up an enrichment device in front of the hornbill exhibit.

UC honors students tackle enrichment projects for animals at the Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden. Some students built a puzzle tube for the zoo's rhinoceros hornbills. Photo/Joseph Fuqua II/UC Creative Services

UC’s approximately 1,500 Honors students have always supported one another in the academic and experiential-learning arenas. Now, that same level of support will be offered closer to home – specifically in a Living-Learning Community (LLC) that is new this fall.

Twenty-eight Honors students will be living on the third floor of Turner Hall as part of the Emerging Global Citizen Scholars LLC, an opportunity provided thanks to a partnership between UHP and Residence Education and Development (RED). Students will receive interdisciplinary experiences to understand the world in all its diversity, from technology and language to design, culture, education, entrepreneurship and more. These experiences will be centered on community engagement, creativity, global studies, leadership and research.

Also for the first time this fall, student participants in UC-Blue Ash College’s honors program, who have recently earned associate degrees will transition to integrate into the Uptown Campus Honors Program.

Says Brawn, “We’re excited to welcome them into the program. UC-Blue Ash began an honors program two years ago, and Blue Ash graduates are continuing their Honors educations at Uptown.”

The retention of these students now pursuing baccalaureate degrees after having first earned associate degrees exemplifies strong and growing retention rates of UC Honors students.

Explains Brawn, “UC Honors is growing, but generally not because we accept more first-year students. It’s because we increasingly retain students to persevere in their studies. We’ve had a 20 percent increase in UHP enrollment since fall 2012, but we’re inviting about the same number of first-year students (between 300-325) into the program each year. We’re growing because we’re retaining students.”

It’s an effort that helps to boost the university’s first-year, full-time, baccalaureate retention rate, which is projected to stand at 88.3 percent for fall 2019.

And strong retention also means gains in graduation rates. Since fall 2012, the program has enjoyed a 102 percent increase in the number of students graduating from the program.

And, according to Raj Mehta, vice provost, “Based on surveys, we believe roughly 40 percent of these graduates continue their studies, pursuing advanced degrees.  Some attend graduate school as part of UC programs, while others are pursuing educational opportunities both throughout the U.S. and abroad at institutions like UC-Berkeley, Columbia, Cornell, Duke, Georgetown, Harvard, MIT, Stanford and even Cambridge and Oxford in the U.K.”

Featured image at top: UC honors students canoe down a tributary of the Amazon River while learning more about Brazil's rainforests. Photo/Joseph Fuqua II/UC Creative Services

Mark Godsey sits on a desk while his students work on cases around him.

UC College of Law professor Mark Godsey, pictured here with law students, also partners with UC Honors as part of a course examining the psychology and politics of wrongful convictions. Photo/Lisa Ventre/UC Creative Services

Become a Bearcat

  • Apply online or get more information about undergraduate enrollment by calling 513-556-1100.
  • Learn more about UC's many undergraduate and graduate programs.
  • Discover more about UC’s Honors Program.