What % of College Graduates in the USA with Honors?

What % College Students Graduates in the USA with Honors

It’s common knowledge that once you are accepted into college, there is a long path you need to build into graduation. It is an environment with many rules and a sequence of traditions that can be very tough for some, requires a lot of discipline, focus, and a lot of time. It is a unique experience that should for sure be enjoyed the most. That can teach many techniques, not only for the student’s professional life but also for social experiences and maturing on your own. We will discuss what percentage of College Students Graduates in the USA with Honors are there.

It is estimated that of all students enrolled in college, 18% will graduate per year in the US, which is approximately four million people. It is a number that has increased highly in the last few years, and the Education Data suggests that students tend to achieve greater things in four-year institutions with a 60,4% of graduation accomplished.

Compared to two-year institutions that score 31,6% of graduates, there is a considerable gap between them both. Among the two, the rate is 46,2%. It is recorded that now we have 20% more graduates with a bachelor than ten years ago and when extended to twenty years, it reaches 59,7%.

These rates are important to understand how the dynamics of conquering a degree work and how fast they’re changing for the better, with more people accessing higher education to improve their knowledge. It is estimated to be over 99,5 million the number of adults who earned a bachelor’s or higher degree in the US. 

And among these statistics, there are the ones that accomplish even more, which is the desired academic honorary degree. Latin honors are a way to prove academically that the student who was awarded them achieved the highest level of academic excellence and prestige. Many people work hard to obtain them since it is a trendy way to show worldwide that you are a stand-out in your field of specialization. 

The honors are ranked in three different ways, and each one of them has as a requirement a certain level of GPA to be effectuated. This classification is a pattern followed by most schools, but it can also be a plus to other standouts like credit courses, attendance, and your dissertation.  

  • Laude: It means “with distinction” in Latin, and usually, a 3.5 GPA is required to qualify the student. It’s the more common one since it doesn’t require such an exceptional grade. 
  • Magna Laude: Meaning “with high honors,” colleges will award this honor to students that fall into the GPA of 3.8 and 3.9. Meaning the percentage of 10% to 15% of the class. Numbers can vary from school to school and their system of rating. 
  • Summa Laude: Following the translation of the other ones, “with highest distinction” is, as the name, the highest Latin honors possible to conquer and is restrained to the most extraordinary students graduating. Usually goes to the top 5% to 1% of the class, with a 4.0 or higher GPA and other achievements that the college might set. 

How many College Students Graduates in the USA with Honors are there?

It’s kind of hard to track the exact percentage of students who conquered the Latin honors in the whole country since the dynamics of colleges differ for distinct reasons. For example, the University of Connecticut has a ranking of their top eleven courses with the most honored students in the three categories:   

May 2020

School/ProgramSumma LaudeMagna Laude Laude
Fine Arts3.9303.8673.760
Continuing Education3.8933.5093.303
Ratcliffe Hicks3.7003.6683.553
Social Work3.8463.8013.621

You can check their last ten years tracking here: https://registrar.uconn.edu/latin-honors/#

Now for Brown University, one of the Ivy League, they don’t calculate the GPA but the student’s engagement during the course and then offer the honorary degrees to 20% of the class. In 2021 they reported 1,563 bachelor’s degrees earned, and in 2019, it was 1,697. Harvard University also has its own method to deal with honoraries. The student needs first to receive departmental honors to later apply for Latin honors. They also don’t use GPA as a parameter but the individual records. The sum of the awards is pretty large in comparison to other colleges, making it 50%. Their unique characteristic stays with the fact that only 5% of candidates are entitled to earn the Summa Laude and that with the Magna Laude, they can’t exceed 20%. Therefore, it is estimated to be between 20% to 30% of the students in general to be honorary beneficient. 

Education Data also provides a list of Bachelor’s Program Graduates’ Degree Discipline:

  1. Business – 19.48%
  2. Healthcare – 12.17%
  3. Social Sciences & History – 8,13%
  4. Psychology – 5,97%
  5. Biological & Biomedical Sciences – 5,97% 
  6. Engineering – 5,91%
  7. Communications & Journalism – 4,79%
  8. Visual & Performing Arts – 4,67%
  9. Education – 4,37%
  10. Other Fields – 28,55%

The Benefits from a Honorary Degree

Since the Laude is the most average one among the others, colleges all around the country are facing the fact that recently, most of their seniors have an honorary degree, which misses the whole point of being a tradition to award their most exceptional students. The committee of most schools can’t explain why the percentage seems to be higher every year with an enormous list of graduates. Still, some of them are analyzing a way to change their method of performance evaluation. The reason behind it might be that since it is up to the college administrator to set a threshold, the students can, during their time at school, take an overlook through it and manage their grades to obtain Latin Honors. 

One of the most popular theses on the subject is from the two researchers called Pauline Khoo and Ben Ost, from the University of Illinois at Chicago. Together, they make an effort to solve the problem around the question of whether graduating with honors really benefits the ones who own it, in a paper from 2017 titled “The Effect of Graduating With Honors on Earnings.”

In the paper they conclude really interesting ideas, for example:

 “Many studies have shown that there is a positive correlation between college GPA and earnings, but all of these studies face the major obstacle that college GPA is correlated with a variety of unobservables that are likely to affect earnings directly. Employers may value GPA either because they view academic performance as directly productive or because academic performance is correlated with productive factors that the firm cannot observe. In either case, GPA would have a causal effect on earnings. Past research on the relationship between GPA and earnings, however, could be driven by a non-causal relationship between academic performance and earnings if there are characteristics that are observable to the employer, but unobservable to the econometrician.”

The students receiving the honors are for sure worthy of it and performed a path of discipline to obtain it, even with the increase of Laude being awarded, this is a sign that more people can conquer this benefit, being a signal available to a more diverse range of seniors, given that acquiring a Latin honor is one of the most traditional ways of investment while in academia. 

One of the main things to be in thought is that students with honors degrees are valuable for employers because it is implied that they can be more productive and disciplined in other contexts. The award receipt can perhaps increase these skills for students who pursue the Latin honors, but it doesn’t mean a connection between the university and the employer. The award only increases the pre-disposition of the student/worker commitment to the institution that provides them the mechanisms to thrive and be innovative, allowing making a change. 

This leads to something else that should be in consideration. We see in reality that the payback for those who earned the honorary degree might not be what is expected, being something more modest. Even its prestige might expire after a certain period of time, making fresh graduates obtain the same salary for even three years, with no sign of promotion. 

Proving that when you consider that over four million people graduate in the US per year and 20% to 30% of them are awarded Latin honors, it can successfully make you secure a job with a detachment, but it loses its value once you aim for a better opportunity in a long term professional relationship. 

Also read The Passing GPA in a USA College

What % of College Graduates in the USA with Honors?

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