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New honors campus unrivaled in scope

October 05, 2009

Arizona State University celebrated the grand opening on Oct. 15 of Barrett, the Honors College, the nation’s first comprehensive four-year residential honors college at a public university. It is a stunning campus that is unrivaled in scope.

Barrett, the Honors College at ASU, now has a new $130 million seven-building campus featuring housing, classrooms, faculty offices, a fitness center, computer lounge and dining hall with covered terrace and garden.

The concept of receiving a high-quality, personalized education at a fraction of an Ivy League cost — while also having access to the breadth of a public research university — is so appealing that applications at Barrett shot up 26 percent from last year.

Students like Kate Moodey, of Phoenix, Ariz., Raza Mushtaq, of Chandler, Ariz., and Joe Canarie, of South Portland, Maine, were accepted at such prestigious institutions as Brown, Wesleyan, Dartmouth, and Johns Hopkins, but chose Barrett.

The choice was a “no brainer” in terms of value, they said. The faculty are top notch, the attention they get is undivided, the curriculum is as rigorous as Harvard’s, and they have a brand new facility to call their own — all at the cost afforded by a public education.

About 1,700 students moved into the new nine-acre complex before school started Aug. 25. It also features a student-designed sustainable living community, with low-consumption plumbing fixtures, enhanced energy monitoring, recycled gray water, a green roof and organic garden offering students the chance to study and experience sustainable living concepts.

The presence of an honors college like Barrett helps universities keep the best and brightest students in state. Almost three-quarters of Barrett students this fall are from Arizona.

West Virginia University and the University of South Carolina opened new honors residence halls this fall. There are about 65 honors colleges in the United States, including Barrett, Penn State and Ole Miss, all three of which were named “Best in America” by Reader’s Digest in 2005. But Barrett’s full-service campus offers a unique combination that’s hard to beat.

”Barrett combines the caring and advocacy of a small, residential four-year college with the vast resources of a large Pac-10 research university,” says Mark Jacobs, the dean who is himself a Harvard graduate and former associate provost at Swarthmore. “Together, it’s a wonderful combination.

“Barrett is changing into something that really isn’t like any other form of education in the country. It stands alone in its size and the comprehensiveness of services arranged in one place for honors students. And unlike a small private college, our students have access to 200 majors, research opportunities, internships, study abroad, even Division 1 sports.”

The new campus is a public-private partnership with American Campus Communities, which bore most of the cost.

• Almost 2,000 high school seniors applied to Barrett for 960 spots in the 2009 freshman class, bringing an average SAT score of 1311. They include 160 National Merit Scholars and more than 100 National Hispanic Scholars.

• Barrett draws about 3,200 students from across the U.S. with its own 23-member faculty, summer study abroad, thesis program and undergraduate research opportunities.

• Among Barrett graduates in 2008-09, 72 percent were headed to graduate or professional school. Of the other 28 percent, 90 percent are employed in their field of study.

• Twelve Barrett students have been named to the USA Today all-academic teams in the past eight years, more than from any other public university in the country. Barrett has had five Marshall Scholars and three Truman Scholars in the same time period.