Skip to Content

South Carolina Honors College


Defining a legacy

The South Carolina Honors College is the top-ranked public university honors college in the nation. Again.

Zoe Nicholson, Honors multimedia journalism ’19

The South Carolina Honors College is the highest-ranking public honors college in the nation again. The SCHC has received the top ranking in every previous assessment—2012, 2014, 2016, and in late 2018. The ratings come from John Willingham’s latest edition of “Inside Honors 2018-2019: Ratings and Reviews of 50 Public University Honors Programs.”

“These rankings really are substantive,” says Steven Lynn, dean of the SCHC. “They’re not a subjective beauty contest, or based on reputation, but they’re based on solid data.”

Six other universities join South Carolina in the top group: Penn State, CUNY, Arizona State, Texas (Plan II Honors Program), Kansas, and Florida Atlantic. The SCHC’s top ranking is based on its curriculum requirements, the number of honors courses offered, the distribution and average size of honors classes, the graduation rate, the staff, the residence halls, the prestigious awards won by its students, and priority registration.

Lynn credits much of the SCHC’s success to its founding deans, Peter Sederberg and William Mould, and his predecessor, Davis Baird. He also points to the visionary leadership of a succession of provosts and presidents, vigorous recruiting efforts by the Admissions staff, and the outstanding faculty who teach the 550-plus honors courses each year.

The Honors Program, which began in 1965, evolved into the Honors College in 1978. “The goal from the beginning,” Lynn says, “was truly nothing less than an undergraduate education that would be as good or even better than that of the most elite schools. The people who built and cultivated this thing wanted, quite simply, to keep the best South Carolina students here, and to attract the best students from other states.”   

One factor in Willingham’s metrics is the number of national scholarships and fellowships Honors College students win. Lynn also celebrates the Office of Fellowships and Scholar Programs, which has been led by Novella Beskid during the entire 25 years of its existence. This office, which is part of the Honors College, assists all students on campus in their pursuit of prestigious awards and fellowships. Since 1994, students and recent alumni have won 924 national awards, totaling more than $28.9 million. Prestigious fellowships won by Carolina students include the Rhodes, Goldwater, Truman, Gates-Cambridge, National Science Foundation GRFP and Marshall awards, among others. 

A list of University of South Carolina award winners can be seen here: https://sc.edu/about/offices_and_divisions/fellowships_and_scholar_programs/national_fellowships/usc_award_winners/index.php