Large public universities are attracting top students to honors colleges, small programs that offer a liberal arts atmosphere.
For students, an honors college can be the educational equivalent of an upgrade to first class from coach — smaller classes, priority scheduling, research opportunities, and a residence hall where they can rub shoulders with fellow overachievers.
Of course, the colleges are under attack for elitism.
My sister was one of the first students at the University of Michigan’s Residential College. It’s a great program. On the other hand, one of the reasons my daughter transferred from UCLA is that the honors program wasn’t residential; there was no sense of community. And she still had trouble getting into the classes she wanted.