Students are leaving the Honors Program because the benefits of membership do not outweigh the cost of its requirements.
The program is largely failing to deliver on the unique accessibility to research, faculty collaboration and intellectual development that it purports to offer.
Fixing this would incentivize student retention. Right now, the program has greater benefit as a recruitment tool.
Roughly 5 percent of each incoming freshmen class is selected for participation in the Honors Program.
But the program does not live up to what it is touted to be.
Freshmen taking introductory level honors courses can avoid large lecture sections.
But the program’s requirement of two honors courses per year becomes onerous for older students. Fewer major requirements have honors sections, so students are forced to choose between taking honors electives or leaving the program.
And even non-honors students can take classes in the program if they really want to do so.
Further, successfully defending an honors thesis is the only way to graduate with honors. Yet a student need not be in the honors program to write one.
It’s unclear why students would comply with the requirements to stay in the program.
Students in the Honors Program want to be challenged in the classroom. So the honors curriculum needs to do a better job reflecting major requirements that students also must fulfill.
Also, if the Honors Program is going to expand, it should not forget the individual focus.
There needs to be a focus on giving honors students individual attention and direction in their studies and developing relationships with faculty.
The program’s inclusive philosophy makes most of its opportunities — including research — available to non-honors students. And the University is planning to double the size of the program, making it more inclusive than ever.
Students need real opportunities that have rewards beyond what they can derive from outside the program.
Expansion of the Honors Program should be secondary to providing students with the opportunities it claims to offer. Only then will students value being in the Honors Program.
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