Whither Honors?

For seven years, I have worked on building the Lane Honors Program. In order to help build and coordinate this program, I have drawn on my experience teaching at the Clark Honors College, my participation at National Collegiate Honors Council (NCHC) conferences and on NCHC committees, and the extremely valuable input and engagement from Lane students, faculty, and management. In particular, the Honors Leadership Team has guided this work with dedication and wisdom.

The program has faced challenges from its inception. These challenges included faculty resistance to a program initiated by the administration, a misperception that honors education is elitist, a misunderstanding among some advisors and faculty that the honors classes did not count toward transfer requirements, and an ever-changing combination of managers and faculty on the program’s core team.

We overcame these challenges and provided an exceptional honors educational opportunity to Lane’s students based on best practices and the needs of our student population. Our students have presented their research at symposia and conferences, and they have published their work. We have seen students go on to become McNair Scholars, Ford Scholars, complete undergraduate degrees, graduate degrees, and law degrees. We have heard from former students that their honors experience changed their lives.

In the current climate of declining enrollment and substantial budget deficit, however, the college has recommended to the Board of Education that the Lane Honors Program be cut.

Eliminating the Honors Program is not the answer.

The second of the college’s core themes is Accessible and Equitable Learning Opportunities. Honors directly supports this core theme. If our students were beginning at their educations at four-year colleges or universities, they would have access to honors education. Experiencing honors at Lane allows them to develop their identities as scholars, honors students, and transfer students who can and should pursue higher educational goals.

From my experience in the NCHC, I know there are many formats a two-year college honors program can take. I also know that central to any of these formats is an agility that lets the program be responsive to changing budgetary and enrollment situations. Our program has that agility. We can capable of restructuring the program to have a minimal impact on the budget while continuing to offer honors education to our students. This restructuring allows us to use our existing infrastructure and to keep an honors program in place that can be scaled back up in the future.

Most importantly, restructuring rather than eliminating the Lane Honors Program allows the college to offer students the honors opportunities they so rightly deserve.

Several students and I will be speaking at an open comment session at the Board of Education meeting this evening. I will continue posting about the future of the Lane Honors Program and the efforts to save it.

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