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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    Honors perks not worth the hassle

    Janne Peronacolumnist
    Janne Perona
    columnist

    When I was accepted to the UA, I was also accepted into the Honors College, where I was told I would enjoy cheap printing, challenging classes and priority registration. I assumed that because I registered with juniors I would be able to get into the honors sections I would need to graduate with honors.

    Sadly, I was wrong: Obtaining spots in honors sections is all but easy, and the college has done little to help with growing demand.

    The Honors College requires 30 units of honors courses in order to graduate with honors. Typically, that translates to 10 classes.

    Some classes make it easy – general chemistry, for example, has a completely different class for honors students, chemistry 105 rather than the usual chemistry 103. Other classes offer an additional section, such as biology 181R. Labs often have honors counterparts (usually with different numbers that have to be taken with honors lectures).

    However, outside of the sciences, honors classes can be very difficult to come by.

    In the history department, for example, there are only three courses with honors sections.ÿIn public administration, there is only one, and it’s the honors thesis course, 498H.

    Even general education classes, where many students hope to get easy honors credits, are ditching their honors sections.ÿFor fall 2006, there are only seven Tier 1 individuals and societies and five traditions and cultures classes offering honors sections.

    This is a problem when general education classes are so hard to come by that students grab a TRAD 104 without looking at the content of the course simply because they need another Tier 1 TRAD.

    One option available to students is contracting for honors credit. This involves an agreement between the professor of a class that does not offer an honors section and a student, saying that the student will complete additional assignments outside of the course syllabus in exchange for honors credit.

    Sometimes this involves an extra paper, additional pages on an existing paper, book reviews or meetings with the professor once a week to discuss material related to the course.

    Contracting is an excellent way to get honors credit, but is only permitted for six upper-division units and six lower-division units. And when many honors students come in with several lower-division requirements fulfilled through dual-enrollment programs in high school or Advanced Placement and International Baccalaureate exams, that’s especially problematic.

    The Honors College has attempted to deal with this issue by lowering the number of credits needed for AP and IB students based on the scores they got on the exams. One problem with the college’s fix is that students miss out on those credit deductions if they opted out of taking AP or IB exams or did AP or IB courses for dual enrollment instead.

    The Honors College also complicates the experience for study abroad and national exchange students by only granting honors credits to classes offered as honors by host schools.ÿIn foreign countries without honors programs, or at schools in the U.S. with different honors requirements, this makes the exchange process even more difficult.

    Given the difficulties with honors courses, it would seem likely that the Honors College would step in. In some cases it has, but so far it hasn’t been enough.

    In the School of Public Administration and Policy housed in the Eller College of Management, for example, the number of units a person can contract has been increased from six to nine because the school is relatively new, and there are not yet honors courses in the school’s catalog.

    The Honors College also offers one-credit freshman colloquia. While that represents a valiant effort to engage freshmen from the beginning, few students take advantage of them due to their one-credit value.

    The Honors College should consider increasing the number of contractable units. Since all contracts must be approved by the Honors College, there would be no worry of students not meeting Honors College standards. Students would be able to contract classes they want to take rather than being forced to take classes they don’t want (or possibly don’t need).

    The Honors College is a great institution, and it offers some amazing benefits. The idea of having a variety of honors classes can be attractive for incoming students, especially when coupled with other perks such as a six-month checkout period for library books and junior status for priority registration.

    But the last thing the UA needs is unhappy freshmen who don’t find their printing perks worth the hassle of finding honors courses.


    Janne Perona is a criminal justice administration sophomore. She can be reached at letters@wildcat.arizona.edu.

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