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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    Editorial: Honoring the Honors College

    Watching the Wildcats be bested by the Sun Devils is painful on the football field and the basketball court alike. But it’s even worse in the academic arena. Despite the UA’s clear claim to superior academics, there’s one area where ASU increasingly has us beat – our Honors College. It’s time for that to change.

    ASU’s Barrett Honors College is a media darling. In recent years it’s been hailed as “”a rising star”” and “”the best in America.”” Its hefty $10 million endowment gives it the resources to recruit and promote top students, and that investment is paying off – the school is consistently in the top-10 at enrolling National Merit Scholars. It’s also consistently landing more and more national awards – an ASU student won a prestigious Truman Scholarship just last week. Seriously, ASU?

    Problem is, by most measures – especially considering our limited financial resources – the UA’s Honors College is equally excellent. We continue to recruit more and more top students (92 National Merit Scholars in 2006), and UA students perform just as well when it comes to nationally competitive scholarships. Unfortunately, a few policies ensure that our Honors College keeps a low profile. Instead, we ought to be proud.

    The way the two colleges admit students is fundamentally different – ASU requires students apply to the Barrett Honors College separately, while the UA considers admission to the honors college with regular applications. There are benefits and drawbacks to both, but the two approaches highlight different visions of an honors college.

    ASU gives the Barrett Honors College the same business-like treatment as its other university institutions, focusing on the superior quality of students and programs. The UA’s approach to student recruitment is more holistic than that of ASU, focusing on cultural and community benefits of the Honors College rather than prestige in the long run. But by lacking a separate application of substance, the UA’s laid-back approach sells us short.

    That approach continues once students are in: Students can easily reap the benefits of early registration and other honors perks while failing to complete the number of honors units or the thesis required to actually graduate with an honors degree. Consistently low honors graduation rates are the unsurprising result.

    Unfortunately, ASU’s honors college is miles beyond ours in terms of its hyper-professionalized recruitment strategy and relationship to students throughout their careers at the university. Our honors college gives motivated students the equivalent of a pat on the head and a gentle push out the door – once they declare a major, they are only required to seek advising within that college, and if they choose not to write a thesis, they don’t have to return to the Slonaker House at all, or ever, if they choose. But it doesn’t have to be that way.

    The UA’s Honors College is victim to its own self-effacement. Without more active student recruitment and a higher level of engagement with students throughout their careers at this university, it will be easy to lose talented students to the glossy, aggressive Barrett honors program. Our Honors College has a lot to be proud of, but its current emphasis on community without an accompanying focus on academic achievement and student involvement with the program, many talented applicants to the school may be left with crucial, unanswered questions – what’s the point? Why go here?

    It’s not just Wildcat pride talking when we say that we believe in a fight to the death – the UA would trounce Barrett any day of the week. The UA should take an interest in preserving its bragging rights, and focus on building up the program’s reputation, instead of waiting for talented students to flock to it of their own volition.

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