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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    No point to Honors College

    Sam Feldmancolumnist
    Sam Feldman
    columnist

    If you listen to what Honors College Dean Patricia MacCorquodale says, the Honors College is a wonderful opportunity for “”multitalented students”” to find a place in a big university. This, among the other tall tales the Honors College perpetuates, really gets my panties in a twist.

    First, let me say this: I am not an honors student and was not selected to be one when I first entered the university. This is how 90 percent of honors students are admitted to the Honors College: by not doing anything. It’s like a cheap door prize – useless, and you don’t have to do anything to get it.

    The Honors College is a flawed institution at best; it’s a useless concession prize for students who didn’t get in to or can’t afford to attend an elite university, and it’s ill-conceived. Only 31 percent of last year’s honors students graduated with honors, but Honors College staffers are happy – saying it’s better than the normal 25 percent. With that kind of success, who needs failure?

    The first problem with the Honors College is that it does not provide an environment that is demonstrably more “”academically challenging.”” If students want a better academic experience than they can receive at the UA, they should go to a higher-ranked university. We are no Arizona State University, of course, but we’re not quite UCLA or UC-Berkeley either.

    To “”enhance their education,”” honors students are required to either take honors classes or “”contract”” for honors credits. Contracting is the process by which honors students take a nonhonors class, do trifle extra work and receive honors credit. This is supposed to provide a more challenging academic experience; in reality, it’s an easy way to earn the credit, which is why the Honors College limits the number of contract honors credits a student can use to graduate.

    Honors students shouldn’t act all mother superior just because they have that little “”H”” next to one of their classes each semester. The true test is after college, in the application of knowledge, and few would argue a couple of extra papers truly add to the weight of an already laudable college degree.

    Beyond the so-called “”challenging educational experience”” for honors students, the college also provides early registration for freshmen and sophomores, extra academic advising, honors-only luncheons and a six-month library checkout. All of that costs significant money each year, about $184 per year per student – the Honors College budget divided by the number of students in the college.

    So why are honors students receiving an estimated $800 extra in benefits during their college career? This is not an extravagant amount, but matched with the fact that most do not graduate with honors, it seems just plain wasteful. And when the money could be much better used, like to hire more advisers and faculty for the entire campus, it seems insane.

    The Honors College, essentially serves only the purpose of recruiting statistically top-level students. It holds their hands, lets them live and socialize together, and provides an outlet for the elitism those “”top students”” feel – which is the real reason I hate the Honors College.

    The college is an attempt by the university to look smart-friendly. It serves as a way to say, “”Hey, we’re a state school, but we have smart kids too.”” In reality, most accepted into the college won’t end up with the honors distinction or even a significantly different education. Further, nonhonors students are just as valuable and noteworthy.

    Honors students and the Honors College may act like they are so much better, but in the end, a landslide majority of the students are receiving the same diploma we “”mainstream”” students receive.

    All I am asking is that we have more honesty when discussing the Honors College. In truth, it is built to institutionalize elitism and provide benefits for top-rated students. Just as a college athletic program recruits the top-scoring athletes, the Honors College passively recruits the top-scoring students.

    Ideally, this honesty would lead to a reduction of the benefits honors students receive. If the benefits are widely used merely as extras and not toward the attainment of an honors degree, then why have them at all?

    Honesty also mandates we reduce the budget of the Honors College or find separate revenue sources. During a massive budget crunch, keeping open an elitist college happy with a slight decrease in failure is wasteful and ridiculous.

    So if we want to spend $750,000 a year on an elitist program in which 70 percent of students will not graduate with honors, then let’s keep the Honors College. Otherwise, let’s be brave, eliminate the Honors College and use the money to provide a better education for all students.ÿ

    Samuel Feldman is a junior majoring in political science and Spanish. He can be reached at letters@wildcat.arizona.edu

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