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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

Honors fee disappoints students

More than a year after the implementation of an honors-specific fee, some honors students are questioning whether the benefits of the college truly outweigh the costs.

Amanda Levy is a pre-neuroscience and cognitive science sophomore who lives in Yuma Residence Hall, one of the dorms for Honors College students. She said the fun, academically-charged community is something she appreciates about being an honors student.

“You’re surrounded by a lot of people who have the same academic goals you do,” she said.

However, outside the community, Levy said she gains little from participating in the honors program. Once she’s a junior, she will probably withdraw from the college, she said.

“I feel like the Honors College needs to overhaul a lot of what it does, because I feel like it’s a lot of recruitment and not a lot of substance,” she said.

According to Arielle Cardona, a communication junior, many of the special programs and events hosted by the college ignore students studying the arts.

“I always felt the Honors College focused more on students in the sciences and math, and I went in a as a theater student,” she said.

During her sophomore year, the Honors College began charging an annual membership fee of $500. For Cardona, it was already hard enough to pay for school without having to pay an additional $250 per semester. When Cardona withdrew from the Honors College her junior year, her fee was refunded and she said she used the money to pay for her textbooks.

According to Patricia MacCorquodale, the dean of the Honors College, 887 students — 21 percent of the honors population — withdrew from the college during the 2010-2011 academic year. Of these students, 64 percent were continuing undergraduates.

These numbers were much lower prior to 2010 because even if students were inactive in the college, there was no cost to maintain honors status, MacCorquodale said. However, with the new fee, inactive students have a greater incentive to withdraw. Of the 279 students that have left the Honors College so far this year, 85 percent of them have been continuing students.

The UA is not the only university to charge an honors fee. Barrett, The Honors College at Arizona State University, charges a fee of $1,000 per year. The University of Oregon charges its honors students $3,000 per year.

According to MacCorquodale, the fee is “part of UA’s overall budget plan.” It is used to fund the Honors Student Council, interdisciplinary honors courses and the First Year Program, which provides classes and common readings for incoming honors freshmen. It also funds grants for honors research and study abroad, she said.

Michael Weingartner, a junior studying creative writing, molecular and cellular biology, and ecology and evolutionary biology, said honors students dislike the fee because the college has failed to communicate its purpose.

“It’s not always very easy to see what the Honors College is doing,” he said. “I do feel that the fee itself was, if not slightly misappropriated … not very well articulated.”

Still, Weingartner said many honors students don’t take advantage of what the college offers. For instance, because of its small size, the Honors College is capable of bringing ideas to fruition in a way larger colleges cannot, he said.

One example is the International Studies Colloquium, which began as a student idea and grew with support from the Honors College to become a set of courses offered by the geography program. Students discuss current events, politics and culture of specific regions of the world in small group settings.

Weingartner himself has used the resources at the Honors College to turn his vision into reality. In late January, he started a group called the Tucson Fiction Project, which brings together students who are committed to making and showcasing new creative works. When it first began, the group had no resources with which to launch the project.

“We had nothing,” Weingartner said. “We had about 10 kids and an idea.”

However, Laura Berry, the associate dean of the Honors College, helped them secure a space in the Honors College where they could hold their meetings. Now, the group includes 30 to 35 students of various backgrounds who come from both inside and outside of the honors program.

“If you can imagine it, the Honors College can make it happen,” Weingartner said, “but it’s not their fault if you don’t have any imagination.”

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